"Silent Drums" (and "A Marine's Diary") by Pam Daniels for Robert Le Blanc, 2016, review)

“Silent Drums”: Robert Le Blanc and “A Marine’s Diary”, new Kindle (and now print) book looks movie-ready

Author: Pam Daniels (for Robert Le Blanc)

Title, Subtitle: “Silent Drums: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!” (formerly, “A Marine’s Diary“)

publication date: 2016/6; 14 chapters, 302 pages, photo and transcript BW illustrations throughout

ISBN” 978-1534843585; ASINB01H2WCYM0

Publication: Amazon Digital Services on Kindle  (14 Chapters, equivalent to 295 pages); apps are available to read on other devices; Create Space for paperback

Link:    Pam Daniels;  (FB); Robert Le Blanc  Amazon

Silent Drums: Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!”, is a biography of Robert L. Le Blanc, a former US Marine Staff Sergeant who fought the old bans against gays in military services even before the official start of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993.  He became somewhat well known in the 1990s during the political debate on DADT.   The book is authored by Pam Daniels (who herself is transgender and somewhat well known), and essentially self-published on Amazon Digital Services by her.  It can be read free on Amazon Prime, or purchased on Kindle for $9.99.  I don’t see any print availability, but it would run 295 pages.

Le Blanc has a “Change.org” petition for a pardon for a supposed “bogus” conviction from the USMC in the late 1970s.  The Change link (along with Amazon) does summarize a lot of Bob’s personal story, so it’s not necessary to repeat all of it.  Bob had served in the military police at Long Beach, CA (as well as in Vietnam in combat).  In a complicated series of events, Bob was prosecuted first for breaking some kind of MP rule, and then prosecuted for “being gay”.  At one point in the book, he takes a polygraph and is asked directly if he is a “faggot” (and this is very improper use of a questionable lie-detection technology to say the least, despite its use in top secret security SCI clearances today).  This is about 16 years before DADT would come into being under Clinton (the service-wide “absolute ban” had been implemented in early 1981, with the individual services handling their own anti-gay bans previously).   Anthony Kennedy, then a circuit judge, had tried to intervene.

Bob also had a harrowing time with his service in Vietnam (two tours), where he sustained a back injury, and saw some interesting interaction with villagers in Vietnam, helping a woman have a baby and trying to help orphans get adopted.  Bob even got to play medic in one scene, relating having to scrub down his arms.

Later, he would form a relationship and finally marriage with an immigrant Julio (much younger).  It was much harder to make Julio’s status legal than it would have been for a heterosexual couple. There is a situation where Julio wants to stay in Robert’s hospital room overnight during Robert’s cancer treatment, but he is not allowed to.  Heterosexual married couples often do this.  It’s a degree of intimacy (with the gravely ill) I have never allowed myself to experience.

Bob also recounts his treatment for cancers related to agent orange in Vietnam, and his type 2 diabetes.

The book also relates other gay couples with wounded veterans, and mentions the Vietnam era draft and the unfair privilege that went with student deferments.   (I could add that the Army had stopped “asking” about “homosexual tendencies” in the draft physicals by 1966 to try to stop people from claiming homosexuality to get out of the draft, at a time when the Army already knew that social attitudes toward homosexuality were slowly changing with the broader Civil Rights movement, even before Stonewall.)  Several times in the narrative gay partners stay intimate in the face of disfiguring injuries or cancer treatments, something expected in the heterosexual world, but much more common today than in past generations because people can survive wounds and illnesses that would have killed them quickly in the past.  Medical solidarity is more common today than it used to be, whereas in the past wartime conditions imposed on civilians had imposed other kinds of social solidarity (as in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe”, May 30).

The book is written in a “stream of consciousness” sequence, in present tense, often mixing narratives from Bob’s service in Vietnam and then the later prosecutions with today’s treatment for cancers.

The Kindle sometimes does not reproduce all the pictures, as there are some blank spaces when it tries to load certain documents or images.  The book is heavily illustrated in black and white.

The writing style is “visual”, particularly in the combat scenes, which contrast well with the drama in the hospital and military court episodes.  The book comes across almost like a screenplay, as if easy conversion to a formal FinalDraft motion picture script is already in mind.

Le Blanc had penned an earlier version of this book himself, which he had called “A Marine’s Diary” and posted online, and which I had reviewed on Blogger in 2009 here.  The earlier version appears to be no longer available, and is superseded by this book.

Le Blanc had shared (by phone and US mail) an early draft of his book outline with me in 1996, when I was working on my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book, and I mentioned his case very briefly in Chapter 4 of the first book at note 32.  (In fact, I recall that the very last phone call that I got in my Annandale, VA apartment in 1997, just emptied out by movers  before my driving off to Minneapolis for a job transfer as from Bob!) I have met Le Blanc once, in February 2002 in Long Beach.  He has lived in Palm Springs, which I have visited in 2002 and then 2012 but did not meet up with him on those trips.

The obvious question, then, is could I have “ghost written” this book myself? It does seem, in retrospect, that I have been so consumed with the nooks and crannies of my own narrative (which are about as complex and ironic in their own way as Le Blanc’) that I never got around to trying to be hired to write anyone else’s.  After my “career ending” layoff at the end of 2001 (post 9/11), it seems as though I could have tried harder to go down this path than I did, even though I networked with the National Writers Union while still in Minneapolis. That’s significant hindsight, because I do think that I could help a Vox or a CNN with special news topics today, something I am still planning to pursue.

It’s also interesting to wonder, what happens if there is a movie proposal?  (The same question applies to my narrative, and I am pursuing it, with one major screenplay draft, “Epiphany”, embedded in a sci-fi setting, completed at home.)  If Dustin Lance Black wants to have at this one (or at mine, for that matter), that would be great.  Would I take a crack at this?  I need to finish “my own work” first!  Just so everyone knows, there are about four to six other projects that friends of mine have that could conceivably attract money and work.

(Published: Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 12 Noon EDT)

(Update: July 1, 2016:  Amazon now shows the paperback version as available.)