What “Code of Conduct” is about…

from the book jacket… 

“You’ve gotten away with it for so long, you think you’re immune to the danger.”

At thirty-three, Don Hawkins has spent the better part of his life, in every sense, as a U.S. Marine. Enlisting to escape an alcoholic father and stepmother, he became the unofficial leader of a group of gay servicemen and women, all compelled to guard their sexual identity as faithfully as they serve their country. But with newly inaugurated President Clinton’s promise to lift the ban on gays in the military, Don is optimistic that a brighter era is dawning-and not just politically.

Ten years now since his lover died in Beirut, Don is finally ready to love again, and falls headlong for Patrick, a handsome young helicopter pilot. As their relationship develops, Don lets his guard down-in potentially dangerous ways. Because forces are at work in the Naval Investigative Service, in Congress, and even in the bars and clubs that Don views as his turf, with a vicious agenda that will have unforeseen consequences…

Drawing on his own experiences as a Marine, Rich Merritt has crafted an extraordinary story of love, loss, duty, betrayal, and hope. Most of all, Code of Conduct is a deeply compelling exploration of the power of loyalty-to friends, lovers, country, and the unwavering dictates of our own hearts.

description by a reviewer…

A novel of romance and intrigue from former Marine Merritt (Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, 2005). Don, a Marine, and his best friend Eddie, a sailor, are part of a closely knit group of gay men and women in uniform. These individuals have made careers for themselves in the military, and the life they have chosen means they must keep an essential part of themselves a secret from all but their closest friends who share that secret. But it’s 1993, and there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon: Bill Clinton has just been inaugurated, and he’s promised to end the ban on gays in the military. Don’s circle of friends has other reasons to be optimistic, too. Eddie is just beginning to emerge from the despair that overwhelmed him when he lost his lover to AIDS, and Don has embarked on an exciting new relationship with the sweet and handsome young Patrick, a marine eager to finally embrace his sexuality. But the happiness Don and his friends experience is short-lived.

Clinton’s promise turns into the compromise of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” And the gay marines and sailors of San Diego face a more immediate threat in the form of Jay Gared, an agent for the Naval Investigative Service who will do anything-anything-to expose homosexuals in the military.

Merritt makes a persuasive case when he argues that a policy meant to foster cohesiveness actually creates a class of servicemen and servicewomen who can never wholly trust their brothers and sisters in arms. And his depiction of the crushing disappointment and sense of betrayal felt by many gays in the military when Clinton was unable to deliver on his pledge is poignant.  Intriguing subject.

Amos Lassen, Eureka Pride:

Rich Merritt knows how to tell a story and he gives us moments of tension in this book. It is honest, inspiring and sincere and contains elements of humor, sex and courage. We all know how difficult it is to live and maintain two separate lives and it is not often that an author can successfully pen the words that truly and with brutal and compelling honest the words that describe such a situation. Rich Merritt manages to do so and with great style.

 Michael Bronski, The Guide:

Merritt has a great conversational style, and the book is as gripping as it is compulsively readable.

by my dear friend Emily…

I recently had the privilege of reading my friend Rich Merritt’s upcoming release, Code of Conduct. Rich is the bestselling author of Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, which I read a several months ago, and recommend as a outstanding read.

After reading Secrets and hearing Rich read excerpts from Code of Conduct at the Saints & Sinners Fest in May, I have been waiting impatiently for this book, which is due to be released January 8, 2008.

Well, Rich sent me a preview copy; which he graciously autographed, and it was well-worth the wait. I read it in one sitting; all 450+ pages. Yeah, it was that good.

Once I started, it was literally a page-turner, which pulled me into the reality of the situations, and took me on a rollercoaster ride of intrigue, suspense, heartache, and satisfaction. I couldn’t stop until I finished. This story took me way beyond my connection to the Marine Corps, or a nostalgic trip through Southern California. A story about the trials and tribulations of gays in the military and the effect our government’s ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy has on their lives, it reinforced my antipathy for bigotry in all its forms, with its honest depiction of the way it was/is, and probably won’t change in my lifetime. This storye clearly illustrated how the insidious nature of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ not only promotes, but reinforces the acceptance of bigotry in this country.

I am an avid voracious reader with eclectic tastes. Very few writers can pull me into a story and keep me reading, non-stop, to the end. The few who have…James Patterson, Julie Garwod, Sandra Brown, Cathering Coulter, John Sanford, Dean Koontz, Agatha Christie, etc…Rich Merritt has been added to their ranks.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book as an excellent read.

By my dear friend Charlie…

Code of Conduct is a powerful story written superbly. … [the] characters become real to me with many becoming friends that I care about and some very troubling and some just evil.  [The] story moves rapidly with strong desire to need to know what is next, how can this happen to such good people, and also with warm good feelings, and tears of joy as well as sorrow.  This is truly a beautifully written work.  [The] dialogue between the characters and their inner thoughts is amazing.  I felt that I was right in their midst and was one of the friends, and deeply disliked the deception and actions of the enemies in the book.  But the way Rich captured the thinking process of the evil ones was amazing. …this book calls for a sequel. 

From my law school writing instructor, Matt Matzkin:

I finished Code of Conduct the other day and was really impressed.  I was hooked from the beginning by the Jay story line.  I found it intriguing, anger inducing and informative (assuming Jay type characters existed).  Regarding the plot in general, I was floored when ******* died.  Didn’t see that coming at all and it was quite a tragic turn.

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