Pat Conroy's novel about racism in the South and a warrior without a war, The Great Santini tells the story of Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur "Bull" Meecham--a first class fighter pilot who has virtually no skills as a father. The reader discovers that Col. Meecham has received the nickname "Bull" because of his bulldog tenacity, but Conroy never explains how Meecham acquires "The Great Santini" moniker. The father gives himself the nickname, but there is no reason or explanation ever given. Conroy supposedly based the character on his own father.
The novel was made into an outstanding film of the same name starring Robert Duvall (as "Bull" Meecham), who received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.