Janet Pulaski – A Most Unusual Woman

Now that Forgotten is out, I thought a blog or two on the women who play major and supporting roles in my books might be interesting. So, I am going to start with Janet Pulaski, one of the principal characters of Forgotten. She is the wife of one of the POWs left behind after the war ended.

As the story unfolds, the reader learns Janet was a member of the Students for a Democratic Society’s (SDS) Action Wing.  Janet never told her husband this tidbit although she made it clear that she opposed the war. For those who don’t remember, SDS was a radical student group that advocated a violent overthrow of the U.S. government. It reached its heyday during the Vietnam War and its aftermath and its leaders were on the FBI’s top list of wanted men and women.

The Action Wing performed acts of sabotage, some of which were successful, most were not.  When compared to those conduced by today’s Islamic terrorists, SDS’s attacks can’t even be considered pinpricks.  Yet, at the time, burning recruiting centers made the news.   While a student at the University of Wisconsin, Janet was an operative in SDS that funded itself through the sale of illegal drugs, primarily marijuana.

Janet’s radical views alienated her from her family and just before her graduation from the University of Wisconsin she was told to move out and not come home until she changed her views. This kind of tough love would be much harder for me as a parent to execute than to discuss. I just can’t imagine telling one of my children to go away and never to come home again. But again, I can see how a child’s radical beliefs or actions or both over time could ruin the relationship and lead me to that position.

She was supposed to find and marry a member of the military and then use that relationship to worm her way into a position where she had access of classified that could be sold as a way of making money for SDS.  Then Janet was supposed to dump him and continue working as spy.  What wasn’t in the plan was falling in love with Randy.  Or, his being shot down and becoming MIA.

Is her husband Randy alive and a POW or is he dead?   So, is or is not Janet a widow?  From a marital perspective, she’s in limbo because her spouse is MIA. Even after the Vietnam POWs come home in 1973, her status doesn’t change.  She has to wait five years before the Pentagon will declare him MIA, presumed dead.

Right after Randy is shot down, SDS, hoping Janet’s revolutionary fervor has not abated, sends her to Cuba to learn how to be an assassin. A natural marksman, she learns that she likes the hunt and the killing. In the beginning, the act of killing turns her on.

Janet was sexually promiscuous and already bi when she married Randy realizes after a torrid affair with another POW wife that she is really a lesbian. Her lucrative career as a contract killer means she can’t go home again and can’t have a “normal” relationship with woman or a man without revealing what she does for a living. In some ways, the novel is about Janet’s search for love and lover and happiness as much as it is about her career as a freelance assassin.

When Randy is rescued tweleve years after he was shot down, Janet realizes that she still holds a candle for her husband. When Randy comes home, she finds out that there are those who prior actions will be exposed by what the six forgotten POWs know. So again, does Janet protect him, or does she stand aside?

To find out what happened, you’ll have to read the book.  All of this makes Janet Pulaski one of the more interesting characters I have created.

Marc Liebman

December 2016