The Discharge is the third novel in Gary Reilly’s trilogy chronicling the life and times of Private Palmer as he returns from the U.S. Army to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a largely autobiographical series based on his own two years of service, 1969-1971, which included a year in Southeast Asia.
In the first book, The Enlisted Men’s Club, Palmer is stationed as an MP trainee at the Presidio in San Francisco, awaiting deployment orders. Palmer is wracked with doubt and anxiety. A tortured relationship with a young lady off base and cheap beer at the EM club offer escape and temporary relief.
The Detachment is the second in the series. This novel covers Palmer’s twelve months in Vietnam as a Military Policeman. In the beginning, he endures through drink and drugs and prostitutes but comes to a turning point when he faces his challenges fully sober.
Now, in The Discharge, Palmer is back in the United States. But he’s adrift. Palmer tries to reconnect with a changed world. From San Francisco to Hollywood to Denver and, finally, behind the wheel of a taxi, Palmer seeks to find his place.
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Gary Reilly’s Bio
Gary Reilly was a natural and prolific writer. But he lacked the self-promotion gene. His efforts to publish his work were sporadic and perfunctory, at best. When he died in 2011, he left behind upwards of 25 unpublished novels, the Vietnam trilogy being among the first he had written.
Running Meter Press, founded by two of his close friends, has made a mission of bringing Gary’s work to print. So far, besides this trilogy, RMP has published eight of ten novels in his Asphalt Warrior series. These are the comic tales of a Denver cab driver named Murph, a bohemian philosopher and aficionado of “Gilligan’s Island” whose primary mantra is: “Never get involved in lives of my passengers.” But, of course, he does exactly that.
Three of the titles in The Asphalt Warrior series were finalists for the Colorado Book Award. Two years in a row, Gary’s novels were featured as the best fiction of the year on NPR’s Saturday Morning Edition with Scott Simon. And Gary’s second Vietnam novel, The Detachment, drew high praise from such fine writers as Ron Carlson, Stewart O’Nan, and John Mort. A book reviewer for Vietnam Veterans of America, David Willson, raved about it, too.
There is a fascinating overlap in the serious story of Private Palmer’s return to Denver and the quixotic meanderings of Murph. It is the taxicab. One picks up where the other leaves off. Readers familiar with The Asphalt Warrior series will find a satisfying transition in the final chapters of The Discharge.
And they will better know Gary Reilly the writer and Gary Reilly the man.