Cover image for Blindside : a novel
Title:
Blindside : a novel
Author:
Lane, Jim R.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Bridgehampton, N.Y. : Bridge Works Pub. Co. ; Lanham, Md. : Distributed in the U.S. by National Book Network, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
204 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781882593590
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Navy intelligence officer Neal Olen finds himself a pawn of both the author,a woman with whom he had an affair and who hopes to promote her book and the Navy eager to demonstrate zero tolerance of sex scandals.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The author of Duty (1999) proffers another novel of attempted injustice in today's U.S. Navy. Retired intelligence officer Neal Olen gets dragged into the spotlight when a best-selling novel leads to charges against him of adultery and other crimes with the woman who wrote it. The novel's interest lies in the peaks and valleys of Commander Olen's ongoing situation and in character development, particularly that of Olen's complex but loyal wife and that of his ex-navy lesbian defense attorney. The best-seller writer's ex-husband, on the other hand, is only something of a diabolus ex machina, and the whole book is too short to develop sufficient suspense. If Blindside isn't as good as Duty, it is still a solid-enough achievement to verify that Lane has a real gift for depicting the U.S. Navy's legal system at its best and worst. --Roland Green


Publisher's Weekly Review

Any novel about a naval court-martial proceeding invites comparison with Herman Wouk's immense The Caine Mutiny; former navy man Lane (Duty) is far less ambitious in his short novel, but he does offer an insider's view. Comdr. Neal Olen, whose wife, Yvonne, had briefly left him, was inveigled into a weekend affair by Angela Vance, herself separated from her husband. Now his marriage is sound again, he's retired from the navy and working for Defense Dynamics. Unfortunately, Angela has just published a "sleazy tell-all" bestseller, Navy Wench, in which he is thinly disguised as "Allen Neil." Olen is pilloried in the press and soon brought up on charges of adultery and "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," each punishable by loss of retirement rights and privileges, as well as a fine and a jail sentence. Making matters worse, "Allen Neil" is portrayed as trying to impress his lover by imparting naval secrets. Olen engages Lethajoy Beltower, an experienced military lawyer and naval veteran who herself was forced into retirement because she refused to conceal her homosexuality. Olen admits to the affair, but denies revealing any secrets. A preliminary hearing finds insufficient evidence to convict, but the navy, embarrassed at the flagrant dismissal of charges after the Tailhook incident, wishes to pursue the court-martial. Flat narration and perfunctory characterization exacerbate the frustration of clumsy plot turns (Angela's husband tries twice to kill Olen), but the subject matter is tantalizing and Lane keeps the story moving at a steady pace. Agent, Wendy Dager. (Sept. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Just when Neal Olen, a retired naval intelligence officer, is about to reap the benefits of civilian life, he is recalled to duty and accused of both disclosing military secrets and conduct unbecoming an officer. Five years earlier, Neal had had a torrid affair with Angela Vance, whose sleazy, best-selling novel virtually names Neal as her lover and the man who disclosed the secrets. Since both Neal and Angela were married to others at the time, the navy is embarrassed and decides to make Neal a scapegoat by court-martialing him. This topical story, Lane's latest novel after Duty, compels when it describes the court-martial but otherwise lacks suspense. Also, the navy's politically correct rationale for such a witch hunt is unclear. Brian Haig (Mortal Allies; Secret Sanction) writes far better novels about military justice. For larger collections only.-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Neal Olen felt damn stupid standing in line. His hand as perspiring, dampening the slick blue and pink dust jacket on Navy Wench . It was not the sort of novel he'd normally buy, but this was the only way he could get close enough to her now. Two armed guards who wore the tough-ass demeanor of off-duty city police, rather than civilian rent-a-cops, had stepped in his way when he tried to approach the table where Angela Vance sat signing her novel. So he muttered a confused apology, paid for the damned thing, and got in the sluggish line. He'd had enough of lines in the navy. Even as an officer he hadn't been able to escape the perennial lines for mail, meals and medicine. He opened the book in his hand, thumbing pages randomly, stopping at the occasional paragraph that caught his eye. The guards spoke quietly with each other, standing with thumbs hooked over belts, keeping a not-too-subtle eye on him. Neal lowered the novel and gazed idly away, trying to avoid looking furtive. He noted the warm fragrance the in-house coffee bar added to the cavernous Thousand Oaks bookstore. Neal glanced back at the cops, exhaling his frustration. They probably had him pegged for a celebrity stalker. He wondered if he fit some police profile: 5' 10", 160 pounds, hair: brown, eyes: brown, quiet, nervous-maybe what the cops call shifty . His hand rose involuntarily, fingers lightly touching the inch-long scar above his left eyebrow. The wound, received in childhood from his older brother and inexpertly sutured at the county hospital, was one of the identifying marks listed in his military service record. The scar, along with the angular line of his jaw, made him ruggedly handsome in his wife's generous assessment. He never thought about his facial topography except when she happened to bring it up or at times like these, when such physical imperfections made him easily identifiable to the police. Neal had heard about the book and Angela Vance, but he had not even imagined he might have some part in it until he'd caught her public television interview on Story Line last Thursday night. She was promoting her book and mentioned an unnamed "navy hero" who had been valuable in her research. Now, five weeks after its release, Navy Wench was already a best-seller and had been featured in Newsweek alongside an article about military readiness in the new millennium. Buzz about the novel had shown up in other places as well: newspaper book reviews, magazines, online booksellers. The book had even been optioned for a movie. Angela Vance had been pegged by People magazine as someone to watch in the year 2000 and beyond. Now Angela had received her twenty minutes in front of Story Line 's national audience, answering even the most inane questions with a dazzling smile and another mention of the book title. Neal had been startled when Story Line 's host, Gene Klassen, wearing his most serious face, had asked about apparently classified information contained in Navy Wench . "I've got my sources," she answered coyly. Angela Vance had clearly enchanted Klassen, a normally hard-nosed interviewer, just as she had mesmerized Neal back in Coronado at the Old Tijuana Restaurant bar. Neal had to learn details of what in hell she had written and, more importantly, had to remember what he might have said to her, even accidentally, that could land him in federal prison. For a navy intelligence officer, nighttime intimacies could inspire the male need to show off by spilling secrets. Neal was once again thinking defensively, analytically, winnowing every detail from available data, a habit left over from twenty years as a navy intelligence officer with assignments at U.S. embassies, aboard ships and ashore with navy and NATO commands. Then, he had concentrated on developing threat assessments and briefing admirals and ambassadors. Neal had been thoroughly happy in his role as an office spook, a paperwork spy. He never could have conceived that the sleazy tell-all novel he held in his hand would interest him, let alone affect him personally. Now, as Neal stood in line, he imagined that people were stealing glances at him, could actually see him naked four years earlier in the old hotel in the Laguna Mountains with Angela's lip prints all over him. He flashed on the several lines he'd seen quoted in a review of Navy Wench and its fictional characters. Allen Neil lay back, spent, as Gillian Lorenz nuzzled close, taking little nips at his ear, her hand languidly cupping his penis, clearly not finished with him. Now he had a lucid moment, time to think, to consider whether he should have bragged to her about the KH-11 reconnaissance satellites. Damn! No question about it-he had fucked up royally. A queasy feeling had come over him again, just as when he'd seen her interviewed on television. Angela Vance, vamping for the camera, hinting at Neal's hidden shame, the "intimate wink" that characterized her book promotion. She'd revealed a version of her own life and the lives of those whom she somehow found amusing and useful to her story and, now, useful to its sales. Since the book had hit the stores little more than a month ago, some of the women at the office had been acting strangely, whispering and giggling whenever he came near, like children with a secret. They had obviously put some clues together. The female attention would have been a kick any other time like the day Sheila, the office tart, had patted his ass at the Xerox machine. But now he hoped fervently that none of them would see him here. That would clinch it for them, make his connection to Angela Vance undeniable. Forget the logic that if there had been any permanent intimacy going on between them, she would not have embarrassed him by making him wait in the autograph line. Neal had resisted his initial impulse to buy a copy of Navy Wench . But then he had seen the ad for Angela Vance's promotional book signing in the Los Angeles Times . Just a fifteen-minute drive up the Ventura Freeway to Thousand Oaks from his house in Camarillo. He had imagined the book-signing scene differently, without the reverent herd of mostly women autograph seekers in a line snaking through the bookstore. He wondered if Angela Vance would recognize his face now that she had attained enough fame to warrant a pair of guards. She'd remembered other things about him-that was for damned sure-if the Allen Neil character was supposed to be based on him. He could hear her laugh from his position back in the line. He recognized that brash, ready, too-loud laugh that would not normally have attracted him. It was unashamed, nearly a shriek, the kind that rose above the noise in a busy restaurant. He had heard her laugh the first time in Coronado, when he'd already had a couple of drinks and was feeling lonely, guilty and also furious that his wife, Yvonne, had asked him to move out. Neal stepped to the side and peered down the line of twenty Angela Vance fans in front of him. Her legs, crossed at the knee, were visible under the table-one high heel planted in the carpet, the other moving slightly up and down, maintaining some inner rhythm as she autographed each book. A green silk blouse sleeve and that red hair were all he could see of her above the table as she bent forward to scratch her name and some phony personal message to anyone who had the $29.95 for her book. She looked up after each autograph, smiling, revealing her carefully made-up face, giving full value to the book buyer's brush with her radiance. At the time of his separation from his wife, Neal had only a little over three years to retirement. Despite Yvonne's impatience for him to retire, how could he throw away the sixteen years he-they-had already invested? Besides, he had one of the navy's best jobs as an intelligence officer and had just been promoted to O-5-commander. Not that Neal would ever admit out loud that it mattered, but replacing his plain-billed lieutenant commander cap with one that carried embroidered gold oak leaves, "scrambled eggs," on the visor had made him stand a bit taller and sneak an occasional look in the mirror, like a Little Leaguer on uniform day. Two weeks after Yvonne had asked him to move out of their San Diego home, he had rented an apartment over a garage in Coronado, chauffeur's quarters built in the '20s. It was quiet, furnished, lonely. He could have lived aboard the USS Constellation , moored at North Island's carrier pier, but booze was not allowed aboard, and he'd been using more of it these days. He needed a space of his own other than the small stateroom on the ship's O-3 level, just beneath the flight deck. Neal had already spent plenty of time in that windowless steel box during cruises. So Neal celebrated his promotion alone, sitting in the Old Tijuana, contemplating the chunks of salt sliding down his margarita glass, when this dish in a gauzy skirt perched herself just one stool away. What now? Buy her a drink? Strike up a conversation? Pretend like she isn't there, he decided. He glanced down, catching sight of her knee and a generous wedge of thigh pointing his way as she turned on the stool to wave at someone across the room. Neal looked up and directly into her face. She looked back, staring a moment before breaking a smile, showing her teeth. Good teeth, television teeth, like in a toothpaste ad. They were the kind of teeth that made you think of your own and keep your mouth shut. "It's OK-you can talk," she said, leaning close, eyes wide as her smile. "Must be out of practice," was all he could think to say. Dumb. "That can only mean that you're married." "Separated," he said too quickly. "I mean-" "Separated is OK," she said, reaching across the empty stool between them, giving his knee a quick pat. "Lots of sailors are, honey." She gazed at him, appraising, then extended her hand to shake. "Angela," she said. Fast mover , he thought, encouraged but wary. It was the way foreign agents sometimes approached military people, and it set off an alarm in the back of his mind. And as an intelligence officer he'd be a prime target with his high-level clearances and broad knowledge of up-to-date classified information. It could make a guy paranoid. "I'm Neal." He knew better than to ask how she knew he was navy. Add it up: right age, dorky haircut, navy town. At least he wasn't wearing shiny black shoes and khaki pants. "Care for a drink?" he said, as she slid onto the stool next to him. Neal took a blank slip of paper from a table near where Angela sat signing. He'd seen some of the others in line use the slip to write out their names for Angela. Neal wrote: "I have to see you when you're done here. Black Angus bar next door." He slipped the paper inside the dust jacket, sticking out. He turned the book over and read the blurbs. The navy under covers. What really happens when sailors leave home.... Not since the Tailhook scandal.... Tailhook. The chance that Angela Vance's seamy revelations would be ignored, just forgotten, seemed less and less likely with the prevailing attitude that had engulfed any civilian discussion of the navy. The Tailhook scandal had moved the military and its archaic attitudes about women and sex front and center before the public. And the clank of brass had been deafening as senior officers dived for cover at the merest suggestion of sexual impropriety. Neal's turn came. Angela looked up with the same dazzling smile and moist brown eyes he remembered from the first night he'd seen her in the Old Tijuana. No hint of surprise. "Nice to see you again, Neal," she said without hesitation. "How's my hero?" "Congratulations. I hear the book's doing well." Neal faked a cheery demeanor, mindful of the cops now standing close, eyes locked on him. "Twenty-two on the Times best-seller list," she said, with that prominent laugh coloring her words. She withdrew the slip, glanced at it, then bent over Neal's copy of Navy Wench and wrote, "To Neal Olen, more love and kisses from a hero worshipper." Closing the cover on his note, she slid the book across the table toward him. He searched her eyes for an answer, but they had suddenly lost luster and expression, had gone private. He'd just have to wait at the bar. It would give him time to start reading the book in earnest, to assess the damage she had done him. The signing would end at 4 P.M. The Black Angus was nearly deserted on this Saturday afternoon. Heavy metal music pounded through the speakers. The hostess, noting the book in his hand, led him to a table that had light from a window. "Good book," she said, nodding as Neal slipped into one of the four captain's chairs. "Been next door, huh? She still there?" "Yeah," Neal answered and ordered a gin and tonic. "You gonna read, I'll turn down the music," she said. He flashed her a smile of appreciation. "I was married to a sailor once...." The hostess gave him a knowing nod, looking for a response, and, receiving none, turned away. Neal opened Navy Wench , took a sip of his gin and tonic, and began reading, quickly realizing that the book's slant was anything but friendly to the sea service. Angela Vance's novel was very clearly written from an angry woman's point of view, told through the protagonist, Gillian Lorenz, an abused and promiscuous navy wife. Gillian's philandering enlisted husband was abetted in his whore-mongering by cruises aboard his ship to the western Pacific where he "dipped his wick in every hooker from Olongapo City to Pattaya Beach to Mombassa." He closed the book and his eyes. It was only sex, he kept telling himself. But Neal Olen knew that what would be considered an indiscretion anywhere else had the potential in the navy to ruin him. His only hope was that now that he had been retired from the navy for nearly a year, the furor might bypass him. Excerpted from BLINDSIDE by Jim R. Lane Copyright © 2002 by Jim R. Lane Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.