Keith Laumer was one of my favorite science-fiction writers when I was growing up. He was also an Air Force officer before he became a writer, which I find very encouraging, being in the same situation.
His stories were straightforward, action-packed, and chock full of fun characters. One of the first SF stories I remember reading was Laumer’s The Last Command, about a mothballed cybernetic tank that stirs to life, going on a muddled rampage that can only be stopped by its former commander, now an old man. The final image of the old officer sprawled across the hulk of his battered, radioactive tank as it rolls back to its home base is unforgettable.
Perhaps the most memorable Laumer character of all was Retief, the swave, snarky, and ingenious spacegoing diplomat who solved problems as much with his fists as with his negotiating skills. Laumer spent some time in the U.S. Foreign Service, so he was no stranger to intrigue, politics, and bureaucratic incompetence. I never met a Retief story I didn’t like.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a story by Johne Cook in Digital Dragon which is a worthy tribute to Retief, and a crackin’ good story on its own merits. It’s called Blessed are the Peacemakers. Enjoy it–you’ll probably find yourself wishing we had a few diplomats like this one in our world.