The VVA Veteran - Books in Review
Titanic's Resurrected Secret - H.E.W.
J. Robert Di Fulgo served in the United States Navy for three years during the Vietnam War. A retired teacher, he’s the author of The Invisible Moon, a Vietnam War novel. Titanic's Resurrected Secret—H.E.W. (iUniverse, 184 pp., $13.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle) is what DiFulgo calls a “Post-Titanic mystery novel.”
The hero is Alexander J. Dante, a historical and mystery novelist. Now retired, he decides to devote his time and energy to a solving a Titanic puzzle. The sinking of the Titanic left behind many puzzles, but the one that captures Dante (and takes him around the world) is the mystery of the identify of the crew member who is buried in grave number 223 at Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The story is told that this dead crew member stole a priceless object and got caught with it. So he forfeited his identity, and presumably his life. I recommend this book to those readers hungry for more literature dealing with the Titanic.
Some of the book, though, was hard going for me. When “lips curled enigmatically,” I found myself bogged down, wondering what enigmatically curled lips would look like. I failed to imagine them.
Those readers who enjoy a blending of history and fiction, and who respect meticulous research combined with literary license, should try this book.
- David Wilson
The Invisible Moon
J. Robert DiFulgo served in the United States Navy for three years, including two tours of duty in Da Nang during the Vietnam War. He taught government and politics in the Fairfax County Schools, Virginia, for thirty years.
I love the cover of his novel, The Invisible Moon. It features a stylized pagoda with the moon sitting on top of it. Beneath the title appears to be a close-up photo of names on The Wall in Washington. In the lower right corner, ghostly outlined figures of Vietnamese in VC garb, including the conical hats, skulk toward weeds.
Even with a magnifier I could not spot any weapons. The names of the honored dead are printed over the scene of the creeping Viet Cong.
The second-to-last chapter takes place at Arlington National Cemetery in 1993. It is a short trip to the final chapter set at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The main character, Bryan Ruocco, visits The Wall with the son of his best friend in Vietnam, Gregory T. Seaton, who did not return alive.
The book begins August 1991. Bryan is a Vietnam veteran who has experienced PTSD for twenty years. He’s seen many doctors but gotten no relief. He’s experiencing “flashbacks, nightmares or dreams and emotional stress.” He’s emotionally numb. We are told that ”no particular drug has emerged as a definitive treatment for PTSD.”
When he is getting ready to leave for Vietnam, his uncle says, “Bryan, I’m glad you are going to help stop that plague of Commies in Vietnam.” This is Bryan’s mindset, too. When he first sees Southeast Asia, he felt “like Columbus or Magellan and gasped with fervor.”
DiFulgo’s prose can be a challenge for those who have skepticism about life. For example: “Her shoulder-length blonde hair moved as rhythmically as delicate branches of a willow and her sky-blue eyes glistened from Greg’s very presence.”
About one-third of the way into the book, the reader is told the reasons for Bryan’s PTSD. He is brutally raped on board ship by four sailors. The rape is made possible by the failure of his best buddy, Greg, to keep his word to watch out for him. This rape scene is graphically described and is not easy reading. Nor was it meant to be. Bryans’ brutal attackers refer to him as “sea-pussy.”
This complex book includes a beautiful Eurasian woman, Tuyet du Mont, who falls in love with Greg but who must stay true to her anti-colonial beliefs, which involve being a Viet Cong operative. Or as Tuyet says, “I had a revolution to help carry out.”
Greg loves Tuyet, too, but as he explains to Bryan, “Tuyet has always understood my feelings for you. She has known from the beginning that I’m capable of loving both men and women.”
It is at that point that I became certain that this Vietnam War novel had become that rarest of items, one that has a homosexual theme. It turns out, though that this book is more like other Vietnam War novels than it is different.
Bryan and Greg are in Da Nang on January 27, 1968, so we get a first-person view of the Tet Offensive and are given much background on the celebration of the Tet holiday. The depiction of the Tet Offensive is gritty, believable, and one of the great strengths of this novel.
“I’m beginning to wonder if we should be in this damned country,” Greg says. A few pages later we are told, “The news from the Stars and Stripes seems to indicate that the tide of war is turning in our favor. The Communists seem to be beaten at last.”
Antiwar protesters are described as “untidy people” with long hair and beads who call returning Vietnam vets baby killers and spit at Marines. We even get to see, briefly, Bryan’s old girlfriend spitting on a Marine.
I recommend this novel to those who are seeking fictional, but accurate, depictions of gay men in the military during the Vietnam War. It has strong characters and tells a gripping story.
- David Wilson
The Washington Post - June 2011
The Invisible Moon
Dr Bryan Ruocco is trying to find the answers he felt were lost so long ago. A successful professor diagnosed with Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder, it troubled him that he was expereicning these symptoms when he'd neer experienced any combat while serving in Vietnam. What he didn't expect would come in a series of revelations that come to the surface and changed him forever.
In The Invisible Moon, author J.Robert DiFulgo takes readers on a harrowing journey of unlocked memories that are placed against the backdrop of significant events during the Vietnam war. The resurfacing of the principal characters past revealss to him that he was part of a forbidden love triangle that involved his best friend and a women who is straddling two worlds.
'I wrote the book to help individuals to accept their natural and innate life in spite of socisty's restrictions with our social and political instituions. The events in the novel are tied to events that are just as important today, such as the repeal of the 'Don't ask. Don't tell' policy and the epidemic of PTSD in returning veterans. One of the key messages is making peace with one's past in order to preserve one's present'
The result is a passionate, somber tale of remembrance that will captivate readers from beginning to end.
Substance Books Press Release- BookExpo America May 2011
Novel tackling the effects of sexual assault in the military to be featured in BookExpo Amerca, New York, May 2011.
New York Times, NY: Hidden stories are coming to light as federal lawsuit accusing the U.S.Department of Defense with turning a blind eye to the problem of sexual assault makes it s way through court. The plaintiffs, 15 women and two men, are bringing attention to the fact that military settings foster at least double the national average rates of rape and abuse.
J.Robert DiFulgo's novel, The Invisible Moon, takes on this difficult topic in a sensitive and nuanced way through the eyes of Bryan, a Petty Officer who experiences not only assault but love, loss and the shattering of his beliefs while on tour of duty in Vietnam.
Decades after the war, Bryan must revisit the past in order to grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder and solve the mystery of what happened to his best friend, Greg. Will his discoveries finally set him on the path to healing or will the truth remain hidden like the invisible moon?
Readers who enjoy learning about history and culture will appreciate the detail which author J.Robert DiFulgo describes both military life and Vietnamese places and traditions. His writing is based on his own experiences during the Vietnam War and a subsequent visit to the country.
The novel's hard hitting subject matter will be of interest to anyone following the high profile lawsuit against the Pentagon. But beyond politics, The Invisible Moon tells a story that is human, credible and moving.