In 1981, a Texas mercenary named Mike Perdue put together a team, including several Mississippians, to invade the island nation of Dominica in the Caribbean. They sought to install a former prime minister who would grant certain rewards: control of a national Dominica bank to launder criminal funds from around the world, a contract for the island's natural resources, and diplomatic status so the conspirators could commit foreign crimes with immunity.

The band of misfit contradictions included guys just looking for a patriotic paycheck, a Canadian Nazi named Wolfgang Droege and members of the Ku Klux Klan who allied themselves with Dominica's violent "Dreads": marijuana smoking Rastafarian guerrillas. White supremacists were to assist in the establishment of a ruling Black Revolutionary Council.

Perdue convinced his crew they were on a mission for America, suggesting it was sanctioned by the CIA. He told them they had to free the island from communism and stop the spread of Soviet influence in the Caribbean. In actuality, Dominica's Prime Minister Eugenia Charles was friendly to the United States. Charles, on behalf of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, formally made the request to President Ronald Reagan to help the governor general of Grenada ousted by Marxist rebels and foreign agents which led to the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.

But Perdue simply cloaked "Operation Red Dog" in ideology to persuade his recruits and hide his greed.

Journalist Stewart Bell tells the story in the 2008 book "Bayou of Pigs: The True Story of an Audacious Plot to Turn a Tropical Island into a Criminal Paradise." The name draws from the botched "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba.

Perdue's team secured the financing, bought the weapons and munitions, had the plan and island contacts. But the operation collapsed when the captain of the ship that was to transport them from New Orleans to Dominica turned out to be a federal informant. Federal agents captured the entire team without firing a shot.

Perdue's soldier of fortune stories of fighting in Vietnam, Nicaragua and Uruguay turned out to be just that - stories. He was no mercenary, he was no ex-Marine, he was just a con-man struggling with his secret homosexuality and delusions of grandeur.

In fact, Perdue's entire plan appeared to be copied step-by-step from the 1980 movie "The Dogs of War" featuring Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger and based on the book by Frederick Forsyth. Forsyth wrote, "Knocking off a bank or an armored truck is merely crude. Knocking off an entire republic has, I feel, a certain style."

The conspirators on Dominica were also arrested and imprisoned, including the former Prime Minister Patrick John. It was under John's leadership that Dominica gained its independence from the United Kingdom. He resigned under pressure and was never able to return to politics. After his release from prison for the coup attempt, the five foot one inch soccer star now serves as president of the Dominica Football Association, an affiliate of FIFA.

The book's "Epilogue" serves as a "where are they now" look at those involved in the mission.

Bill Waldrop of Simpson County was one of those on the team who had been convinced that they were fighting communism, and that the mission had the approval of the CIA. He told the author, "Well, if we could do it all again I guess we'd all probably wind up making worse mistakes than we did the first time, wouldn't we?"

The book also demonstrates that someone can make a mistake early in life and move beyond it.

While I had heard the story of this attempted coup many times over the years, I first read the details in a recent article in the Biloxi Sun Herald which mentioned the plot's connection to George Malvaney who headed up Mississippi's oil spill clean-up efforts for United States Environmental Services. (He also played a part in recovery efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans). Just 21 at the time of the plot, Malvaney pulled himself out of his mistakes, went on to get a college degree, worked for the state, and has become a successful and respected businessman.

As you flip through the pages of the book, all sorts of characters appear: the mafia, rumors of government conspiracies, David Duke of Louisiana and even Texas Congressman Ron Paul - whose involvement appears to be another one of Perdue's fantasy inventions.

The book reads like the premise of a Cohen Brother's movie set during the Cold War in Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Dominica - ironically where the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies were filmed.

When you consider the entire mission was plagued with lies, incompetence, and blunders (like discussing the invasion in advance with a radio news reporter), it is stunning to see how close they came to possibly succeeding. They may have failed, but at least they had style.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.