The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



Semper Fi by W.E.B. Griffin

Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 12, 2022 at 7:45 AM

Semper Fi by W.E.B. Griffin

I read several W.E.B. Griffin series back near the start of the millennia and loved them. Then I read a couple of isolated books of his fifteen or so years later and wasn’t so thrilled. So it was with mixed feelings that I returned to my favorite Griffin series to see if it still lived up to my memories. Thankfully, it is every bit as good as I remember.


Griffin writes a very strange kind of military fiction. For most authors, this genre is all about the battles, but for Griffin it is all about the behind the scenes work that leads to those battles. In Semper Fi we primarily follow Kenneth McCoy, an enlisted Marine stationed in China before the start of World War II. McCoy has the misfortune of being chosen by four Italian soldiers as their target for payback after several Italians got injured in a brawl with U.S. marines. In the purest form of self-defense, McCoy kills two of the Italians with a knife and the marine corps, wanting to appease the angry Italian authorities, plans to court martial him for surviving. It’s obviously not a good look for the marine corps but feels very plausible as events unfold.


After getting extricated from his court martial, McCoy falls into intelligence work, and Griffin does a fabulous job of taking this sort of activity out of James-Bond-land and making it highly plausible. At the same time, the reader’s respect for McCoy continues to grow in part because Griffin counterposes him with two inexperienced officers who have neither his brains nor his commonsense.


After “Killer McCoy” is forced to shoot a significant number of Chinese bandits to save two of his fellow marines, he gets recalled to the U.S. and put into an officer training program. World War II has begun in Europe but the U.S. is not yet involved. Again, we get to see how the Marine Corps functions as the cast of characters grows and young men try and figure out what it means to be an officer and a gentlemen as the country inches towards war.


The first novel ends with Pearl Harbor and the initiation of hostilities against the U.S. It’s an exciting page turner even though very little of the book actually depicts scenes of combat. For anyone who would like a behind the scenes look at how the military functioned in World War II, this is a great series.



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