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Literature / Darkside

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Darkside is the eighth novel by Naval Academy alumnus, former destroyer commodore and retired Navy Captain PT (Peter) Deutermann. The novel is set at the US Naval Academy in Anapolis Maryland and is in the author's words, "a story about the academy as much as it is a story set in the academy".

When a plebe's (equivalent of a freshman) body is discovered in the Naval Academy swimming pool wearing women's underwear, an investigation is launched into what caused the young midshipman' death. Midshipman First Class Julie Markham, a firstie (senior) becomes the prime subject of the investigation due to the fact that the panties found at the scene belonged to her. Her father Everett, an alumnus, former naval fighter pilot and currently a professor of naval history enlists criminal defense attorney Liz Dewinter to help Julie, but must deal with his growing attraction to Liz conflicting with ongoing grief over the death of Julie's mother. At the same time, the academy's security chief and former marine officer Jim Hall (also an alumnus) is investigating escalating acts of vandalism in the Academy's steam tunnel system, which is a common conduit for midshipmen sneaking out for some unauthorized fun out in the town. Hall also assists Branner and Bagger, the local NCIS agents assigned to investigate the plebe's death, with understanding the Academy, its traditions and processes, as well as midshipman culture. Soon, the investigations tragically merge, as it is apparent that there may be a homicidal psychopath among the Midshipmen.

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Usage of the term "Darkside" doesn't directly tie this novel to the Star Wars franchise. The term is used here, as a result of the book's fictional midshipmen appropriating the term from Star Wars to refer to senior leadership at the academy.

This book provides examples of

  • Ambiguously Gay: Owing to him being found dead wearing women's panties, everyone assumes that Midshipman Dell was gay. Turns out he wasn't gay, he was just extremely weak willed, allowing Booth to repeatedly torture and humiliate him. Booth on the other hand, does give off an Ambiguously Bi vibe, as he admits to forcing Dell to fellate him, claiming that "a mouth is a mouth."
  • Amicable Exes: Julie is still amicable with her ex-boyfriend Midshipman Tommy Hays.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Branner attempts to seduce Hall by wearing only a T-shirt and asking him about the incident in Bosnia that ended his Marine infantry career. She hopes that him opening up about it would also make him feel vulnerable and open to her being with him that night. However, he is way too traumatized by recalling the incident and is clearly not in the mood.s
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  • As You Know: The author reminds us time and again, that the Naval Academy was once called Fort Severn.
  • Audience Surrogate: Branner and Liz both act as this, towards Hall and the Markhams to explain the Naval Academy and midshipman culture to.
  • Author Tract: As in many novels by this author, a healthy dose of criticism is levied at senior naval leadership for engaging in ostrich like behavior, rampant careerism at the cost of doing the right thing, and for this book only, a harsh diatribe against the admissions committee for engaging in diversity enhancing social engineering at the cost of lowered standards.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Technically, Midshipman Dell died first, but the black NCIS agent Bagger is the first (and only one) of the good guys to die.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: The Comandant of Midshipmen Telfer Robinson comes off as this. He states (not unreasonably) that the Naval Academy cannot go through another major scandal, since it dealt with the drug dealing midshipmen scandal in the early nineties, the test cheating scandal in the late nineties, had to prosecute a female midshipman for murder in the nineties, and is constantly under attack by liberals who see it as elitist, sexist, homophobic and too militaristic on one side, and by older influential alumni on the other side, who feel that the Naval Academy has abandoned too many traditions and is too permissive to effectively do its job anymore. He therefore just wants to get through the year without anymore incidents. The fact that he is a Captain vying for that coveted advancement to flag rank also influences this behavior.
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  • Bring My Brown Pants: The Comandant of the Naval Academy, Captain Robinson pees himself when Booth fires a few rounds very close to him.
  • The Dreaded: The Brigade Honor Committee is the one organization all midshipmen universally fear, for good reason note . Also, Midshipman Dyle Booth is undoubtedly the most feared and hated midshipman in the entire brigade.
  • Freudian Excuse: According to Julie's ex Tommy Hays, Julie broke things off with him and exhibited subtle behavioral changes when her mother died. Apparently she had changed much more, getting involved in the Goth subculture, sneaking out at night to indulge in it, and had consented to sex with Booth.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Everett Markham finally takes down Booth once and for all - with a marlin spike.
  • The Lost Lenore: Everett Markham is still grieving the recent death of his wife and Julie's mother Joanne. This makes him initially hesitant to get close to Liz.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Naval Academy's chief PR officer is called Berry Springer.
  • Papa Wolf: When Booth storms Everett's boat to get at Julie, Everett's old fighter pilot instincts kick in. He goads Booth by trash talking him, but sneaking around him, then pounces with the spike.
  • Reality Ensues: Invoked by Hall when he confronts Booth. Hall claims that Booth’s Gung Holier Than Thou Act Up to Eleven May have fooled the tactical officers at the Naval Academy, but once he commissions and gets to actual marine officer training, the troops and NCOs would immediately realize that Booth is mentally unhinged, and he’d be drummed out.
  • Rules Lawyer: Hall and Branner meet the Brigade Honor Committee to try and convince them to haul in Julie to interrogate her about Dell and Booth. The Honor Committee weasels out of it, claiming that the Midshipman Honor Concept states only that "midshipmen do not lie, cheat or steal" and nothing more. They say that unlike West Point which also states that "a cadet does not tolerate those who lie, cheat or steal", the Midshipman Honor Concept allows for "tolerating" liars, cheats and thieves. Therefore, they cannot compel Julie to talk about what she knows of Booth's activities.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The reason why Booth humiliated Dell into offing himself was because Julie was secretly mentoring the plebe, but Booth wanted to possess her all for himself. He had crushed on her since she had one-nighted him after a collegiate swim meet, but after getting rejected, he started acting out, terrorizing people at night in vampire getup, then describing his adventures in self deleting emails. He escalates further to seriously injuring, then killing people, finally taking Julie hostage on academy grounds. Though he is run off campus and Julie is freed, Booth once again targets her on her father's boat, intending to kill her father and capture her again.
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