By Harry Hallman
Genre: Crime Fiction
While serving as a pilot during the Vietnam War, Gerry Amota, the grandson of Jacob Byrne, the head of a powerful North Philadelphia Irish crime family, seizes an opportunity to create a lucrative marijuana smuggling operation. It's 1967 and under the secrecy of a classified military operation and with the assistance of a French Marseille Mob, who owns plantations in Cambodia, he is able to send tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana a month to Philadelphia. His grandfather's criminal enterprise distributes the drug to a population who has developed and insatiable appetite for the marijuana.
A rival French from Paris gang tries to force Amato to buy their product and this triggers war between the Byrne family and the Paris mob. From the steamy jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia, to the streets of Saigon, Paris and Philadelphia the ruthless actions of the Paris mob threatens to destroy the Byrne family. Gerry Amato orchestrates merciless campaign of retribution against his foes in order to save himself and his family.
There are several distinct sections in Mercy Row Retribution by Harry Hallman. The first is when Gerry is a pilot in Vietnam. Being part of a crime family, he begins flying marijuana growing in country back home for further distribution.
There is a specially riveting scene when they are flying, shortly before Gerry's discharge. Part of the trip involves getting some orphans out of a war-torn area, the other part is picking up some drugs. Once most of the trip is done, they get shot down. Two of the soldiers survive (Gerry being one) and there is a rather dramatic rescue.
But home in Philly is not much safer, due to the nature of his family's business. Rival gangs in and out of the city, in and out of the country were trying to wedge into the Byrne family business. There was a lot of living and dying by the sword going on.
There is a natural tendency to want to empathize with the main character, and I felt that with Gerry Amato. But then his family's business made money off the weakness and suffering of others with the drug trade and whatever other illegal activities in which they were engaged. On the other hand, his aunt (whose name was Mercy) ran the Mercy Row charitable organization that helped the local poor with food and shelter, etc. A lot of the funds from the organization came from the sale of stolen goods.
I had more than the usual amount of internal debate about 'good' and 'bad' with Mercy Row Retribution. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Ignorance and innocence is not the same thing. If we want to be 'good' we have to know what is 'bad'. (That works the other way around, too.)
There is one point where I felt particularly akin to the Byrne family. In an act of revenge, the rival French gang kidnaps and assaults one of the young female Byrnes. I cannot truthfully say I would not at least be tempted to sort the matter out a la Byrne. if someone tried to hurt one of my children.
The part that was most difficult for me was the acts of violence committed in and around Notre Dame in Paris. It does serve to heighten the contrast between good an evil. This scene evoked a similar response in me as when I hear of church, temple or mosque shootings or bombings.
Mr. Hallman's writing is distraction-free, meaning that I could find no faults that might have detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Mercy Row Retribution is one very thought-provoking and well-written read.
MEET THE AUTHOR
After a year of being an apprentice plumber he served four years in the U.S. Air Force, including two tours in South Vietnam as a photographer. His first tour was at Ton Son Nhat Airbase where he processed film shot by U2 Aircraft over North Vietnam and China. He returned to the same place for his second tour, but processed film shot by U.S. fighter recon aircraft. He is married to Duoc Hallman, whom he met in Vietnam, and has two children, Bill and Nancy, and one grandchild, Ava.
Hallman is a serial entrepreneur who has created several marketing services and digital media companies and continues to work as a marketing consultant.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Sage's Blog Tours in exchange for my objective review. This post contains affiliate links.)
This book helps me fulfill the following 2016 Reading Challenges: