A while ago, there was a bit of a dust-up about a submarine being named after former president Jimmy Carter. At that point, I came down tentatively in favor of it, in recognition of his honorable service as a nuclear engineer on a submarine. However, a commenter suggested that waiting 25 years after the death of someone before naming anything — ship, bridge, building, whatever — in their honor. I said I wouldn’t mind that, with a few exceptions (those who died in service to the country, for example).
From the world of fiction, however, we now have an example of just why that might be a good idea.
James Cobb is a damned good writer. He’s written four books about the adventures of Amanda Garrett, a naval officer, that are set a few years into the future. They’re excellent technothrillers.
The only problem is Amanda Garrett’s ship, the first “stealth destroyer.” She commands it in the first two books, leaves it in the repair yard for the third, and commands it and a second ship in a task force in the fourth.
As is Naval tradition, the ship is named for a service member who served with some distinction. In this case, the ship is the Cunningham, named for the first Navy pilot to make “ace” (shooting down five enemy aircraft) in Viet Nam. Randy “Duke” Cunningham doesn’t make an appearance, per se, but a set of his “wings” insignia are mounted in a frame and given a place of honor on the ship’s bridge.
Now, the first book was published back in 1997, when the real “Duke” Cunningham was in his fourth term in Congress. Since then, though, Duke has shown himself to be a hero with feet of clay.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Cunningham — a powerful member of the House Armed Services Committee — had sold his home to a defense contractor, for considerably more than it was worth. That same contractor shortly thereafter received several multi-million-dollar contracts from the Pentagon. Further, it was revealed that Cunningham was living in DC aboard a yacht owned by that contractor rent-free. Also, Cunningham was selling merchandise through a web site, including several items bearing the Congressional Seal — a violation of federal law.
Cunningham insisted he had done nothing wrong, but announced that he was not going to seek re-election to Congress.
It makes me curious about the next Amanda Garrett novel. All of Cobb’s books featuring the USS Cunningham are set in years yet to come, but he wrote them before this scandal broke. So they fall in that quasi-surreal time frame where the scandals are in the book’s “past,” but hadn’t happened when they were written. I wonder how Cobb will handle these developments — and just how furious he is at the real Duke for messing up some truly excellent novels, and possibly killing a great series.