The early section of Linda L. McDonald’s novel Crimes of Redemption (Roadrunner Press, 312 pp., $24) reads like a Cormac McCarthy novel. The violence and the depth that develops in the characters brings to mind what McCarthy wrote in No Country for Old Men.
The main characters are revealed as scarred and nearly broken from the burdens they carry. The sheriff of the small town in Oklahoma is a pot-smoking former Vietnam War POW trying to escape from life by toking up. Gayla is a crack whore undergoing a trial for murder. Willie is a lonely old recluse on the plains of the Oklahoma panhandle who gets caught up in the lives of others.
The trial portion of the story has elements of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird because of all the small-town hatred that comes out in the proceedings. In a typical romantic novel, by definition, the good guys seem to triumph. This is an interesting escape novel in many ways. I was impressed with the character development, but since the author is also involved in theater, I better understand her ability to create well-rounded and fully developed characters. Perhaps other theater people should consider writing novels.
Of all the characters in the novel, the Vietnam veteran’s story is the one that directly appeals to the reader. Tommy Maynard was a pilot in the war. He flew in a spotter plane and was shot down. He was captured and held as a POW in “the Zoo,” where he was frequently tortured by a Cuban guard they called “Fidel.”
In fact, North Vietnamese POW prisons, including the one nicknamed “the Zoo,” did have a couple of Spanish-speaking Caucasians doing dirty work, and one of them was known as “Fidel.” Maynard’s incarceration and treatment by his captors caused him to leave behind that part of him that was human and caused him on his return to become a drifter who self medicated with pot. Like the other protagonists, he is in need of redemption.
It is that journey that allows him and the other two main characters the opportunity to regain a semblance of a human existence.
The author also creates a community of Vietnam veterans living in a small village in Mexico. The reality of this existence can be seen in a memoir by Vietnam veteran Jack Tumidajski, Quadalajara. I
The author seems to have done some research in creating this novel by connecting several elements related to Vietnam veterans.