In the Wake of the Boatman
Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Bancroft, Nov 2008, $25.00
In November 1942, Helen Steward gives birth to her second child, Puttnum. His father Carl is in a dark mood with the events of WWII and his bad knee keeping him out of the service; something a man’s man like him cannot accept. He thinks his son would be better off dead and considers saving Puttnum from life’s disappointments by breaking his neck.
That paternal attitude stays with Putt as he does well at his high school studies, but is filled with anger; his arrest affirms his father’s opinion that his only male offspring is a loser. The teen obtains an ROTC scholarship to attend the University of Virginia where he has an interlude with his cadet commander, which leaves Putt struggling with his identity. Graduating from college, Putt puts on women’s attire; he feels guilt, fear and euphoria. To prove he is a man’s man, he volunteers for Viet Nam where he becomes a decorated hero. Back home, he is recruited to infiltrate a stateside Russian espionage ring, afterward the media and the military make him an American hero forcing him to hide even deeper his desire to wear women’s clothing. Whereas his father and brother-in-law (another man’s man) agree Putt is a loser, his older sister thinks otherwise though she knows something disturbs him turning him angrier and colder.
This is a deep psychological character study in which the relationship between father and son is based on what a man is. Carl feels his son is a wimp in spite of his service record and spy endeavors; though that is a psychological defense mechanism as his offspring accomplishes what he wanted to do. Putt is a fascinating character as he struggles with his unholy desire to wear women’s clothing by acting cold. IN THE WAKE OF THE BOATMAN is an intriguing psychological drama that looks deep inside the tormented soul of a man whose solo reason for living is trying to win his father’s affection despite decades of failure to achieve his objective.