Much of the story told in my most recent novel, Secretocracy, is that of bonding between a father and son. The paternal-filial relationship is very important to me personally. I have a son who is a fine man of whom I am immensely proud. We are not as close as I’d like simply because we are both so busy. He is a fulltime teacher and has a family of his own—three rambunctious children that take up his attention. And I am a fulltime author with six books out and two more in the hopper.
But I can’t claim a good relationship with my father any more than the protagonist of Secretocracy, Gene Westmoreland, can. My father was a lawyer who embezzled $40,000 and was sent to prison. Disbarred before he was released, he became a street bum, went back to jail, and finally died in a bar brawl. I spent my childhood essentially fatherless. As a young man, after my father forged my signature and cashed checks against my bank account, I changed my bank signature and made it my business to be sure he didn’t know where I was or how to get in touch with me. In short, I had no paternal-filial relationship. I promised myself that when I had children, I’d go out of my way to be the best father possible.
The Vietnam war intervened in my plans. Between 1962 and 1975, as an employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), I spent more time in Vietnam operating under cover and providing signals intelligence support to U.S. combat troops than I did in the states. I had two accompanied tours in Vietnam, the first with my oldest daughter, the second with all four of my children. But even then, I was so busy and away from home so much that my children had to do without me most of the time. When I and my family were in the U.S., I was working twelve-hour days. And I was regularly sent to Vietnam on trips that lasted four to six months each.