- Read an excerpt
- 1948 Panhead Harley Davidson—worth a fight
- French Indochina: The Friendly Neighborhood Opium Den
- More information on Vietnam and the Anti-War Protests
- The Aircraft Featured in Dead Legend
- Buy Dead Legend on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats
Dead Legend introduces Laury Cooper, a Marine, and his brother, Byron, a Navy pilot.
Their father, Mac Cooper, one of the Navy’s top aces, was a legend, with medals stretching from WWII to Korea. In 1955, he asked one question that ended in scandal and suicide.
Now it is 1967, as pilots sortie, equipment problems escalate until flying an A-4E attack bomber is as touch-and-go as out-maneuvering enemy missiles. When Mac Cooper’s question resurfaces, his sons, in opposition, set out to resolve the past even if uncovering the truth about Mac’s death destroys them.
Dead Legend is the first book in the Cooper Vietnam Era Quartet.
“Both brothers feel overshadowed by their father and the unresolved animosity his death caused between the two of them…They will come to realize that surviving combat won’t be their greatest challenge. Church writes in a muscular prose that never loses its noirish register… there’s something compelling about the milieu and the language that keeps the reader engaged, particularly as the mysteries of Mac Cooper begin to unravel.”
An excerpt from Dead Legend:
After twelve years, Lieutenant Byron Cooper, a Navy pilot, has just been reunited with Chloe Minotier, his father’s last lover, at a Welcome Aboard dinner hosted by the new Executive Office of the Airbase where Cooper is stationed.
A moment later, Chloe appeared in the glow of the porch light. “Dessert would be nice.”
Byron reached for her hand, hers drifted from his. He turned, tapping on his pant leg to cover the reflex. She swung past him into the night.
“Oh, mon dieu,” she squealed, “You still have Laury’s Harley?”
Byron nodded as he helped her mount the motorcycle with remarkable ease in the miniskirt she wore. They cruised down the two-lane highway to the little farm town twenty minutes from Base. A real mid-western town smack in the middle-of-the-middle of California. The aviators called it Andy Hardy town, for the obvious reasons, white clapboard fronted stores hugging a tidy town square, tree-lined streets, and somewhere a barn big enough for a Broadway show. Best of all, the farm girls could be persuaded into bed by the promise of flight offered during expensive dinners at the five-star restaurant nestled in the two-star town. No one Byron knew had ever delivered on the promise, at least, not in a Navy jet.
They roared up to the Creamery at the north corner of the town square. The two-story building was painted stark white. Red-pinstripes decorated an awning that shaded the sidewalk, the theme continued inside on the chairs, lamps, even the waitresses’ uniforms. As they entered, Byron caught the women’s eyes on him, the men’s eyes on Chloe, followed by a chorus of heads ducked back to their ice creams. Chloe ordered a hot fudge sundae. As she ate, her golden hair dipped over her shoulders framing the tall fluted glass. Done, she ticked the glass with her spoon.
Byron scooched his chair sideways and stretched out his long legs.
Chloe looked up from the sundae glass. “I asked Harcourt for an invitation for tonight when I heard that you would be here. I hadn’t imagined it would be so hard to see you again. Mac stretched out like you are now, always. Like sitting cramped him, like he needed more room than the rest of us.”
Byron sat up, pulling his legs in under his seat. He tensed immediately. Chloe fiddled with the paper doily under her sundae glass, showing off the half-moons of her beautiful, feminine nails bright against the pink of her flesh.
Byron looked at his hands, pulled a penknife from his pocket, stretched back out then began cleaning his nails. “They had a ceremony on a carrier for Mac. Laury hated it. I guess I was Naval Air even then. The strains of Eternal Father made me weave. Somebody brought out the Stevenson, you know, home is the hunter, home from the hill, then splash, in goes the wreath. It went straight out to sea, pulled out like there was a huge magnet attracting it away. Laury went back to Michigan. I went to Virginia to prep-school.”
“You make it sound cheesy.”
“Don’t mean to. Mac was gone. He shouldn’t have left us. Shouldn’t have taken us to start with,” Byron shrugged. “Damn it, Chloe, Mac had it made. Had the career-making orders, had the life. He would have been an Admiral by now. He blew it away!”
“What an amazingly poor choice of words!” Chloe said her voice rising in disgust. People stopped talking. Big-eyed kids looked at their parents. Then like cicadas on a summer night, the buzzing started up again.
Byron studied Chloe for a moment. She had aged, ever so slightly, taking some of the edges off her coquettishness. “Where have you been?”
She stroked the red and white striped paper placemat under her sundae dish. “I asked Janes not to tell you where I was. I was so…so…I couldn’t deal with you. You were such a boy.”
“Let’s get out of here.” Byron shucked dollars out of the right hip pocket of his slacks as he stood.
“Mac doesn’t come to you?”
Byron grabbed Chloe’s arm. His hand felt hot on her flesh. “Yes. Tonight—with you—with everyone. Happy now?”
More information on Vietnam and the Anti-War Protests:
Vietnam War, 1967-68
Vietnam 1967-68 (PBS.com)
1967: The Era of Big Battles in Vietnam (New York Times)
1967 in the Vietnam War (Wikipedia)
Vietnam 1968 (Wikipedia)
Tet Offensive (Washington Post)
Oakland Draft Protest:
Stop the Draft Protest (HR Media Archives)
1967 Vietnam War protest photos show savagery by police in Oakland (San Francisco Chronicle)
Pentagon Peace March (10/67):
The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon (Washington Post)
100,000 people march on the Pentagon (History.com)