Book Review: The Gate Keeper

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Gate Keeper, by the mother/son team known as Charles Todd, is a mystery with a huge ending twist.  Fans of this series will see Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge having to solve a case from a different point of view. He is not only the investigator, but is the first person on the scene so he has become a witness as well.

Because this is a different type of mystery, The Todds wanted to make sure readers understand that it is not a puzzle where “there is a race between the writer and the reader as to who figures it out first. This novel has Rutledge pursuing the truth and finding a solution.  He has a dogged determination to keep tracking the killer.”

Having left his sister’s wedding in a distraught mood Rutledge decides to take a car trip. He encounters on a deserted road a woman standing next to a murder victim.  She reports how a stranger stepped in front of the car and without warning fired a shot killing Stephen Wentworth immediately.  With a list of persons of interest piling up Rutledge must sort through the many different aspects of the case.  He is helped along by a voice in his head, Corporal Hamish MacLeod, the ghost of the Scottish officer he had executed for cowardice, who comments persistently inside this detective's weary ear. Rutledge always listens, and appears to have given Hamish a life that was taken away. Hamish is real to Rutledge, sometimes antagonistic, sometimes supportive, sometimes part of his unconscious perception, an inner-self.

An interesting piece to the storyline is the similarities between the victim, Stephen, and the detective, Rutledge.  They both had someone close to them killed in the war, although Rutledge played more of a role.  They were also both jilted by the woman they loved.”  The Todds noted, “Stephen is the ultra ego of Rutledge in some ways, and that is probably one of the reasons why he wanted to follow through and find the killer. They both developed levels of coping skills and were solitary people.  Neither became involved in a relationship after their engagement was broken.  Yet, Ian came from a loving family, and Stephen from a dysfunctional one.” 

One of the secondary characters can best be described as an early 20th Century “Mommy Dearest.”  The mother of Stephen is vicious, spoiled, and uncaring who tried to thwart any happiness her son might achieve.  “We wanted to write a character where the mother hated her son all his life. She sees him as a monster, an ugly duckling.  She has no redeeming qualities. She enjoys painting him in a dim light.  Basically, just a terrible person who is bitter and self-centered.”

Because World War I play such an important role in the storyline, readers get a glimpse into the emotional wounds of many of the men, including Rutledge. “We wanted to humanize those who have served.  Our goal as writers is to show how they were ordinary people and then were trained to be warriors.  When they come back they must learn to trust again and to relate to those outside of their unit, the band of brothers. They can talk amongst their peers because they know there is a sense of understanding. Having experienced horrors first hand they cannot just shut out what they saw on the battlefield.”

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd is a ‘who done it’ type of mystery.  Readers will enjoy the investigative process Ian Rutledge must go through to find the culprit.


INTERVIEW ABOUT 80 YEARS OF SUPERMAN

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition shows the evolution of the character created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They sold Superman to Detective Comics, the future DC Comics, in 1938. This book shows why Superman has maintained his appeal from generation to generation.

The book features over 19 stories and essays including a forward by Paul Levitz, an introduction by Laura Siegel Larson (Jerry Siegel’s daughter) and other pieces by Jules Feiffer, Tom DeHaven, Marv Wolfman, David Hajdu, Larry Tye and Gene Luen Yang. There is also a section with cover highlights and full biographies at the end.

The comic stories include the first comic, “The Mystery of The Freight Train Robberies” to “The Super-Duel In Space,” and ending with “The Game” written in April 2018. There are also stories that explore the relationship between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman as well as some cameo appearances by some famous figures including President John F. Kennedy. Readers are treated to comics that explore the origins of Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude, as well as a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away. Along with this book, people can also purchase the 1000thedition, making Superman the first comic book to reach that highlight.

Below is an interview with Larry Tye who wrote the essay in the book, Endurance.He is a journalist and author of many biographies including Bobby Kennedy, Satchel Paige, and the Man of Steel, entitled The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.

Elise Cooper: How has Superman changed over the years regarding his appearance and the enemies he has faced, which includes politicians?

Larry Tye: Superman has evolved more than the fruit fly. In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the forties, he defended the home front while brave GIs battled overseas. Early in the Cold War he stood up taller than ever for his adopted country, while in its waning days he tried singlehandedly to eliminate nuclear stockpiles. For each era, he zeroed in on the threats that scared us most, using powers that grew or diminished depending on the need. So did his spectacles, hair style, even his job title. Each generation had the Superman it needed and deserved. Each change offered a Rorschach test of the pulse of that time and its dreams. Superman, always a beacon of light, was a work in progress.

EC:  What influences has Superman been on comics, movies, and TV shows?

LT: Over the years comics have been transformed – from childhood entertainment to art form to mythology – and Superman helped drive that transformation. The comic book and its leading man could only have taken root in America. What could be more U.S.A. than an orphaned outsider who arrives in this land of immigrants, reinvents himself, and reminds us that we can reach for the sky?Yet today this flying Uncle Sam is both global and multi-media in his reach, having written himself into the national folklore from Beirut to Buenos Aires. It is that constancy and purity – knowing that he is not merely the oldest of our superheroes, but the most transcendent – that has reeled back aging devotees like me and drawn in new ones like my daughter. It is what makes the Man of Tomorrow timeless as well as ageless.

EC: Do you think the aviation's golden age influenced having Superman fly?

LT: I think it has less to do with what was happening in the real world of aviation than in the heads of his creators. Superman was a man of the world, perennially on call and needing to dash to wherever Lois Lane and others required his help. Flying would have made that easier and would become his trademark, but it did not happen overnight in the comic books or strips. The most he could manage in 1938 was leaping an eighth of a mile and outracing an express train. Two years later, after what must have been intense training, he could vault into and beyond the stratosphere, outrace an airplane, and run a mile in a scant second. By 1942 he could run at the speed of light and outpace an electric current. But still no take-off. There were hints it was coming in a single frame of a story in May 1943, when his jump looked like he might be taking flight, and he did, finally and irrefutably, that October in Action Comics’ “Million-Dollar Marathon” story. “Let’s see ya fly!” adoring boys at Children’s Hospital yelled to Superman, and so he did, telling them, “I’ll be back for a real visit pretty soon! Up – up – and away!”

EC:  I noticed in the first Superman issue there was a comment, "You're not fighting a woman," and in the comic “Superman and The Teen Titans,” Wonder Girl says to him, "Nowadays us liberated ladies don't take much to being called inferior by a man." Do you think women's issues also played a role?  

LT: Yes, and that was especially apparent with the launch of a comic that let women and girls see a Superman-like character created in their own image. The fellow Kryptonian who gave Superman the greatest joy, and the most sleepless nights, was his cousin Kara Zor-El, known on Earth as Supergirl. It took until 1959 to launch her as a character, when we quickly got the full story. The Maid of Steel, who would get her own comic book, gave Superman a blood relative and fellow outsider with whom he could let down his defenses. If youths of all stripes embraced Superboy, now girls had a heroine made in their own special image. And if H.G. Wells’s War of the Worldshad given aliens a bad name, Supergirl and Superman polished the image of the interplanetary interloper.

EC:  Can you summarize Supergirl’s story?

LT:  She and all of Argo City had been hurled into the cosmos when the rest of Krypton exploded. Later, when the orbiting Argo itself was threatened, Kara’s father launched the child in a space ship headed for Earth. Save for gender, her story mirrored her famous cousin’s: she assumed the secret identity of the pigtailed Linda Lee, she had adoptive parents named Fred and Edna Danvers, she shunned her male admirers, and she had superpowers that she used to help humankind.

EC:  What about Lois Lane as a role model? 

LT: Lois Lane was a fixture from the very start, although at first, she was mainly a foil for Superman to rescue and Clark to pine over. Action 1 set the pattern: kidnapped by three thugs, Lois was quickly whisked to safety by Superman then laughed at by her editor who, hearing her recount her unlikely adventure, inquired, “Are you sure it wasn’t pink elephants you saw?” Over time she became a role model for millions of women of all ages, and especially the thousands of young women attracted to the no-nonsense world of journalism by the no-nonsense reporter Lois, who always beat Clark to the story, even if she never quite got his quick-change alter ego.

EC: What do you think was Superman’s ethnicity?

LT: With his perfect pug nose, electric blue eyes, and a boyish spit curl that suggested Anglo as well as Saxon. No hint in his sleek movie-star name, Clark Kent, which could belong only to a gentile and probably one with a lifelong membership at the country club. His social circle didn’t give it away either: Lois Lane, George Taylor, and even Lex Luthor were, like him, more Midwest mainstream than East Coast ethnic.

EC:  Do you think Superman represented the immigrant population of the time?

LT: Superman had even stronger cultural ties to the faith of his founders. He was the ultimate foreigner, escaping to America from his intergalactic shtetl (a small Jewish town or village in eastern Europe)and shedding his Jewish name for Clark Kent, a pseudonym as transparently WASPish as the ones Jerry had chosen for himself. Clark and Jerry had something else in common: both were classic nebbishes. Clark and Superman lived life the way most newly-arrived Jews did, torn between their Old and New World identities and their mild exteriors and rock-solid cores. That split personality was the only way he could survive, yet it gave him perpetual angst. Jules Feiffer, an authority on cartoons and Jews, said the Last Son of Krypton was born not on Krypton but on “the planet Poland, from Lodz maybe, possibly Crakow, maybe Vilna.” The alien superhero was, more than anything, “the striving Jewish boy’s goyishe American dream.”

EC:  Interesting that JFK appeared to be a part of a Superman comic-why do you think that happened?

LT: By the 1960s, as the age of peaceniks and flower children gained steam, Superman’s influence had risen to the point where even the White House was laying out the red carpet. The Kennedy administration wanted the hero’s help spreading the word about its campaign to close the “muscle gap.” Superman creative director Mort Weisinger put two of his best writers on the story, which he called “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.” The Champion of Democracy flew across America pushing young runners to run harder, hurdlers to jump higher, and flabby journalists at the Daily Planet to do fifteen minutes a day of calisthenics. When the New York Times got wind of the preparations it scooped the comic book with an article headlined, “Superman Meets Kennedy on Vigor.”  The comic story, all set to run, was pulled back when the president was assassinated in November of 1963. Shortly afterwards, Weisinger got a call from President Lyndon Johnson saying, “We’re waiting for the story. When’s it coming out?” Mort explained his worry that running it might be in bad taste, at which point, as he recalled the tale, Johnson interrupted: “Horsefeathers. You can run it with a posthumous foreword, explaining that Iordered it!” Mort did.

EC:  Was Kennedy in any other comics?

LT: This was not the first time President Kennedy had teamed up with Superman. In 1962, when Superman was ready to introduce his cousin Supergirl to the world he brought her to the White House to meet the President. High drama, indeed: the Camelot President on the same stage with the Sir Lancelot of comic-book heroes. Two years later Superman took Kennedy into his confidence, sharing his dual identity as Clark Kent. “If I can’t trust the President of the United States,” Superman asked, “who can I trust?” There was one other time when the name Jack Kennedy had turned up in Superman’s comic books. It was in the very first of the Superman series, in July 1939. A character named Kennedy was murdered and the newly minted Man of Steel saved a wrongly-accused man from being executed.

THANK YOU!!

 


Book Review: The Lost Pilots

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Lost Pilots by Corey Mead combines an adventure story, a tragic love story, and a crime story into one narrative.  It has it all: a fascinating look back into the early days of aviation, a love triangle, bringing back to prominence Jessie Keith-Miller, a female pioneer pilot, and a murder trial.

The story begins in 1927, when World War I pilot, Captain William Lancaster and Jessie Keith-Miller take off from London, aspiring to complete a record-breaking flight to Australia, the first in a light plane. Although they were basically strangers, they bonded over their desire for adventure, fame, and escape from unhappy marriages. There are many scenes that underscore the dangers of flying during those early days.  Having crashed numerous times it became obvious that weather was a character, an enemy with its slashing rain and battering crosswinds, sleet, and fog that could easily bring down these light planes.

After successfully completing the flight, they found they were international celebrities, but also deeply in love.  The spotlight takes them from Australia to New York to Hollywood. Their celebrity status is exploited, yet as lovers they must fall under the radar since both are still married.  Making matters worse the crash of 1929 causes them financial problems. 

Their lives were influenced by the era, having lived through World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the Great Depression. Mead believes the effect of “WWI taught that generation how to cheat death.  They became free-spirits, wanting to escape the Victorian upbringing.  I also wanted to show how there was huge bias against female flyers.  Jessie was probably a better pilot than Lancaster. But living in the Roaring Twenties also helped her because it was a time where women became more independent and started to enter the male-dominated world.”

Since the depression dried up any commercial flying possibilities, Jessie participates in the Women’s Air Derby, rooming with Amelia Earhart, while Lancaster seeks other flying adventures. Still in need of money Jessie decides to write her autobiography with Haden Clark as her ghostwriter.  Having been granted a divorce she accepts Clark’s marriage proposal.  After returning to Miami where Jessie and Clark lived, Lancaster became devastated when told of the couple’s plans. That night Clark is found dead of a gunshot wound. Was it murder or suicide?  A riveting and scandalous trial ensues that ultimately costs Jessie her fame as she stands by Lancaster. 

Mead noted, “The entire court room case was presented verbatim in the Miami newspapers.  It covered not only the trial but also Jessie’s and Lancaster’s background. I was able to draw a pretty complete picture of their lives from the newspapers at the time, their diaries/writings, and talking with his great nephew. What I discovered was that it was similar to today’s sensational court cases where tragedy and misfortune are exploited for entertainment as the public’s hunger is fed.”

This book combines the daring days of the early aviators with a passionate love story.  A true story of adventure, forbidden love, fame, fortune, tragedy, scandal, and loyalty.


Book Review: Gale Force

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Gale Forceby Owen Laukkanen is a realistic story where readers take the journey with the characters as they board the ship, and feel the splash of the waves. It is an attest to the author’s writing style he is able to make an intense adventure story of a maritime salvage operation.

The author based the story on “The wreck at the center of the tale is based on the real-life saga of the Cougar Ace, which did in fact capsize near the Aleutian Islands. You’re so isolated on the water, and at the mercy of very powerful forces of nature. The potential for conflict and action is always there. It’s just such a different environment from anything any of us is really used to, in particular in really remote places like the Aleutian Islands or the Arctic Ocean.”

The plot has McKenna Rhodes inheriting the Gale Force, a salvage boat, after her father died in violent weather on the open seas. Hearing about a salvage operation, she and the crew decide to attempt a rescue of a freighter, the Pacific Lion, which has turned over on its side during a horrific storm. A stowaway who has stolen fifty million in bonds from a Japanese gangster hampers them along with other salvage tugs.  After finally getting a contract from the insurance company McKenna and crew can earn $30 million for saving the ship and its property. 

She is smart, brave, beautiful, and wants to prove that she is able to navigate this male-dominated world. He describes her, “I wanted to write a character that is daunted by the magnitude and responsibility of being a captain.  I based her insecurities on a lot of people I met that worked on the water and are aware that if a mistake is made people’s lives are at stake; thus, constant worriers. Also, when I was on a train going from Seattle to Los Angeles I met this single mother from Idaho.  In order to feed her four children, she started a trucking company.  I thought she would make a good character for a story since trucking like tugboats is a male dominated boys club.  She told me how she struggled with men who tried breaking contracts because they objected to a woman trying to make inroads.  I wanted to show how McKenna also struggles with this. Both were seen as a small fish in a big pond.”

Another character in the book is the ocean the alternates between playing an antagonist and a protagonist. “I wanted to write it as an ever-present threat. Every second the crew spends on the ship they must realize that the ocean could suddenly turn on them.  The main characters love the ocean and feel at home around it.  They are attracted to it; yet, at any moment it could destroy them.  One day the ocean is beautiful and calm, while the next day a storm can pick up, showing the ocean’s anger, basically eating someone alive. The environment is as unpredictable as any human character in the book.” 

The first in a new series starts out with a splash, not a drizzle.  It is a riveting and intense action-filled story with very well-developed characters.

 


Book Review: Alex and Eliza, Love & War

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Alex and Elizahas taken the world by storm.  Whether the play by Lin-Manuel Miranda or the novels by Melissa De La Cruz, people are craving for more information about the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza Schuyler. The first in the series, Alex and Eliza, and its sequel,Love & War,emphasize the romance more than the historical, as the author brings to life the love story of these two Revolutionary figures. 

Melissa wants to emphasize, “Alex is a creation based on an historical figure.  I consider him someone I made up from the real person. These are characters. They may be historical figures, but they are also characters of my imagination. I think that Alexander Hamilton never went by the name ‘Alex.’ There is no way Eliza would call him ‘Alex’, and more likely called him Mr. Hamilton till the day he died.” 

In the first book, Alex and Eliza,the plot spans the years from when they first met in 1777 to their marriage in 1780.  Because there is not much information about Eliza, the author had to take liberties to construct a story that was somewhat accurate, weaving together fact and fiction.

Hamilton is seen as a smitten dashing knight who sweeps the princess, Eliza, off her feet. But it is also a Prince and the Pauper story since Hamilton was an orphan who did not have a name or financial means. The bright, ambitious, but penniless Hamilton is drawn to practical Eliza, falling deeply in love.  His prestige comes from being the aide-de-camp to General George Washington.

Eliza is seen as a strong-willed, sharp-tongued, sarcastic, and intelligent woman. She wants to marry for love, not prestige and wealth, but will not go against her parent’s wishes. A book quote shows how powerless women were during those times, “It is a cliff, a drop into some unfathomably deep and foggy abyss… a shipwreck.”  Yet, in the end, love wins out, and her parents accept Hamilton as a suitable husband. 

She wanted to write it as a perfect American fairy tale.  "Elizabeth (Eliza) was the princess coming from one of the most prestigious and richest New York families.  Then there was Alexander Hamilton, a handsome, brilliant, brave, and charming war hero who had no name and no money.  I thought about how someone like him could marry someone like her.” 

Readers will get a glimpse of the time period: how they dress, eat, and live are described in great detail.  For example, a scene in the book has Eliza helping to inoculate Washington’s troops with a smallpox vaccine. Fiction, Eliza did not have a hand in it, while, the truth is that the soldiers were inoculated.  Another factual scene has a description of Eliza’s dress, with “skirt, underskirt, petticoat, slip, and ankle-length, form-fitting pantaloons.”

Melissa, “I am fascinated with the time period including the architecture, dress, and what they ate. What I wanted to do is find the facts and then incorporate them into scenes of the books. I myself tried to understand who they were, how they lived, and how they partied.  I enjoyed finding the details that helps to bring this story to life.”

The second book in the series, Love & War, by Melissa De La Cruz has the Revolutionary War still prominent, although it is coming to an end.  This story shows the struggles of early married life as Alexander Hamilton is trying to make a name for himself to prove himself worthy, while Eliza is trying to make her way into high society. 

The story delves into the same problem many young couples face, even today, how Alexander Hamilton has a burning ambition, and Eliza is trying to find her place in this world.  At first, he was off to war, leaving his newly wed bride with her family, and then at the war’s conclusion he starts up his law practice, spending long hours, and basically neglecting his wife. 

Unlike the first book, this one does have more of a balance between romance and history. It delves into the topics of unemployment, financial crises, and the political divide. As a lawyer, he took on many loyalist clients, arguing for reconciliation and challenged the laws that penalized them. The story touches on the three views of political thought for this young nation:  Hamilton believes in a strong central government; Jefferson’s belief is a middle ground of limited government except for national security, and those like Governor George Clinton who wants each state to have absolute control.  With a quote that is relevant today, the author shows the divide among Americans, “We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.”

The case he argues is based on many similar cases.  "I found out he became known after the Revolution as someone who defended those loyal to the Crown.  After the War, many wanted to take the Loyalists’ property and position.  He had the foresight to know that to be the United States of America everyone had to be a part of this country.”

Readers get a glimpse into the real personality of Eliza.  How Hamilton is growing to depend on her as his psychological anchor, where she views his enemies as hers.  There is a fictional scene in the book where she calls out Governor Clinton as she defends her husband, “This man whose hand I hold and whose ring I share put his life on the line for this country over and over…” This is a very similar tone to what actually happened when she told former President James Monroe, “If you come to tell me you repent, that you are sorry, very sorry, for the misrepresentations and the slanders and the stories you circulated against my dear husband…”

The dialogue in this novel creates an atmosphere that fluctuates between joy and anger whether between husband and wife, or between the three Schuyler sisters.  It delves into how each must face their trials and tribulations.

Because the play implies an attraction between the oldest sister Angelica and Hamilton, “I wanted to write my own vision. I have a sister and thought ‘no way would she like him in a romantic way.’  They were sisters who loved one another.  Angelica adored Eliza.  In this story, I do not have Angelica and Hamilton attracted to each other in that way.  I remember telling people that Lin-Manuel is not a girl with a sister or he would know it just would not happen.  I do not think Angelica would ever do that because she took the role of older sister seriously. Of course, he was close to the sisters, but in a brotherly sort of way.”

These books are charming and interesting.  The two characters have a voice and a personality that are engaging.  Hopefully, people will be drawn to find out more about the early history of this great nation.


Someone you should know: five men earned the Medal of Honor on May 8

On this date in 1942, Lt. John J. Powers tells his fellow dive bombers as they prepare to climb into their planes to attack the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea, “Remember, the folks back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to lay it on their flight deck.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt will tell the nation during one of his fireside chats in September that Powers flew “through a wall of bursting anti-aircraft shells and swarms of enemy planes. He dived almost to the very deck of the enemy carrier, and did not release his bomb until he was sure of a direct hit.”

“He was last seen attempting recovery from his dive at the extremely low altitude of two hundred feet,” said the president, “amid a terrific barrage of shell and bomb fragments, and smoke and flame and debris from the stricken vessel. His own plane was destroyed by the explosion of his own bomb. But he had made good his promise to ‘lay it on the flight deck.'”

SBD Dauntless scout pilot Lt. (junior grade) William E. Hall attacks and destroys three enemy warplanes during the Battle of the Coral Sea and is wounded during the dogfight. The previous day, Hall assisted in the sinking of the Japanese carrier Shoho.

Meanwhile aboard USS Yorktown (CV-5), Lt. Milton E. Ricketts (who graduated alongside Lt. Jones from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1935) is leading a damage control party while Japanese pilots target the aircraft carrier. An enemy bomb falls right next to Ricketts and his men, exploding one deck below them. The blast kills and wounds several of Ricketts’ team and although mortally wounded himself, Ricketts charges a fire fighting hose and works to extinguish the blaze until he perishes.

On this date in 1945, acting squad leader Private First Class Anthony L. Krotiak and his soldiers are engaged in a firefight on Luzon Island’s Balete Pass. When Krotiak spots an enemy grenade thrown into their trench, he knocks his squad mates out of the way, jams the grenade into the ground with the butt of his rifle, then shields them from the blast with his body. Krotiak will die within moments.

When Lance Corporal Miguel Keith‘s outnumbered platoon was engaged in South Vietnam’s Quang Ngai Province during an early morning attack in 1970, the already-wounded Marine charged into heavy fire, raining down fire that downed three and chased off the remaining two enemy soldiers in their failed attempt to rush the American command post. An enemy grenade wounds him again, but he ignores his serious wounds and charges once more at a force of 25 men, killing several more with his machine gun and breaking off the attack. Keith is hit again after his second charge, this time fatally.


Book Review: The Agency

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Agency by Australian author James Phelan is making a big splash here in the United States. Anyone who likes the action continuing at a harrowing pace will enjoy this story. There is also enough fun dialogue between the characters to put a smile on readers’ faces. This prequel introduces Jed Walker, a former Lt. Colonel in the Air Force who has decided to join the CIA. 

The reason for a prequel, “I wanted to challenge myself since this is the first prequel I have ever written.  I think it is more of a suspense novel than a thriller.  I hope to show how Jed is personally driven, wanting to hunt down the bad targets. This gave me the opportunity to explain why Jed decided to move from the military to the CIA. All the Jed Walker books written to date will be released this year. They were tied up for awhile with my previous publishers who had first right of refusal. They dragged their feet and held things up for a couple of years.  Now we have the rights back. Although it is the fifth book in the series, Americans will be able to read them in order.I am working on the sixth book currently.”

Set in 2005, after completing his rigorous training with the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Virginia, Walker’s assigned mission is to exchange code phrases with a male contact.  But just as the meeting is to occur, a British intelligence agent, Steph Mensch warns him of a set-up.  After neutralizing the threat, he and Steph join forces to find a secret weapon that the Russians are looking to buy for hundreds of millions of dollars from a Blackwater-like private security firm.  They must go off mission, operating in New Orleans, instead of overseas. Besides all the bad guys to contend with they must also deal with the hurricane that is barreling down. 

Interestingly, Steph is introduced in the prequel, but does not appear in the other four books.  “I will definitely have her back in another book. I think she is intelligent, funny, and very persuasive.  I based her on an actress in the British series, Luther.  She has red hair and this is how I picture Steph.  The other person I based her on is Stella Rimington, the first female director of MI5, the British FBI who is also a thriller writer.  She worked her way up as an officer.  I used my friend Stella as a model for Steph’s career.  The book out in 2019 takes place about ten years from when this one took place. I am thinking of having Steph and Jed team up again if not this book, maybe the next one.  It might be interesting to have them back together since the last of the five books already written, Dark Heart, has Jed back with his wife Eve, a family man living on a Texas ranch with a baby on the way.”

The hurricane plays a strong role because it made such an impression on Phelan.  “I have family in the US where we have visited since 1980.  I remember when we had a family trip in 1989 across the US. We were chased by Hurricane Hugo. I have vivid memories of how we drove in the car and couldn’t see out of the windshield, even with the wipers on at full whack.  As we drove, we saw how the rivers swelled over.” 

An intense story where the action never stops. Readers are able to get a good grip on what makes Jed Walker tick by reading all five books in order.


May 2 in military history: Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR, Stonewall Jackson shot, and Marines land on Alcatraz

1863: During day two of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is shot by a Confederate sentry while performing a leaders-reconnaissance mission. Following the amputation of Jackson’s shattered arm, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lament, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm.”

The revered Jackson will die in eight days of pneumonia.

1945: Soldiers with the 82d Airborne and the 8th Infantry Division liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp in northern Germany. The Nazis allowed many of the 5,000 inmates to starve, and U.S. soldiers found 1,000 dead upon arrival.

The soldiers force nearby German townspeople to visit the camp and bury the dead. Conditions were so extreme at Wöbbelin that some of the inmates had resorted to cannibalism, and hundreds more would die after the camp's liberation.

That same day, Gen. Heinrich von Vietinghoff surrenders all Wehrmacht forces in Italy and the Red Army flies the Soviet flag over the Reichstag building. Berlin has fallen.

1946: When prisoners at Alcatraz riot - breaking into the prison armory and taking hostages - Marines from Treasure Island Naval Base assist in suppressing the riot. Prior to becoming a federal prison, Alcatraz was a military fort and detention facility, housing Confederate prisoners during the Civil War and conscientious objectors during World War I.

Read the rest of the post at Unto the Breach


Book Review: Shattered Mirror

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Shattered Mirrorby Iris Johansen is a paranormal thriller with a tease of romance. What makes this book stand out is that the good guys/gals are actually good and the bad guys are pure evil, without any grey area. 

Eve Duncan, a forensic sculptor, has the job of reconstructing skulls for recognition.  At her Georgia home, left in Joe, her husband’s car, is a package with a skull burnt beyond recognition. Also, inside are two mirrors, one intact and one shattered. It is threat sent to Eve that her family is currently intact, but will be shattered as this killer goes after them one by one.  This villain has set up a complex plan to get revenge by first going to New York’s Carnegie Tech where Eve’s ward, 18-year-old violin prodigy Cara Delaney, and her roommate, former child actress Darcy Nichols, have residence. After Cara is attacked in their room Jock Gavin comes to her rescue. He is someone designated to be Cara’s protector, but also became her best-friend.  With danger looming, Cara and Darcy agree to visit with Eve, Jo, and Michael their six-year-old son.  After their arrival, it becomes apparent there is more than just a casual resemblance between Darcy and the skull, which turns out to be Darcy’s twin sister, Sylvie.  Eve and her team must work quickly to discover who is behind that murder and threats against her family before the killer destroys all she holds dear.

She had the profession as a forensic sculptor because “I think it is honorable what she does.  Most of the time the work is done when a person cannot be identified. After the restoration, it is used to circulate a picture for the public to possibly recognize who was that person. Another important aspect is the ability to give closure.  Their loved one can have a sense of who they were before the horrific act was committed. I think Cara’s roommate Darcy went through that process with her twin sister Sylvie.”

The paranormal plays a significant role in this novel. There are many characters who can communicate telepathically with each other or those who have died.  Eve is able to connect with two of her birth children, Bonnie who lost her life, and Michael who is the joy of Eve’s life. They can communicate their thoughts without any sensory perception.  The twins, Darcy and Sylvie were also able to do this before Sylvie’s death, and it appears they can do it in some form after her death.

Being fascinated with the paranormal the author feels “it reaches beyond the scope of what we know and what we dream of or can hope for. But my paranormal is never a horror story like what Stephen King writes. The family is trying to keep their young son Michael just a kid, but it is getting harder and harder because Michael is Michael.  I do like to keep his talents a surprise, both for me and my readers because it’s more fun that way.  Because he is different it presents a whole new world.”

As in all Johansen books family plays an important role. Eve and Joe have unconditional love for those children conceived at birth and those who became a part of the family formed by love not blood relations.

Johansen commented, “Most of my books involve family because I really believe in family.  Eve and those around her circle the wagons when one is threatened. Joe Quinn is now a detective with the Atlanta Police Department.  I made him a former SEAL because they are tough, smart, and have incredible endurance with a complicated lifestyle, especially after he becomes involved with Eve.  It is a very cold world out there but they all realize as a family they can get through anything.  In my family, we are making an effort to be like the one in the TV show Blue Bloods. At least once a week we get together and make sure we are not all scattered to the four winds.  It is important that we stay together.”

This story is highly suspenseful with interesting, witty, and intelligent characters. The killer is a psychopath who does not worry about collateral damage or the gruesome ways he goes about murdering people. Readers will be on edge as they take a journey with Eve and family to find to the killer before he catches them.


Book Review: Dead Girl Running

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Dead Girl Runningby Christina Dodd is a sprint read, a fast-paced page-turner.  Those who liked her Virtue Fallsnovels will love this first book of a new series.  It does not have the paranormal element or much romance, but the mystery is action-packed.

The novella is an introduction to the book, explaining Kellen’s time in Afghanistan, how she sustained the injury for a medical discharge, and how she recovered.  In addition, the novella storyline introduces readers to the Monument Men that searched for artifacts taken by the Nazis.  Kellen works with General Lawrence Slater in trying to find some famous paintings hidden in a German cave.  This leads into the book plot and explains some of Kellen’s backstory.

Dodd introduced this special organization in the short-story, but it plays a significant role in the book. “I wrote about this because what they did was fascinating. It was an organization that was actually part of the Army during WWII.  They were going around trying to save European art.  I believe they were de-commissioned in 1946. I just brought them back through the character Nils Brooks.  The terrorists are really looting and selling artifacts on the black market to fund their causes.  Maybe the government will get an idea from this story.”

In the novel, there are two mysteries the main character, Kellen, is trying to solve: what happened during an earlier year of her life, after she was shot in the head, losing her memory for that period of time, and in current time, trying to discover who killed a woman found buried without her hands. Hired as an assistant manager of a remote vacation resort, Yearning Sands, she uses her former military skills to find the culprits. The intenseness of the backstory is very well developed through Kellen’s nightmares and flashbacks.

This book definitely gives a shout out to veterans.  It shows how Cecilia Lykke a helpless and afraid abused wife uses her cousin’s name, Kellen Adams, to join the Army, becoming a tough and skilled military officer. Readers will understand through Cecilia’s eyes how she became a victim, frozen and unable to escape her predicament until her husband dies in a fire.  Searching for family and a home Cecilia, now Kellen, finds it with her comrade in arms. Never forgetting this new family, after accepting the position at the resort, she hires those she served with knowing they are capable, resourceful, and able to use the skills learnt.

The Washington setting becomes a character as the darkness spreads over the resort during the month of January. Located at the edges of the Pacific coast, it can be attractive in fair weather, but dangerous during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. It adds to the atmosphere of the story creating a dark and scary feeling.

It appears that coastal towns are fair game for this author. “:  I want to get to a point where I own the Washington coast and every little town is mine with murders going on all the time.  There are a lot of eccentric people who live here so I have a lot to go on. I wanted to make them tourist towns because it will be plausible for all these murders with people constantly wandering in and out.  What makes it more suspenseful is that everything here is affected by the weather, with extreme change from light to dark, during the winter months with cold, windblown, and stormy foggy days/nights. The weather is not an, ‘in passing conversation piece,’ but is actually an issue.  The geography also plays into the plot with the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, and the desert.  I have lived in many states including Texas, California, and Idaho.  For me, this is the most expressive state.”

This “who done it” has a list that can go on forever.  Kellen is unsure whom to trust.  This includes Nils Brooks who impersonates a mild-mannered author with black rimmed glasses that turns out to be a well-toned combat ready government official working for the MFAA, a revised agency that searches for smugglers who want to sell artifacts to fund terrorist organizations.  This appears to be a shout out to Superman considering it is the 80thAnniversary where he was first introduced in an action comic book.

Smugglers, murder, and loss of memory are intertwined to make this a gripping story.  With plenty of intriguing characters and twists and turns, including a major surprise twist at the book’s ending, readers will be left craving for more.


Book Review:vThe Saint of Wolves and Butchers

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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With his latest novel author Alex Grecian is moving in a new direction with a new series, a new era, and a new setting, Kansas. Another book that took place in that state, Wizard of Ozhas a famous line “Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Oh My.” Replace that with The Saint of Wolves and Butchers and readers havethe title of this new book.

This intriguing story involves Travis, a man who chases down evil-doers with help from his trusting companion, a dog named Bear, and a Kansas State Trooper, Skottie who join forces to track down a Nazi in hiding.

Grecian wanted to write more of a modern-day contemporary story than his past series, set in Victorian England.  “While driving through Western Kansas to visit my wife’s family I saw a lot of ranch/farm country.  Regardless of where I am I look for angles I can use to write a story. I found out that German POWs captured in Africa were sent to Kansas. After the war, most of these people were allowed to become farmers and stayed here as authorities turned a blind eye.  It occurred to me this would be a great place to hide if I ever committed a crime.  Since Travis and company will hunt for evil-doers, for the next book I would love to have Skottie, Bear, and Travis searching for the bad guy behind the funding of the Nazi in this book who runs a human trafficking ring.  I think I will set it in Alaska.”

The plot begins in 1951 when wanted war criminal Rudolph Bormann succeeds in making his way from South America to rural Kansas, where he begins a new life as Rudy Goodman. In the present, Travis Roan, the head of a family foundation devoted to bringing war criminals to justice, comes to Kansas after a report that the German was recognized by Ruth Elder, a concentration camp guard. Aided by his canine companion, Bear, a massive dog, and another ally, Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Skottie Foster, the search continues for this horrific figure who had performed medical research on unwilling victims. To make matters worse, Goodman decides to become a Church Pastor for a Nazi-type cult where he continues his cruel experimentation.

All the characters are either very likeable or very unlikable. The character that stole all the scenes was Bear, a Tibetan mastiff who understands Esperanto and became mute after poachers cut off his vocal cords. He is brave, smart, and loyal, where everyone except the antagonists have complete trust.  Surprisingly, Elder, was written as sympathetic considering she was forced into becoming a guard by the Nazi regime, after refusing to have sex with German military officers.  The main character, Travis is calm, intellectual, unfailingly polite, and very moralistic. 

Because Grecian wants this to be a series he plans on developing each character’s backstory as the books progress.  “Travis keeps to himself so we do not know where he has been in the world and where he has come from.  He is mysterious and I purposely did not say if he is Jewish.  I do hint at the terrible tragedy he has gone through.  As time goes on readers will find out more about him.”

An interesting aspect is that the Nazi was hit by lightning, not once, but twice, while in Kansas, and lived to talk about it.  After being struck people have their bodies affected in unexpected ways, such as a person’s hair and toenails will not grow back, and they can have hearing loss.  Goodman used it to claim he could heal people, because it gave him energy and insight. This for some could be the fantasy part of the book.    

Hopefully readers also understand that guns are tools. Grecian explained, “This is why I put in the book quote, ‘These chunks of metal that were largely useless without a hand to point them.’ The evil comes from the person who uses it to their advantage.  It is the person that needs to be blamed.”

Readers will yearn for the next book to see how Grecian flushes out the characters’ backstory, especially Travis Roan, whose mysteriousness is intriguing. Hopefully, this does become a series, because of the unique characters and storyline.


Book Review: Warning Light

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Warning Lightby David Ricciardi creates a Jack Ryan type character that is on the run from Iranians.  Readers are reminded of a former TV series The Fugitive, with this novel being a 21stCentury re-make, foreign style. The protagonist, Zac Miller, has to become a survivalist in order to escape.

Ricciardi enjoys the outdoors and wanted to write about something “I know about and I am at home around nature.  I spend a lot of time in the woods and desert.  Once my family and I took a plane that dropped us off in Alaska.  We were alone, without any technology, put in the middle of nowhere, twenty-five miles from the nearest road.  This is something I wanted to share with readers, which is why I wrote this book quote, ‘In an age where there is a GPS in every car, and place, I (Zac) had to make my way navigating with the sun.’ The feeling of trying to survive is what I wanted to convey. What drove Zac can best be described by the Winston Churchill quote, ‘When you are going through hell, by all means keep going.’”

Zac Miller is a CIA analyst whonormally works behind a desk. He has some preparation because of the Agency requirement that all have to undergo basic hand-to-hand combat skills, Thanks to a month of training he underwent at the CIA’s clandestine operations training facility at Camp Perry, Virginia, Zac was somewhat equipped.He decided on impulse to volunteer to have his boss, Peter Clements send him on a quick mission, to take a few long-distance photos of a secret Iranian nuclear complex. Due to severe mechanical issues, created as a decoy, a commercial flight heading to Singapore is forced to make an emergency landing in the heart of Iran’s forbidden zone. Zac takes a few pictures of the mountain and the sunset but unfortunately for him, it caught the attention of the Iranian military. He was brought in for questioning because they believe his intentions are more than innocent. After being taken prisoner the Iranians drug, torture, threaten, beat and abuse him. Knowing if he does not escape he will die he finds a way to overwhelm his captives.  This is where the adventure begins.

To show the corruptness of the Iranian regime, “I wrote how they want to undermine these societies that don’t agree with their belief system.  They are the biggest sponsor of state terrorism as the military and religious leaders run the place.  They have starved their own people so they can build nuclear weapons. Anyone who voices disagreement gets arrested and locked up.”

The story is very believable since many Americans including tourists, hikers, and businessmen have been captured and tortured by the Iranians as they accuse them of being spies.  There is also a scene in the book that should remind people of the Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell, where Zac confronts a herder and must decide to allow him to live or kill him.  As a survivalist, Zac must make the ultimate decision of who shall live and who shall die.

The author compares his story to Homer’sThe Odyssey. “I would read this to my children all the time.  The struggle to return back home from the Battle of Troy, having to travel through all these different lands with the many different struggles influenced me. Every turn he made he encountered a new obstacle that he had to get around.”

Warning Lighthas many aspects to the story including technological, political-geographical and multi-cultural information.  It is not only entertaining, but informative as well. Readers will root for Zac to use his knowledge, resourcefulness, and training to complete his mission.

 


Book Review: Skyjack

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Skyjackwill elevate author K. J. Howe to a level close to Tom Clancy.  She follows up her riveting debut novel, The Freedom Broker, with another gripping thriller featuring kidnap and ransom expert Thea Paris. 

Her assignment is to escort two orphaned African brothers, Jabari, 12, and Ayan, 9, to their new adoptive parents in London. The children had been forced into soldiering after seeing their parents murdered by Boko Haram. Now they will finally have a chance at a better life, a real childhood and education.In route, the chartered plane carrying Thea, the boys, and 12 other passengers is hijacked and lands in the Libyan Desert. Her long-time nemesis, Prospero Salvatore, the head of the Sicilian Mafia, forces herto intercept a truck full of Syrian refugees who are headed towards Budapest and supposedly exchange them for the plane hostages, including the boys.

Howe noted, “Since I am an avid flyer, although not a pilot, I started to think about the new security measures on planes including reinforced cockpit doors.  I wanted to create a real buzz in the air so I thought how passengers surrender control to the pilot every time they step on a plane.  Everyone must trust that the pilots have our best interests at heart, but what if they do not.  Think of the German pilot that plowed the plane intentionally into a mountain or the Egyptian pilot that intentionally crashed the plane.  I thought how different it is than getting into an Uber or bus where if something happens there is the possibility someone can take over.”

From the very first page readers are swept into the action as they are placed in the middle of a skyjacking, horrific weather conditions, and passengers whose medical conditions create a dangerous situation. As the story progresses it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem to be considering those involved are a part of an organization who intends to reduce the world’s population by releasing a virus killing those of Middle-Eastern origin.  They will stop at nothing including brutal attacks and killings of innocents.

Thea’s backstory is also being further drawn out. It is heart-warming to have a female protagonist who can be an alpha.  She is strong minded who can stand on her own with any male antagonist. Having the medical condition of diabetes does not slow her down.

Howe wanted to make sure Thea is “Smart, fearless, and vulnerable.  It is incredibly important for me that girls have strong female protagonists to look up to.  We have all these males:  James Bond, Jack Reacher, and Jason Bourne.  Where is the strong female?  But, males are not turned off by her.  In fact, a lot of my Special Forces guys enjoy reading her exploits.  I think through her I am able to weed into the story both action and emotion.”

The intricate plot has action, manipulation, betrayal, murder, and political intrigue intertwined within family relationships. Anyone looking for a new series should read Howe’s books.


Book Review: The Cutting Edge

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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The Cutting Edgeby Jeffery Deaver has many twists and turns.  It brings into focus how diamonds are not people’s best friends and can actually be dangerous to one’s health.  It appears there is a serial killer terrorizing couples for the rings on their fingers.

Deaver noted, “I like writing in the little esoteric pieces into the story.  For example, the Italian culture in The Burial Houror electricity for the grid inTheBurning Wire.  I saw the movie Blood Diamondand thought about writing something with the diamond industry.  I wanted to make a character obsessed with diamonds in a twisted and psychological way. I knew this industry would be a perfect foil for an overarching story.”

The plot opens with the horrific murders of a couple, William Sloane and Anna Markam, and a master diamond cutter, Jatin Patel, who works in Manhattan’s diamond district. As they enter to pick up their engagement ring, a gunman wearing a ski mask goes in right behind them. After the intruder shoots William and Anna dead, he tortures and kills Jatin with a box-cutter. Shortly thereafter, an employee, Vimal Lahori, arrives, but manages to escape the killer. The tension ratchets up as the killer, now dubbed The Promiser, hunts Vimal and more engaged couples.Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are hired on a consulting basis to analyze the evidence and assist the police in catching the murderer. Simultaneously an additional story unfolds in Brooklyn where a drilling construction site is home to numerous and extremely rare earthquakes that set off gas leaks and explosions. In addition, Lincoln is hired as a consultant by the defense team of a known Mexican cartel leader.

He is very careful not to get too graphic while addressing violence, “I do not like sexual sadism or sexual violence, and will not kill a child or animal. A death should create huge and rippling consequences for many people.  Before a writer kills someone, they must think it through because it is a horrific incident.  To have more of an impact there should be fewer scenes.  I guess I follow the Alfred Hitchcock approach of suspense, not gore.” 

In this book, Deaver does not give much page time to the main characters, Rhyme and Sachs. The focus is more on Vimal and his girlfriend.  He is a young and passionate sculptor and apprentice diamond cutter. Through him readers learn numerous details about diamonds and the industry.  It almost appears that diamonds become a character in the story. 

The author commented, “I do think in the novel the other characters were looked at more than Rhyme and Sachs. In the book, there is this attitude between Muslims and Hindus. I like including these personal conflicts, and hoped to pull off a Romeo and Juliet. This is why I spent a lot of time with Vimal and his girlfriend.  I also wanted to write him as someone who wanted to escape his father and the killer. But he was drawn to the diamond, similar to that of Michelangelo.  Both feel the objects are souls needed to be brought out.”

The multiple plots become connected at the story’s end. Deaver once again uses his magical ways to show nothing is as clear-cut as it seems.


Book Review: Redsky

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Red Skyby Chris Goff is a fast-paced thriller that has action, intrigue, sprinkled with some technology. 

In this second installment of the series, the featured character, Raisa Jordan, a U.S. Diplomatic Security Service agent, heads to Ukraine to investigate her father’s death.  While there she is side-tracked when People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes, killing everyone on board. Notably, among the two-hundred dead passengers and flight crew, is George McClasky, a veteran DSS agent who was escorting a Chinese-American prisoner, accused of treason, home from China. She is assigned to investigate the cause of the crash, and quickly realizes that the downing was no accident. The technology used to down the plane was part of a top-secret weapon being developed by several countries, including the United States. The Russians successfully tested the “railgun” on the plane and intend to use it against others in an attempt to take over the Ukraine. Her investigation draws the attention of Nye Davis of Reuters news agency, who agrees to help her uncover who is behind the crash and what are their motives.

The author found DSS agents to be “be cowboys. They are trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Academy (FLECT). A true story was told to me about one agent who went to a Sheik’s palace, banged on the door, and even though he and the two Marines he brought with him were extremely outnumbered, demanded that the person he sought after come with him.  Another time, one decided to spy on terrorists in the middle of the night.”

Since settings play an important part in most thrillers, Goff traveled to the Ukraine, “I went there to get a feel for the setting with my youngest daughter who is a school teacher. As soon as we got off the plane someone asked if we want to go to the front lines?  We could do it for $50 and the driver will have a gun, as well as a flak jacket and helmet for us. I said ‘ok,’ but my daughter put her foot down so we did not go. When in Kiev, at least half of the people are tied to Russia and are pro-Russian.  Whereas, in Lviv, on the western side of the country, they identify with the Polish people. They would not acknowledge anyone who spoke Russian.  They actually had in the markets Putin toilet paper.”

A very relevant book quote, “She viewed journalists like hyenas-offensive and sneaky predators feasting on the sensationalism of a moment…Too many times the real story was lost or ignored, usurped by moments taken out of context and distorted by the reporter’s own bias.” Today it would be called fake news.  Since Raisa is a law enforcement agent she expresses the feeling of a lot of others who shy away from the media.  They feel journalists always put them under a microscope and they never worry about who gets hurt in the process.

Red Skyis a very riveting and believable thriller.  Goff allows readers to learn about an agency that gets very little recognition.


Book Review: Necessary Ends

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Necessary Ends by Tina Whittle highlights Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver, detective partners and partners in life.  Whittle’s writing style pulls readers into the story from page one.  This novel combines an action-packed plot with great banter dialogue and a psychological aspect.

Whittle noted, “My very close friend has TBI.  Watching him negotiate his life afterwards was profoundly inspiring.  Every day he requires a dose of courage.  Another friend of mine, after reading the first book, told me she had it.  She explained that when she returned to her house the first time she felt it belonged to someone else.  I saw how it is really challenging for the loved ones.  One of the questions I try to explore is, what makes us who we are? The brain is the great unchartered world of science.  We can explain more about the universe than what goes on in our own skulls. I think the psychological aspect in my books runs hand in hand with the mystery.”

Trey Seaver is haunted by the one that got away, a murder of a Hollywood producer’s wife in Atlanta during a filming.  Now, about four years later it appears someone wants the producer, Nick Talbot dead. Trey is asked to investigate since he was one of the officers at the crime scene and now is working for a corporate security firm.  He tries to use all the skills learned as a former SWAT officer with the Atlanta Police Department.  Forced into retirement by a horrific car crash that gave him TBI he now has a new skill, being able to detect someone lying with a high degree of accuracy. His girlfriend, Tai, an amateur sleuth and a gun shop owner is helping him solve the mystery.

Believing in a pragmatic approach to guns, “I wrote how one of my characters, Tai, considers guns to be tools, yet she also says, ‘Some people poured all their crazy into whatever they touched, and a gun sopped up crazy like a sponge.’  I show Tai training regularly because I see what happens to those who do not. I am personally a gun owner and I do support the Second Amendment.  I hope to show in this series what responsible guns owners look like versus those who are not. In a scene from this book, Tai knew the woman was buying it for her boyfriend who was waiting in the car outside.  She emphasizes that as a responsible person who follows the law, she is not going to sell a gun to that person.”

This series explores what happens to someone with TBI.  Since Trey has frontal lobe damage his cognitive impairments include language processing and executive function, the control center of the personality. There is also an exploration of PTSD which Tai has after being kidnapped and almost killed.  At night she experiences nightmares, an increase in her heart rate, and becomes delirious.  Readers will learn about re-enactment therapy, dissociation, a psychological reaction to overwhelming stress, and decompensation. 

All of this plays out in the Southern setting.  The characters must navigate lies, lust, and betrayals to find who is behind the original killing and the attempted murder. The powerful theme of vengeance, justice, and playing by the rules keeps the intensity of the plot.