HIGH SKIES AND FAT HORSES
A Novel of War and Human Imperfection
By William J. Wallisch
“There’s a little of the Appo Kid in all of us.”
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When Air Force Captain Norm Whitman gets his orders to a remote island off the southern coast of Korea he finds himself working for Major Dubbs, who already hates his guts. But it only takes a day for Whitman to team up with his fellow site mates: An alcoholic chaplain (Father Paul); the irreverent site medic (Sergeant Goldman); a fellow captain (Andy Packer, nickname “Oyster”), made constantly miserable by his Korean “Yobo” girl friend (Adja); and a group of Korean officers dedicated to both their military mission and serious partying. The creed for survival: “It’s your mind or your liver!” Curiously flawed and alcoholic, Whitman carries his Catholic guilt from brothels to brawls. A group of Irish priest missionaries and other assorted characters who fly in and out from bases all over East Asia join in the rice-wine driven mayhem that drives base commander Dubbs up the wall. The good times end when Whitman must deal with the murder of one of his closest site mates, the Korean police, and his own shock at how suddenly life can turn ugly. On the heels of tragedy, Whitman is selected for an assignment just as surreal: Train and accompany his Korean counterparts for a top-secret mission to Vietnam. What happens in the war zone will prove to be his day of reckoning.
William J. Wallisch is a retired professor of English who’s been a life-long collector of military character sketches and tall tales. He’s filled many notebooks with “war stories” penned during his own twenty-three years of active duty service. Typical of his essays on military heroism is “In the Belly of the Whale,” published in War, Literature, and the Arts. His University of Southern California doctoral dissertation was a study of “The Integration of Women into the United States Air Force Academy.” This first novel was originally a collection of short stories, taken from what he refers to as his “dark notebook.” Though set in Korea and Vietnam, it amalgamates a variety of characters and tales, gathered from many assignments around the world. When asked if the story is a memoir, Bill replies, “No, but there’s a little of the Appo Kid in all of us.” He divides his time between Colorado Springs and Leadville, Colorado.
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