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The Fragile Web of Human Connections - Blog Tour and Book Excerpt for "Fortunate Son"

Book Title: Fortunate Son

Author: Thomas Tibor

Publication Date: February 2022

Publisher: Zahav Brothers Publishing

Page Length: 338 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction


A powerful, evocative novel that transports the reader to a tense period in

America, Fortunate Son is set on a southern college campus during the turbulent spring of

1970. Reed Lawson, an ROTC cadet, struggles with the absence of his father, a Navy pilot

who has been Missing-in-Action in Vietnam for three years.

While volunteering at a drug crisis center, Reed sets out to win the heart of a feminist co-

worker who is grappling with a painful past, and to rescue a troubled teenage girl from self-

destruction. In the process, he is forced to confront trauma’s tragic consequences and the

fragile, tangled web of human connections.

Trigger warnings:

One aspect of this story dramatizes instances of self-harm and makes references to suicide.

Book Excerpt:

…An hour later, Adam watched with amusement as Reed drenched himself with Brut

cologne, rubbed most of it off, and tried on different outfits.

First, he tried the hippie route—faded jeans, one of Adam’s worn-out flannel shirts left

untucked. Nah, too affected. Next, the country-club look—light-blue button-down oxford,

chinos, and Bass Weejuns. Too square. Finally, he settled into his comfort zone—polo shirt,

jeans, and white Adidas.

“You’ve never spent this long getting ready for a date.”

“Yeah, well. This is different. She’s different.” Late the night before, Jordan had called and

asked him to pick her up at six.

Driving to her house, he recalled the fantasy that had kept him aroused the night before.

He rolls up to Jordan’s house.

Dressed in skimpy cutoff jean shorts and a low-cut T-shirt, she greets him with a deep kiss.

As the Mustang rumbles along country roads, she tosses her windblown hair, laughs at

Reed’s witty jokes, and praises his well-rehearsed left-wing propaganda.

And when they arrive at a lover’s lane deep in the woods, they waste no time.

Naked, she straddles him as they make passionate love in the front seat.

Reed waited on her doorstep in the glow of the sinking sun. Despite his fears about Annabel’s

state of mind, perpetual anxiety about his father’s possible fate, and trepidation about talking

to his mother on Easter Sunday, life was looking up in his small corner of the universe.

That is, until Olivia opened the door, blew her nose into a handkerchief, and glared at him as

if he were a Bible salesman.

“Oh, it’s you.” She retreated, replaced by Jordan, who was looking sexy in tight jeans and the

raised-fist feminist T-shirt.

“Hi, do you mind if Olivia tags along? She’s been psyched to see this flick.”

Reed managed a polite smile. “Yeah, no problem.” But it was a problem. Three’s a crowd.

What was she thinking? He wanted to hold hands at the movie, share milkshakes afterward,

drive somewhere and make out—your basic, grade A, All-American Date.

Olivia reappeared in her usual baggy overalls and work boots. “Let’s split. I want a good


Like air slowly hissing from a punctured balloon, his hopes for the evening dissipated on the

way to the theater. Jordan sat in the passenger seat. Olivia sprawled lengthwise in back, the

soles of her boots rubbing dirt on the immaculate vinyl.

Reed glanced back a few times before saying anything. “Sorry, but do you mind keeping your

shoes off the seat?”

Rolling her eyes, Olivia reluctantly moved her long legs.

Jordan turned on the radio news.

“Yesterday,” the announcer was saying, “President Nixon announced further troop

withdrawals from Vietnam over the next year, contingent on progress at the Paris peace


“What a load of bullsh**,” Olivia said.

“Why is it bullsh**?”

“Simple. Because the peace talks are bogus, a cover for Tricky Dicky to keep the war going.”

Reed scoffed. Everything Nixon did was bogus or outright evil to Olivia. “Why the hell

would he do that?”

She leaned forward, head between the front seats, frizzy hair brushing his shoulders. “How

naive can you be? Because it’s an imperialist war. We claim to defend democracy but

undermine it instead. Do you realize the U.S. has supported the French colonialists in

Vietnam since World War II? Do you realize Ho Chi Minh would have won eighty percent of

the vote had elections been held in ’56? And do you realize just who prevented those

elections from taking place? We did.”

“So let me get this straight . . . according to you, we’re the bad guys, and the North

Vietnamese are the good guys?”

“That’s exactly right. Vietnam’s been fighting for its independence for decades, first against

the French and now us. Ho Chi Minh is like, you know, their George Washington.”

“You have got to be shi**ing me!”

Jordan switched off the radio. “Enough already. It all sounds like a broken record. By the

way, I think you missed the turn a few blocks back.”

The movie was Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. Reed sat next to

Jordan, Olivia on her right. The acting was good but the story was tedious, so he only feigned

interest. Mostly he focused on Jordan’s thigh—an inch from his own—and mentally

rehearsed draping an arm around her shoulder. Just when he finally worked up the nerve to

lift his arm, he glanced over at Jordan—who was holding hands with Olivia.

He lowered his arm, slid down in his seat, and prayed for the “date” to end.

Afterward, though, Jordan wanted to drive into the countryside, and he glumly agreed. She

inserted a Jefferson Airplane tape, Olivia lit a joint the size of a small cigar, and the car soon

morphed into a cocoon of psychedelic music and pot smoke.

Olivia thrust the joint toward him. “Want some?”

“F**k no,” he said, venom in his voice.


Jordan smiled knowingly—must be enjoying his misery. He punched the radio on and twisted

the dialed until a newscaster’s voice materialized from the crackle of static:

“In related news, the League of Families expressed satisfaction with the president’s call for

North Vietnam to provide more information on the whereabouts and condition of American

prisoners of war . . .”

“It’s just like this lying government to keep calling them ‘prisoners of war,’” Jordan said.

“Hold on a minute,” Reed demanded. “What the hell else would they be?”

She took a deep hit from the joint, held the smoke, and exhaled slowly. “Think about it,” she

said in a professorial tone. “This is an undeclared war. Never authorized by Congress. In fact,

a lot of people think the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the green light for

this disaster, was based on fraud. Basically, Johnson and McNamara bamboozled the

American people.”

“I’ve heard that bullsh** theory,” Reed said. “Forget it. Those commie gunboats definitely

attacked us. We didn’t do anything to provoke them.” Jordan shook her head mechanically.

“Either way, what’s your point?”

“Simple. The North Vietnamese don’t feel bound by the Geneva Convention because they

view this as an illegal war. So why should they release information about prisoners?”

Reed yelled, “Because they’re supposed to! Because it’s the g*dd**n moral thing to do!”

The Mustang barreled down the road.

From the back seat, Olivia scoffed. “Morality? Give me a break!”

Jordan continued calmly. “From their point of view, our soldiers aren’t official POWs.”

Reed’s foot pressed harder on the accelerator pedal. “That’s a lot of crap, and you know it!”

The lights of a one-stoplight town grew brighter. Jordan eyed the speedometer, which had

edged above eighty. “Hey. You wanna slow down some?”

Olivia piped in. “Either way, if we’d stop bombing the North, they’d let those POWs go.”

“We stopped for two years, and nothing happened,” Reed countered.

“Is that what Rot-cee teaches you? Bomb Third World countries into the Stone Age?”

“How would you know what the f**k they teach me?”

A police siren wailed, growing louder until red flashers loomed in Reed’s rearview.

“The sad fact is the POWs have become pawns in the peace talks,” Jordan said.

“More like war criminals,” Olivia added.

Reed smashed his fist on the dashboard. “He’s not a g*dd**n war criminal!”

“Who’s not a war criminal?” Jordan and Olivia yelled at the same time.

Now the police car’s siren and flashers crowded the Mustang’s bumper.

“Sh**! Son of a bit**!” Reed slammed on the brakes and veered onto the narrow shoulder,

gravel flying.

“F**king pigs,” Olivia muttered.

Reed ripped the joint from her hand and tossed it out the window. Leaning across Jordan, he

yanked open the glove compartment and grabbed the registration. “Both of you—don’t

move! Just shut the hell up!”

Unnerved by his rage, Jordan regarded him with a mix of curiosity and concern.

He jumped out, hoping to intercept the cop before he got near the car. What kind of a major

dumbass shithead would drive into redneck country in a pot-infused car? Most of the people

around here worked at the nearby state prison and hated hippies, drugs, and anything reeking of the counterculture.

Reed’s head swirled with panicked visions. Handcuffs clicking on his wrists. Judge’s gavel

banging down—Guilty of Possession. Jail door slamming shut. Dismissal from ROTC.

Eternal shame.

The cop was a baby-faced good old boy, standing over six feet with a sizable belly protruding

above his gun belt.

Standing behind the car, Reed handed over his registration and license. Fidgeting, right hand

opening and closing, he read a billboard outside a church across the street: Let the Power of

Love Replace the Love of Power.

The cop studied both documents and took in Reed’s neat appearance and his pristine car. He

wore a tiny gold lapel pin in the shape of a pig, an attempt at irony by the Florida State


“Son, do you have any notion how fast you were goin’?”

Reed launched into a detailed justification, punctuated by a stream of obsequious Yes, sirs,

No, sirs, and I’m sorry, sirs. Yes, of course he’d been speeding and was “very, very sorry,

sir.” He’d already slowed down when the speed limit changed, “in only two blocks, from

sixty-five to thirty-five. Isn’t slowing down that fast actually kind of dangerous, sir?”

The cop muttered several “uh-huhs” as he checked the license plate and glanced inside.

Jordan’s and Olivia’s demure smiles beamed back at him.

“Pretty decent bullsh**, son. I’ve heard worse.” Then he wrote Reed a speeding ticket and

warned him to be careful. “Some folks aren’t too happy with you college kids and all this

protesting goin’ on. If you ask me, it’s g*dd**n un-American.”

“Yes, sir. I understand, sir. Thank you very much, sir.”

Reed pocketed the ticket and made a cautious U-turn. He vowed to remain silent on the way

back and stay well below the speed limit, though he couldn’t wait to get home.

Unfortunately, Olivia still felt the need to spew more left-wing sewage. Only Reed’s Leave It

to Beaver clean-cut looks, along with his groveling and ass-kissing, had kept “that redneck

Neanderthal from locking us up.” Fascists cops like him were “tools of the capitalist power

structure, which is all about keeping women barefoot and pregnant, not to mention

oppressing the poor and Blacks.”

If only he had his boxing gloves, he could jam his fist down her throat.

Jordan, who’d been glancing at him curiously, interrupted. “Before, you said, ‘He’s not a war

criminal.’ Who’s not a war criminal?”

He didn’t want to answer, but what was the point of keeping it a secret? The night had gone

to hell long ago.

“My dad. He’s a Navy fighter pilot. MIA.”

“Wow,” Jordan said. “For how long?”

“Three years. We don’t know if he’s dead or alive.”

“I’m so sorry. I really am,” Jordan murmured…

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited

Universal Buy Link:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Amazon CA:

Amazon AU:

Barnes and Noble: Not available yet; will be available by October 1, 2022

Author Bio:

Thomas Tibor

A veteran writer and video producer, Thomas Tibor has helped develop training courses

focusing on mental health topics. In an earlier life, he worked as a counselor in the

psychiatric ward of two big-city hospitals. He grew up in Florida and now lives in Northern

Virginia. Fortunate Son is his first novel.

Social Media Links:

Instagram: thomastibor2

Amazon Author Page:

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