Imagine that you are nearing forty with a wife and kids. Now, envision that even though you aren’t a professional soldier, you’ve signed up more than once for the Army Reserves. The first time you signed the dotted line was to pay for school. Then you resigned to help pay the bills after college. What may have seemed like easy money has now landed you in the middle of a war.
Voodoo Gold, by James H Jenks, chronicles SSG Jenks’s (same name as the author) time in Iraq. Jenks doesn’t like to complain. He’s the guy who always tries to think outside of the box. When he arrives in Baghdad and has to live with his unit in a bombed out warehouse, he doesn’t break down and cry. He makes the best of the situation.
He’s the type of guy who gets the job done. Even though he may not follow the rules, Jenks is honest. He’s assigned to a Psychological Operation Company (PSYOP). They use “persuasion to influence perceptions and encourage desired behavior to a given audience.” During one of his missions, Jenks learns of a gold reserve. Wouldn’t it be grand if he and his men could steal this gold and live the high life for the rest of their lives? At first Jenks scoffs at actually stealing the gold. Then the men learn how much is available. How can they pass the opportunity up? They convince each other that they should get something out of going to war for their country. The job is too large for three men to pull off so they bring in their buddies from Civil Affairs and start to plot the heist of all heists: stealing Saddam’s gold. If they succeed, money would never be a problem again for any of them. If they failed, they’d either be court-martialed or worse. It’s a good thing that Jenks likes to think outside of the box, because no ordinary family man would ever try to pull off such a crazy scheme.
The author’s writing will not dazzle many readers. He sticks to the story and doesn’t try to impress the reader with big words and fancy descriptions. There aren’t a lot of twists and turns. Yet the story is fun. I imagined myself listening to a relative relating his experiences of the war during a family reunion. Most of us have a relative who likes to tell whopping stories that entertain, even if you don’t believe every word. And like that crazy relative, Jenks utilizes humor to keep you interested and wanting more.
The edition I read had a few issues that would make many grammarians cringe. I was able to overlook the mistakes and to enjoy the ride. Sometimes I wished an editor had assisted with the clumsiness of his writing. Here’s an example of dialogue: “you are great at reading people. That’s probably why you are in Special Forces and I’m humping this rifle around. I hope you put those smarts to good use and we get rich someday SSG Jenks.” The speaker sounds too stiff. This type of dialogue may be useful to develop a certain character, but when more than one character speaks this way, it becomes too rigid and unbelievable. An editor would have been able, hopefully, to provide guidance. The story is entertaining, but I can’t help but wonder what it could have been if more work had been put into it. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.