Non Sem­per Fidelis

Sam Foster

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - THOMAS H. BREN­NAN

Daniel and Daniel Pub­lish­ing Soft­cover $14 (144pp) 978-1-56474-591-0

With in­trigu­ing looks at mil­i­tary loy­alty, Non Sem­per Fidelis takes a thought­ful look at Amer­i­can marines.

Sam Foster’s Non Sem­per Fidelis skill­fully ex­am­ines the in­ner work­ings of a Marine Corps base, Quan­tico, dur­ing an un­easy pe­riod in 1968.

Pri­vate Jack Ken­drick has a moral streak, but also some anger is­sues. He takes it upon him­self to cor­rect in­jus­tices meted out to his fel­low marines, and fo­cuses on Wil­liam Buck, a fel­low soldier who is black. Buck is AWOL fol­low­ing a visit to his mother in Mem­phis on the week­end that Martin Luther King was as­sas­si­nated. Ken­drick’s hon­esty and de­ter­mi­na­tion over­come the in­jus­tices dealt to Buck, though his loy­alty to the Corps is at risk as a re­sult.

The nar­ra­tive is at its best when it eyes the in­ti­macy of the marines’ lives. Di­a­logue is filled with mil­i­tary lingo, acronyms, and vul­gar­i­ties, which im­bue the novel with a sense of place and time. Com­mand­ing of­fi­cers are stern and for­mal, but ev­ery­one is shown to take pride in their roles, in­clud­ing in their pris­tine ap­pear­ances. Ken­drick is more com­pli­cated. Con­fronted with bi­ased su­pe­rior of­fi­cers or ig­no­rant hip­pies, his usual re­sponse is to try to con­vert them with his fists. His fights are de­tailed in lan­guage that is crisp and re­al­is­tic.

In­for­ma­tion about the mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion it­self some­times bogs down the story line. Half of a chap­ter is de­voted, ex­po­si­tion-style, to a de­tailed anal­y­sis of the finer points of joint ma­neu­vers, de­mo­li­tions, and close air sup­port. One sec­ondary char­ac­ter is in­tro­duced but never reap­pears; a few cen­tral char­ac­ters are in­tro­duced late.

While the nar­ra­tor switches be­tween points of view, most scenes re­main firmly on the base or in nearby Wash­ing­ton, DC. While sev­eral mi­nor char­ac­ters, tan­gen­tial to the plot, re­veal their in­ner thoughts, Cor­po­ral Buck is known only by his im­me­di­ate con­ver­sa­tions on base and a tele­phone call from Mem­phis, so his rea­son­ing goes rel­a­tively un­ex­plored.

Non Sem­per Fidelis is note­wor­thy for its ac­cu­rate por­trayal of mil­i­tary life and a peek be­hind the mys­tery of how of­fi­cers are se­lected and trained.

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