In Point Deception, Jim Gilliam serves up an interesting tale of the passing of innocence, world adventure and drama that takes a deadly turn.
Raised by a single mother, young Tim Kelly, frustrated by the confines of authority and school and the constant bullying by older boys, connects with a sequence of older men who impart their wisdom, good, bad, legal and shady, each one contributing to fatherless Kelly’s “education as a man.” In 1956, after several aborted attempts at running away, the bookish 14-year-old Kelly finally lands in New Orleans, taking refuge in a homeless shelter and ultimately finding a job on a merchant clipper. Shortly thereafter, Kelly is successful at forging paperwork to “prove” he is 18 and joins the Coast Guard.
Rodolfo Guzman, nebulous gang leader and drug trafficker, quietly takes an interest in the young Kelly, while Raul “Rucho” Martinez, one of Guzman’s sergeants, makes it his mission to destroy Kelly. Guzman’s interest runs counter to that of Deputy Sheriff Dave Holt, however, who eventually recruits Kelly to an undercover narcotics investigation that, when discovered, will change the dynamics among them all.
Kelly’s evolution from a wide-eyed kid with wanderlust to an experienced albeit somewhat embittered Viet Nam vet is told with a narrative that, while at times difficult to follow, nonetheless keeps the pages turning to the end. Gilliam’s comments at the end, and dedication to fallen friends is apropos and should not be glossed over. All together a good read.