Title/Author: PALLBEARERS AND GAMBLERS: A NOVEL / Michael John Cruit
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Date of publish: May 2016
When Michael Dibiaso returned from Vietnam, the U.S. Army assigned him to the Honor Guard, which acts as pallbearers for soldiers killed in Vietnam. This experience turns Michael into a bitter opponent of the war. After his discharge from the Army, he continues to attend the funerals of soldiers killed in the war.
Michael’s family had been involved with the Chicago Mafia for years. His father had been good friends with Al Capone, and his older brother Sergio works with the Mafia in their Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Sergio becomes embroiled in a fatal dispute with a member of the New York Mafia and Michael gets involved. The brothers decide to get revenge by stealing the year-end skim from the Desert Inn – seven million dollars.
Vietnam Vet Michael Dibiasio has returned from the war to a world that he no longer fits into. He realizes that in a climate of social and political change it isn’t just himself that has changed. ‘Tainted’ by death he struggles to find out who he is in this new world.
He sets out to help his older brother right an egregious wrong and maybe make a place for himself in this new world. Along the way he meets some new people that make him think differently and become hopeful that he will find a way to do more than just exist on the edge of death.
This was a fabulously crafted story that had the power to suck the reader into Michael’s 1970’s world. Michael’s view of the cultural change of that time period resonates making a beautiful tapestry for the adventure he and his brother embark on.
Mafia backed Vegas at that time provides an interesting contrast to the War/Peace culture. Seemingly untouched by the tumultuous cultural revolution taking place all over the country, it is business as usual for the capos that run the city’s underworld. Their corruption is every bit as evil as war itself and the chance to right a wrong and fill in a karmic divot is too much for Michael to pass up. Death still touches him as he finds his way to one military funeral after another, but rather than continue to taint him, he is shown a way to free himself and move on with his life.
The characters in this book are well written and compelling, each in their way expounding on the theme that random chance plays a role in life no matter how well you do or do not plan ahead. This story was an enjoyable read from beginning to to end.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Dibiaso sat toward the back of the plane, in the smoking section. His dress uniform and the leave papers were enough to secure a night flight to Chicago. Also, the plane was only two-thirds full. There were three other soldiers on the flight and they seemed to gravitate toward each other, but Dibiaso kept to himself.
While walking through the airport, he had noticed the dirty looks directed toward him – toward the uniform; more dirty looks than looks of approval. At this moment in history the Vietnam War was widely unpopular, and so too were the soldiers who fought there. Universities and colleges exploded with protests and demonstrations.
Even more significant, the social landscape of the entire country was changing rapidly. Michael felt it and so did his army buddies. A giant wave of young people had rose up and rebelled against the status quo, against their own parents. They hated the murderous foreign policy in Southeast Asia and the cold, criminal Nixon gang in Washington, D.C. Also, the civil rights movement and women’s liberation had caught fire and challenged decades of racism and sexism.
Politics, the military and corporate greed were all in the hands of the “older generation” – the main targets of hippie scorn. Michael believed the hippie movement was more than long hair, rock-n-roll, drugs and “free love”; it was a philosophy, a way of life. At least, this was how he saw it, and inside his secret heart he had become a stone cold hippie. Yet, he wore the uniform of a U.S. soldier and had participated in Vietnam.
No wonder I’m crazy, he thought. He sipped his beer, smoked a cigarette and stared out the window. He watched the orange traces of the setting sun. In Vietnam the
sun was just rising and the sky probably looked the same. Superimposed on the window was Michael’s reflection. His curly, black hair was a little too long for regulation and so
were the sideburns, but the officers and non-coms tended to give a lot of leeway to the Honor Guard. On one hand, there was a sense of respect and dignity for the work of the Honor Guard. On the other hand, they were tainted by death, grief and rage, and better left alone.
Pages 28-30 Pallbearers and Gamblers / Michael John Cruit / June 2015
Michael Cruit was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. He served three years in the United States Army, including thirteen months in Vietnam. After his discharge he attended the University of Minnesota, earned a degree in sociology and entered the graduate program in social psychology. In 1980 Mr. Cruit went to Costa Rica to write his dissertation, but never returned to the US.
Social psychology was not useful for survival in the rainforest and he endured several years of poverty. He survived by panning for gold and making coconut oil, then paddling upriver six hours to the nearest town, where he sold the gold and coconut oil and purchased supplies. Eventually, he learned carpentry and made a decent living working on local construction projects.
There are no roads, no power lines, no phone lines anywhere near his house. A pelton micro-hydro system provides enough electricity for lights, fridge and computer. He still lives in the Costa Rican rain forest, with seven cats, five dogs, thousands of parrots, toucans and monkeys and billions of bugs