The character Ben Pellegrino was taken from a real boyhood friend named Ben (Benito Alberini) who lived in my town during World War II. The kids picked on him because his parents were Italian immigrants. I ganged up with him and the kids left him alone. The incident with the Red Ryder pellet gun really happened. As far as I know, Ben never served the federal government.
The inspiration to write Dillon’s War, the Weretiger of Kontum came to me one night in the jungles of Vietnam. I suddenly found myself in a face-to-face encounter with a tiger. We stared at each other for what seemed a long time, but must in reality have been seconds. Then for some unknown reason, instead of attacking across the two feet separating us, the magnificent cat turned and disappeared in the night.
Two of the characters in the story of Dillon’s War were actual live beings. The first was Snake, the dog in the story. He was a member of the Kontum District Advisory Team, was a decorated war hero and died in combat in Eastern Kontum Province. He is pictured in “My Heroes Have Always been dogs.” Snake appears in all my stories thus far. I intended to kill him off in Dillon’s War–The Resurrection of the Weretiger(working title), but my wife insisted he not die.
The second actual real live character is Dave Duryee. He is portrayed as a school chum as he was in real life at the U. of Washington where we met in ROTC. One day over lunch I asked him how he’d like to appear in my forthcoming book – Dillon’s War, Weretiger of Kontum. He said “Swell.”
When my book came out he said “I liked the book, but I didn’t have a big enough part in it.” Hence the sequel where Dave Has a major role as a CIA agent.