Tax Break, by Jay Williams, is set in the 1980s – the story of an alienated Vietnam vet, Jim Greenwald, who rebels after being jerked around by the IRS. Williams places a caveat in the beginning of his book – “Don’t try this at home.” In the post-9/11, post Oklahoma City bombing world, the things Greenwald is able to do would be nearly impossible to pull off.
When the IRS takes Greenwald and his partner Lenny Manning, a fellow vet, to court to seize their bar for nonpayment of back taxes, Greenwald is driven to the point of desperation. “How,” he asks, “Can the government that sent them to the hell of Vietnam, now that they are rehabilitated and off the streets, throw them back out on the streets?” The answer, as Greenwald discovers, is that the government – or the minions who make up the government – is not looking at the individual, and in missing this, takes actions that end up hurting the individuals it is supposed to help. Greenwald vows to give a little payback.
What will resonate with today’s reader, though, is the sense of government bureaucrats who care little about the people they were hired to serve, and self-serving politicians who are willing to sacrifice the greater good for short-term political advantage.
Williams paints a compellingly realistic picture of the individual against the system, and the alienation of people from their government. Gritty dialogue and believable characters march across the page, dripping real sweat and crying real tears. This is a genre-defying novel that you’ll find impossible to put down.