Review of the Giant Killer

Ranger Book Review of The Giant Killer: An investigative deep dive into the sad, secret world of a great American Hero. 5.0 out of 5 stars –
David A. Yuzuk was an Aventura, FL, police officer working a second job as a theater security job and struggling with what would be a career-ending chronic back injury when he started taking a short, homeless man from the street to lunch. For Officer Yuzuk, it was all part of the job and the homeless man — a 4-foot, 9-inch, nearly 70-year-old dwarf named Richard — was just one of the street characters Yuzuk encountered every day. Until one day, Richard looked him in the eye and said, “David, I think it’s about time I told you who I really am.” From that opening came the most important investigation in the experienced policeman’s career.
The homeless man, Richard J. Flaherty, was a Vietnam Veteran, a Green Beret Officer, and the smallest man ever to serve in the US military. If that wasn’t enough, former Army Captain Richard J. Flaherty was also a bona fide war hero, awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with V Devices and a host of other medals. And his post-Vietnam War life was a tragic rabbit hole of business failures, clandestine operations, CIA skullduggery, criminal capers, soul-wrenching romantic loss, and missed life opportunities. All of it overlaid by the invisible burden of extreme Post Traumatic Stress, substance abuse, and social isolation that so many of our nation’s Veterans carry on their shoulders. And most tragically of all, just as Richard Flaherty began to open up to David Yuzuk about his secret life, the homeless man was mysteriously killed in a hit and run accident, one presciently predicted by Richard himself only eight hours before it took place.
David Yuzuk’s encounter with Richard Flaherty turned into a life-changing deep dive investigation in order to fulfill a promise he had made to his short-of-stature, giant-of-heart friend, that he would tell the world the forgotten hero’s story and bring to light all he’d accomplished in the service of a nation that ultimately let him down. The result was a documentary film and this book, “The Giant Killer,” both of which I highly recommend.
“The Giant Killer” is a series of vignettes that serves both as a stand-alone book and as a companion to the documentary film. It interlaces interviews with Flaherty’s relatives, friends, former military associates, and clandestine operatives, along with bits of conversation between Flaherty and Yuzuk, and narratives of Flaherty’s life gleaned from the voluminous military, public, and personal records uncovered by the author. Flaherty owned few possessions at the end of his life but he did rent a storage locker that contained a treasure trove of old news clippings, passports, uniforms, medals, and military records all of which, when pieced together, wove a picture of a complex, tormented character, whose life was, as David Yuzuk described it, “a warren of tunnels running off in every direction.” This all was further complicated by Flaherty’s penchant to compartmentalize himself so those who knew him only knew one facet of his character. The real Richard Flaherty was much, much more than he let meet the eye.
This is a heroic book on many levels. And written in a style reminiscent of real-life, non-fiction police dramas. I found I could not put the book down. It also spoke to me as a Veteran who has worked with other Vets through my church ministry and at the VA. David Yuzuk made a soul-to-soul connection with Richard Flaherty and “The Giant Killer” is his testimony to that experience. Highly, highly recommended.

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