THE ARMY C.I.D. by Rick McMahan

In recent years, the media has taken an interest in military justice system with such movies as "A Few Good Men" and the television show "JAG," both about the military legal system from the viewpoints of military attorneys. To those of us not a part of the military, the military is a unique caste system set apart from the rest of the country. Unlike the rest of us who get up and go to work every day, the careers of the men and women of the military are to train and be ready to go fight and die around the world. It is a society of warriors. It is also a caste society divided by rank, enlisted and officer. But just like the rest of society, the military has crime.

In the U.S. Army the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) is the investigative branch of the Military Police. C.I.D. Agents are Warrant Officers, a rank between enlisted and officers, a rank they rarely use. They use only their title as Special Agent when they are working.

In recent years, novelists have taken on the task of creating mysteries centered around the military. Several protagonists bearing the badge of the U.S. Army C.I.D. have found their way into popular fiction.

Author Martin Limon is a retired Army officer. He used the experience and knowledge he gained from ten years spent in Korea to create a pair of memorable characters, U.S. 8th Army C.I.D. agents George Sueno and Ernie Banscom. Limonís books take place in Korea in the early '70s after the Vietnam war, in a different military than today. It was Army where smoking was done at desks and beer was sold out of vending machines in the barracks.

George Sueno is a from the rough streets of in the barrios of East L.A. where he grew up in foster homes. He has adopted the Army as his family. George aspires to learn about this proud and different culture known as Korea. In fact, he has learned their language which helps him in accomplishing his job since he doesnít come off as an ugly American.

Ernie Bascom is a little off-center. He is a man who got through two tours of Vietnam with a hell-if-I-care attitude and is now in Korea with the same attitude.

This C.I.D. duo, spend their nights carousing and slumming through a drunken stupor, chasing women in Itaewon. Their days are spent chasing blackmarketeers. In Jade Lady Burning (223 pages, 1992, Soho Press, $10.00), a young Korean "working-girl" is murdered and her small shack burned to the ground. An unwitting U.S. soldier is arrested for the crime. George and Ernie donít believe the man committed the murder, but no one, not Command and not the Koreans, want the investigation pursued. Of course like good mystery heroes, George and Ernie donít listen to their commanders and they start digging into a case that no one wants pursued.

In Slicky Boys (April 1998, Bantam Press, $5.99), C.I.D. Agents George Sueno and Ernie Banscom are back doing what they do best--carousing the decadent parts of Itaewon, when a young lady approaches them to deliver a message to a British soldier whoís apart of the U.N. honor guard at the 8th Army Compound. The next day the British soldier is found eviscerated in a part of Seoul where foreigners do not usually go. George and Ernie realize that the young lady duped them into helping lure the British soldier to his death. The two C.I.D. agents vow to find the killers. They find out that the British soldier was a petty thief who may have crossed paths with the Slicky Boys, a Korean organization of thieves who control the thefts at U.S. military compounds around Korea. Another theory is that the soldier was not just a simple thief but may have been a spy for the North Koreans. As the C.I.D. agents use their contacts in Itaewon to close in on the killers, people close to George and Ernie start dying.

Ed com: Mr. Limon was interviewed in 1993. If you would like to read that interview, please click here.


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