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Article: Book Review - Lucky Joe

Book Review - Lucky Joe

Book Review - Lucky Joe

By Cokie


“Joe Watts had either lived everywhere, lived more than once, or had the worst memory of any truth-bender in the history of the Army. He was not just a story-teller, but a godless, wild degenerate.”


Thus, begins the saga of the mighty Joe Watts otherwise known as That Guy.


Every unit has a That Guy, the bragging, loud, obnoxious man-child who tends toward a wild form of immortality. He is often hated as much as he is loved and is always on everyone’s mind months or even years after he was last seen.


Such a character tends to be background noise in most military stories, utilized as a splash of color to add a chuckle to what can be very dark material. He will be utilized as a wild card or sorts; a kind of catalyst or plot device to make the necessary chaos appear in the story.


Lucky Joe is the first book I have read where he gets to be the main character.


The book begins at a funeral for Joe Watts, where he is mourned by only three men: squad leader Joseph Perchigh, former Ranger medic Joey “Doc” Preston, and Air Force Pararescue Jumper Jose Ruiz. Their shared disbelief at such a small turn-out for the death of one of their own leads them to a seedy bar, where they then contemplate the “rare and beautiful madness” that was Joe Watts. Memories swirl through the alcohol until a creepy priest hands them a letter from their dead friend, igniting furious questions about the true nature of the man they thought they knew.


The short novella was penned by writers familiar to OAF readership: David Rose, Leo Jenkins, and Brian Kimber. Rose, the author of such titles as No Joy, From Sand and Time, and Amden Bog, organized a team to complete the various viewpoints in this book. His readers will recognize his style, which drips with black magic and sorcery, and revels in evil deeds done in the shadows. The main storyline is his brainchild, and weaves in and out of interactions with the titular character.


Leo Jenkins, author of such titles as With a Pen, First Train Out of Denver, and war {n} pieces, brings his experienced tone of intense and hopeful artistry, adding his voice to Rose’s to show one of the perspectives in the story. Fans of his writing will not be disappointed in his narration, which alternates between the morbidly hilarious and bloody darkness.


Brian Kimber is a relatively new voice in military fiction, though his writing has been familiar to anyone consuming veteran content. The sole voice of the podcast “News Roundup with BK,” his writing leaves the reader feeling simultaneously well-informed on world events, laughing hysterically at clever wordplay, and somehow jacked and tan as well. I can’t explain it, but I walked away from the book two shades darker and with rippling delts.


The characters are well developed, especially given the short duration of the book. Far from being tropes, they are real people most of us have met in our careers. There is the disgraced former operator, the oddly religious (but occasionally competent) infantryman, and the dumb officer with ego issues. Sadly enough, there is even the guy who spent his whole childhood dreaming of glory in battle only to have it taken away by tragedy and incompetence. The reader gets the very real feeling that each of these men are flesh-and-blood people encountered by the authors, and with each name a face will likely pop into mind from previous deployments.


The book travels into the dueling worlds of grunt philosophy and war strategy, or more accurately, the lack thereof. The description of the grind of Iraq from a grunt’s perspective was particularly heartbreaking:


To those who were there, the sensation of being an underpaid cop in the biggest trash heap on earth sunk in, and hard, down past the body armor, down past the swelling spare-tire from excessive MRE exposure, finally resting in the bones.


There are bits of (probably unwelcome) wisdom passed down from a PJ to a doped-up patient in the back of Blackhawk in Afghanistan:


You like war. I get it, but there’s nothing that will ever come close to this. You understand you need to feel something else, right? This isn’t going to last forever. Or, fuck, who knows. Maybe it will. But either way, you need to have something else to get back to.


There is even poetry in the midst of a memory of war and friends:


Just one smile – cracked and crooked

Looking over the shoulder. Pissing into oblivion

Invincible derelict, heretic of his own religion

The worst friend – the best brother.


I read the book in less than an hour, though I didn’t mean to. I meant to start it and finish later, but the characters pulled me in so well that I was able to ignore the world for a short turn as I was walked through the minds of men we have all met, or men we have all been.


To get your signed copy, go to the publisher’s webpage at It’s better than Amazon because the writers and publishers get more money, plus you can see other similar works by some solid veterans.


Written By Cokie




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