Book Review - "The Auschwitz Escape" by Joel C. Rosenberg

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9781414336244_p0_v2_s260x420The Auschwitz Escape is a riveting novel by best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg. Using the Holocaust as a backdrop it becomes a psychological, political, and historical thriller intertwined with the mystery of how the concentration camp victims escape and whether they will survive. As Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 28th is observed, readers can reflect on this powerful story that is about the choices made in the course of one’s life. 

Through the contrast of the characters Rosenberg highlights the different attitudes and reactions of those involved in this nightmarish part of history.  The unlikely hero is a shy, obedient, seventeen year old German Jew, Jacob Weisz.  He is caught in the middle of an on-going argument between his father and his uncle.   His father represented those Jews who never faced up to the realities, instead coming up with rationalizations, even though there were enough warning signs to go around.  On the other hand, Jacob’s uncle Avi saw the dangers, and constantly tried to get his brother’s family to leave before it was too late.  Avi, a part of the Jewish resistance movement, refused to be submissive and saw it as his duty to help Jews escape.

The author told that the German Jews, as with those on the 9/11 flights, rationalized their predicament.  He wants his readers to remember that Jews were used to violent anti-Semitism, just not on the level of the horrificness of the extermination camps such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp; just as the 9/11 victims accepted their hijacking but had no idea they would die in such a gruesome manner.  Rosenberg noted, “Jacob is like one of those on the United 9/11 flight that went down in Pennsylvania.  They fought back because they heard what happened to the other planes.  Jacob saw what was happening in the camps and knew he had to take some action. He, as with the United passengers, had to make a life and death decision by using his wits.  All knew that if they did nothing they would die anyway so why not fight for their freedom.”

Readers are taken on a journey with Jacob’s character from having to endure the German anti-Semitic laws to entering and surviving Auschwitz.  It is based on the April 7, 1944, true escape by Rudolf Vrba, aka Rudolf Rosenberg, and Alfred Wetzler followed by the May 27th, 1944 escape of Arnost Rosin and Czeslaw Mordowicz.  As with the real escapees, Jacob writes an eyewitness report, “The Auschwitz Protocol,” detailing the extermination camps and the threat to the Hungarian Jews. Although 300,000 Hungarians Jews were killed it is believed that 120,000 were saved. 

Rosenberg commented, “There were approximately 800 attempts with about one hundred successes.  Besides the four true heroes there were several Polish intelligence officers, one of which I created as a character in the book, who got out of Auschwitz. Unfortunately the West did not believe their warnings, seeing it as Polish propaganda. I decided not to use any of the real names and to write a novel because I did not want to put words in their mouths and thoughts in their heads as well as actions I could not verify as true.  I did not want to compromise anything so I fictionalized the story and characters.  Even Wetzler wrote his own story as a novel at first, changing his own name in the book.  I knew I had to make sure every historical detail is rooted in reality as much as possible.  My fictional characters had to operate in a realistic historically rooted world.”

He also points out through his different characters how they all endured the same atrocities even though they had different attitudes about religion.  Jacob was a secular Jew who questioned that if there is a G-d how could the Nazis get away with taking away “his name, his clothes, even his dignity.  But only he could give away his will to fight.”  Contrast that with Abby Cohen, who falls in love with Jacob, a religious Jew who did not doubt G-d, and is described as someone thoughtful, insightful, intuitive, full of hope, with depth and purpose.  There is also the character, a Protestant pastor, Jean-Luc Leclerc, who with others living in the French town of Le Chambon helped to rescue approximately 5000 Jews.  He was eventually captured, tortured, and sent to Auschwitz where he meets up with Jacob, becoming his partner during the escape. 

Rosenberg commented to, “The French town is real along with the story.  The entire village rallied behind helping the fleeing Jews.  Every single pastor was arrested by the Gestapo, sent to the concentration camps, with at least two murdered by the Nazis at the camps.”

Rosenberg believes no book can do the Holocaust justice; yet, The Auschwitz Escape comes close.  In a suspenseful novel with heart wrenching characters he is able to individualize the six million who died.  The readers can think of the six million simply not as numbers but people who should never be forgotten, as they form a bond both emotionally and intellectually with the characters.

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Book Review - "American Spartan" by Ann Scott Tyson

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780062115003_p0_v5_s260x420American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson, wife of former Major Jim Gant, can be read as three different chapters in their lives. The policy chapters concentrate on what is needed for a successful strategy in Afghanistan; the cultural section is seen through her eyes regarding the Afghan villagers, and the last part of the book deals with Gant’s feeling of betrayal by his commanders. In order to best understand the criticisms and the feelings of Gant/Tyson, interviewed those involved.

The book delves into the policy issues based on Gant’s paper, “One Tribe At A Time,” which applies the Foreign Internal Defense approach to Afghanistan.  He calls for sending US Special Forces to train and empower the local Afghan villagers to defend themselves, while the Americans become culturally assimilated.  In the book Gant was quoted, “Relationship building is the weapon, time is the bullet.”  He explained to that those who criticized him for trying to take credit for creating this strategy are simply wrong.  “All I did was to look at the history of Special Forces, what was done, and the readings of T. E. Lawrence.  I asked myself why aren’t we doing this in Afghanistan.  I never said this strategy was developed in my head. Unfortunately, the entire second chain of command was not supportive and enthusiastic about this strategy.  I felt there was a betrayal by those US commanders, towards the Afghans, because they wanted to pull out.”

The problem with this portion of the book is that any discussion on strategy should include the pros and cons, especially since many non-military experts will be reading it.  Bing West, American military author and former Assistant Secretary of Defense believes “sooner or later Gant was going to come home to America.  Substituting Americans does not solve the problem and in some ways can make it worse.  If they become reliant on him, when he leaves it will fall apart as was the case.”  Similarly, Pete Hegseth, a former army counter insurgency instructor in Afghanistan noted, “At this point of time in Afghanistan it is too little and too late.  It is very difficult on a large scale.  You can’t take a regular troop soldier because there is a need for training on the culture, the language, and in Special Forces tactics.  The theory is sound, but the political reality is just not possible.”

Tyson defends her position because she sees this book as more of a “narrative, non-fiction, and military biography.  This is about a man, his mission, and the biography of an Afghan tribal leader.  It is not an academic or journalistic book on military strategy. I was there as an author who used my skills and experiences from being a reporter in war zones.  There were two drafts of the book.  Because I was so engrained as a reporter to keep myself out of the picture I was uncomfortable talking about myself. But my editor explained to me in order for the readers to really get to know the Afghans I needed to put more of myself into the story.  I rewrote it so readers could understand the Afghans through my eyes.  It was a sacrifice I made to reach people.”

This leads to the cultural part of the book where she discusses how she and Jim became “a family” with the tribe.  For example, she explains that even as an American woman she had to adhere to the rules of wearing baggy clothing, walking behind Jim, and acting demurely around Pashtun men. A quote from the book exemplifies this point of Gant considering himself as part of the tribe, ‘”Father, without you, there is no me, I told Noor Afzhal.’ (the village elder)…The message was clear.  Jim was fighting not for his country, but for his family, his men, and his tribe.”  She also wrote, “Jim had become more Pashtun than the Pashtuns,” in explaining the cultural attitude of honor and disgrace.  Retired Colonel Joseph C. Collins regards this as “misdirected, dysfunctional, and more than a bit weird.  The American army should be about American interests.”

The latter part of the book has Tyson criticizing Gant’s commanders for what she sees as a betrayal. His command was terminated for violating military regulations including possession of alcohol, prescription drugs, keeping classified information, and becoming romantically involved with the author Tyson while on a mission in Afghanistan.  She noted to, “The command turned a blind eye because they know that drinking by Special Forces teams is rampant. Before Jim was pulled out his commanders had written him a glowing evaluation and gave him an incredibly demanding new mission with a new tribe.  They recognized his knowledge of the area, his skill, and his ability.  They cannot have it both ways.” 

However, none of the former military people interviewed believed Gant received a raw deal.  Eventually he was reprimanded, removed from the Special Forces Regiment, stripped of his Special Forces tab, fined, and retired as a Captain. West told, “Gant engaged in reckless and selfish behavior and as a leader he should have known better.  I would have relieved him.  What he did was reckless and inexcusable.  He crossed the line and he knew it.”

Tyson herself in the book stated, Gant told the villagers “I was his wife… In bringing me to Mangwel, Jim was taking an incredible risk.  If any of the tribesmen disrespected me in the slightest, he would be honor bound to fight them, a conflict that could endanger his hard-won relationship with the Mohmand tribe.” She implies that the military were the bad guys, “…to try to escape the US military and disappear into Afghanistan…. I felt giddy.  I was escaping the Americans, surrounded and protected by Afghans.”  She also describes how the investigation found empty alcohol bottles, controlled medications, including pain pills, steroids, sleeping pills, and most damaging the photographs, “including two in which I was partly nude.”

Gant responded to these charges by telling, “The physical, emotional, and psychological difficulty of conducting this mission was infinitely harder than I thought it would be. I was exhausted on all accounts.  I have never said in any form to anyone that I did not accept my punishment or thought it was over the top.  What I did say was that they could have dealt with me honorably.  I had a face-to-face conversation only when they were telling me I was a disgrace to the Special Forces.  I would not have been able to accomplish anything without some alcohol and medications.  I worked 20 to 22 hours a day, risking my life and my guys’ life.  Obviously you and others thought I was running around Afghanistan with a bottle of Tequila in my hand, which was not the case.  I am still a warrior and will be when they put me in the ground.  I struggle day to day (he has PTSD and TBI), and see my job as being a good husband and father.”

Concerning the betrayal there are two schools of thought.  One is embodied by the military correspondent David Axe who told, “Gant appears to be a reckless loud mouth who didn’t see himself accountable to the US Army command and the American public.  He completely disregarded common sense and decency.”

The other point of view is exemplified by Colonel Collins who agrees there was a betrayal, but not in the context of how Tyson writes about it.  He told, “I cannot understand how then Major Gant was not seen as a psychologically wounded warrior and not fit for combat.  This is a deployment that should have never happened. The commanders who seized on his fresh ideas, skill, and reputation did not look out for his welfare.  I wondered, over and over, how he could pass a pre-deployment physical and maintain a security clearance.  In a 22-month tour, why were there no visiting lawyers, medical officers, Inspectors General, or no-notice command inspections to catch Gant in the act of being Gant?  No one looked into how the people really lived there.  The U.S. Government chose to wage large-scale, protracted war in part by grinding down the best and the bravest until many of them died, broke, or fell from grace. However people should understand that the guys who ultimately punished Jim Gant were every bit as heroic and true to the Special Forces creed, and not the high bound bureaucrats as Tyson implies.  They just did not go off the deep end and he did.”

Anyone reading American Spartan must realize that it is not intended to be an objective book, but as a defense of Jim Gant’s life and implementation of a strategy he strongly believes in.  Gant should not be considered a hero or an anti-hero.  It is an interesting read for those who want to understand the Afghan tribes, the Afghanistan strategy, and the fall of a self-proclaimed warrior from the perspective of his wife.

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Free Book For You

Posted By Laughing_Wolf

UPDATE:  You now can download it for free from Amazon

Regular readers are likely already familiar with LTC Tom Kratman (ret.) [trust me, you want to go read the quotes at the page linked, really] and his outstanding Carrera series of books.  He's added to his non-fiction list of books with Training for War, and Baen Books is giving it away for free.  Yes, you will have to register with Baen, but do I really have to point out that you can then download other books from them for free in a variety of e-book formats?  I'm not finished reading it yet, but I think that anyone interested in the military, and in good and effective training, will find this of more than a little interest. 


UPDATE:  And a free story from Michael Z. Williamson too!  Wonderful bit of psyop in there... 

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Book Review - "Under a Silent Moon" by Elizabeth Haynes

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780062276056_p0_v4_s260x420Under A Silent Moon, Elizabeth Haynes’ latest book, differs from her previous novels.  Her other books were more stand alone psychological thrillers than this one which can be classified as a series police procedural.  What makes this novel intriguing is the way she presents the crime investigation, through the source documents.

Readers should connect one of the team’s investigating detectives, Sam Hollands, from the Haynes’ first book, Into The Darkest Corner. Louisa Smith is introduced as the formidable DCI, heading the investigation of two victims. The first is a beautiful young woman brutally killed in her cottage, while the second is a suspected suicide at a nearby quarry, when her car plunged to the bottom of a pit. The investigation takes place over the course of six days where it becomes apparent that these two deaths are related. 

Intertwined throughout the novel is fictional source material, including police reports, phone messages, interviews, witness statements, emails, forensic reports analysis documents, and charts.  This enables the reader to feel they are part of Smith’s investigation team, collecting the clues as they attempt to solve the crime.  Even the chapter titles allows for the reader to stay in the setting since they are named with the day, date, and time. However, if these document sources become a bit detailed, and they are skipped, nothing is lost in understanding the storyline.

The author commented to, “This is the book I always wanted to write.  As a police analyst I would get the real sense of the story, the real crime, from these documents.  Investigators effectively piece together the puzzle as the investigation unfolds.  I thought I can write a novel just from these documents with the reader being able to fill in the gaps and can see how the story unfolds.  The reader could act like an investigator if they so chose.”

As in all her books, Haynes has a dark side to the story with graphic sex and violence.  Yet, these add to the plot as she tries to show the dark side of humanity through affairs, sexual encounters, jealousy, desire, and greed.  The relationships begin to overlap and a strong theme throughout is the father/daughter relationship.

Interestingly enough is that in this book the main characters are the police not the victims or suspects.

She noted to, “In a crime novel there is a lot of graphic sex out there that is part of the crime.  With Into The Darkest Corner the sex scenes were very real for me and not gratuitous.  As times I wanted to stop writing that because I wasn’t comfortable with it.  It was stomach churning for me, and gave the readers a feeling that this is just not right. With these current scenes I wanted to show that it was not put in for pleasure but to show how someone could use it to manipulate and control, as part of a power play.  This is a thread running through all my books.”

Haynes also feels as a working mother she needs to balance motherhood and professional life.  For example she asked that the interview be postponed for an hour so she could have dinner with her ten-year-old son.  She also told of another example, being invited to speak at a crime festival on a Friday.  “I said I would do it but only on a Saturday or Sunday because that particular Friday was my son’s class celebration for finishing primary school.  Amazingly they allowed me to speak on the weekend so I was able to balance my career and my family.”

Under A Silent Moon is much more of a plot-based book than a character based one as Haynes has written in the past.  However this novel allows the reader to analyze much more as they are riveted to this gripping page-turner.

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Book Review - "Warriors" by Ted Bell

Posted By Blackfive

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

9780062279385_p0_v4_s260x420Best-selling author Ted Bell’s latest book Warriors delves into the dangers of an emerging China.  This spy thriller brings back his main character Alex Hawke who is not the ordinary super spy.  In this novel Hawke plays a supporting role to the gripping plot, which the author uses as a sounding board to wake-up Americans.

Bell commented to, “The whole China angle came about while at Cambridge.  From 2011 to 2012 I was elected to be a visiting scholar and a visiting writer in resident by Sir Richard Biling Dearlove, the retired head of MI6, now a professor there.  We focused on the issue of China with a subset of North Korea.  It was fascinating for me because anyone who wants a future in the intelligence community, the highest level of military, espionage, and intelligence, were there.  It was like Spy vs. Spy meets Harry Potter.”

The plot begins when a rogue Chinese military general kidnaps American scientist William Lincoln Chase and his family.  Chase is known for his research on creating weapons that will alter the global balance of power.  Intertwined with this are the sub-plots that have Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Congreve Ambrose investigating the murder of a Cambridge professor and coming to the rescue of Hawke’s son with the culprits being beastly black birds.

Although Bell told that most of the technology in the book was fictional, there is a believability and realism to it.  Readers will be engrossed with the highly advanced fighter jet designed to deliver Alex to his Chinese contact, a pair of equally advanced missiles designed to prevent him from making that meet, sophisticated drone planes, and a new class of submarine that is able to stay submerged in the water without a crew.

The torture scenes, although old school, are never the less very graphic and sophisticated, displaying the cruelness of the Chinese and North Koreans.  Bell wonders where the outcry is considering “waterboarding to them would be like me shooting you with a squirt gun.  These places are horrific and no one does anything about it.  There are four of these prisons with thousands of people who are sent there if they make the government angry.  Yet, China continues to fund the North Koreans, probably because, excuse my language, North Korea is China’s bitch, happy when they give the US a hard time.”

Many of Bell’s fans have likened Alex Hawke to James Bond, a comparison he disagrees with. The author describes his main character as dashing, sophisticated, emotional, witty, passionate, and a very eligible bachelor.  He noted, “Bond was a creature of the 20th century where as Hawke is from the 21st century.  He is thirty-three years old and the sixth richest person in England.  Unlike Bond Alex is a living breathing man who falls in love, misses his child, gets hurt, sees the world as good vs. evil, and can be very emotional. He represents a way of life that is rapidly receding in America.  Alex is a man of character with the bulldog tenacity of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  All these men would never give in.  We have gone from fighting on the beaches to sun tanning on the beaches.”

There are two powerful themes from the book. The mindset in Washington: We will not have to worry about the Chinese military capability until well into the next decade, and Washington behaves like a crippled giant.  Bell commented, “Looking at every possible recent scenario we are on the losing side, whether in Crimea, Syria, or Iran, our government makes a big show but there is never a price to pay.  Our navy is the smallest it’s been since WWII.  It is like we are dismantling this country with a lot of damage being done.  We are on the defensive, which is depressing.  China is becoming much more powerful.”

Ted Bell hopes his readers will find Warriors, a “tongue in cheek book, that is fun to read while learning a little something.”  This book accomplished this and a lot more with a gripping and realistic plot with likeable main characters.

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Exclusive Interview with Nelson DeMille - "Plum Island" to be brought to television!

Posted By Blackfive

The following is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the far right sidebar.

9780446515061_p0_v2_s260x420Plum Island, the New York Times best-selling book by Nelson DeMille, will likely be made into a television series. Produced by Sony and Lionsgate for a cable TV station, each of the ten episodes will be one hour long. This novel introduced the wisecracking, confident, not politically correct, street-smart character, NYPD John Corey. Although Plum Island was supposed to be a stand-alone book the popularity of Corey convinced DeMille to make him the lead in a series of novels. The dean of political thrillers was kind of enough to take time away from writing his next John Corey book to speak with about this project as well as future projects.

Plum Island’s plot begins with Corey on medical leave, recovering from bullet wounds, when his friend, chief of the Southold Police Department, enlists his aid while looking into the double homicide of Tom and Judy Gordon, also friends of Corey.  They happen to be employees of Plum Island, the nearby high-level bio-containment facility located in Long Island, studying deadly diseases such as anthrax and simian Ebola. The investigation originally leads the detectives to suspect the Gordons’ of stealing a vaccine with the motive of peddling it to the pharmaceutical world for billions of dollars. But Corey contemplates a competing theory that the couple might have been involved in selling drugs, or looking for buried treasure. The local murder investigation soon crosses jurisdictional boundaries and draws county, state, and federal investigators with Corey’s nemesis Ted Nash also introduced in this novel.

Although written in 1997 it is still relevant today with the many different issues explored: genetically engineered viruses, bio-terrorism, government cover-ups, and government surveillance.  DeMille commented to, “It will be interesting to see how the screenwriters make it into a contemporary piece.  Originally, pre-9/11 it was not well guarded and was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.  However, today it is under the control of Homeland Security.”

Hopefully the screenwriter, Ron Bass, will be able to capture not only John Corey’s personality but also his partner’s, Beth Penrose.  In all of the Corey books the characters dialogue helps to create a plot that has tension, suspense, and humor, including the silly type jokes DeMille is known for as a writer. The female lead plays the perfect “straight man” to Corey matching his wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. As DeMille describes it, “Usually the women in Corey’s life are the voice of reason.  In the books he brings in his street smarts and the women bring in the logic. The one thing that was told to me is what they might do with Corey’s romantic interests.  They are hinting that possibly he would not ever be married.  What they might do is have the male/female lead romantically involved with some sexual tension.”

How much control will DeMille have over the project? DeMille’s short answer was not much.  However, he has offered his advice and is hoping that Bass will take him up on it.  “I think having the author involved is a good thing because it makes the project more successful.  On the other hand I don’t want to meddle since writing for a TV show is such a different format than what I am used to.  I sometimes wonder why a book property is bought for the screen considering all the changes made.  You wonder if they are buying the story or buying it for the built-in audience of the author. A good TV series allows the viewers to really understand the characters that the novelist has written.  One of my other books was made into a screenplay where they missed everything and the screenwriter did not understand that people want to read and watch other people. Without the jokes and sarcasm the characters do not sound like real people.  My son interviewed to be a screenwriter for this project since in TV land there is a team of writers.  Maybe if he is chosen he will consult with his father.”

If the pilot is successful a TV series will be made with the possibility of a feature film being produced. There is talk that each season will be based on the next Corey book.  His favorite book, The Lion’s Game is considered for the second season.  “Although I resisted a TV series for a number of years I decided to go with it because of the very good cable shows currently on TV.  Also, TV is willing to deal with Islamic terrorism while feature films will not.  The reason for this is the need for movies to be distributed overseas.  They would have to worry about the movie theatre being blown up, threats, and any backlash, while TV shows are just watched in people’s homes. That is why there is great interest in making my latest book, The Quest, into a feature film.  It does not deal with terrorists and is marketed as Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code.”

DeMille also noted the book he is currently working on will be another John Corey novel, A Quiet End.  Corey is no longer with the Anti-terrorism Task Force and now works for the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, essentially being demoted.  His new duties include following people from the foreign embassies.  Assigned to watch the Russian UN mission Corey finds out that one diplomat is a bad guy associated with the KGB.  DeMille noted, “This book is about a resurgent Russia which as you know I thought about long before the Ukraine crisis.  The theme of this book is that the Cold War has come back with Corey understanding the Russian threat as existential and long range. This book is almost like a stand-alone in the same way as Plum Island.”

He also told, the female lead will not be Corey’s wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield who is off to Washington DC after a promotion. “There will be sexual tension with his new partner. He is having problems with his wife since her promotion.  They seem to be drifting apart.  Something has to happen with Kate because the backstory has become cumbersome.”

Fans of the John Corey series are looking forward to two new projects, a new book due out sometime later this year, and a TV series probably entitled Corey.  With any luck, next fall fans will be able to get their fix of John Corey.  Hopefully, the TV series will maintain DeMille’s fingerprint over this great character.

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Book Review - Conversations with Coach Wooden

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9781595800763_p0_v3_s260x420This time of year has sports fans euphoric since it is the beginning of the baseball season and March Madness is heating up.  A new book, Conversations with Coach Wooden by Gary Adams is very relevant since it combines both these sports.  Gary Adams was the long time coach of UCLA baseball who shared an office with the legendary Coach Wooden for almost a decade after the legendary basketball coach’s retirement.

The book reflects on Wooden’s core philosophies and principles behind his numerous basketball successes.  It also shows how Wooden influenced Adam’s career and coaching style as they became very close friends.  Adams told, that his first year of coaching was Wooden’s last.  After retiring UCLA’s Athletic Director asked Adams if he wanted a high profile officemate.  “The book describes how we met and told me ‘Gary, you know you are coaching my favorite sport, baseball.’”

Adams went on to say that during an interview Wooden commented that he was never asked to be an assistant baseball coach.  Adams chuckled as he noted, “I would have been proud and honored for him to be my bench coach.  Can you imagine having Coach Wooden as my right hand man to help me think about what I should do?  Unfortunately, during those times there was never such a thing as a bench coach.”

There are many stories about former players, as well as how both coaches viewed the changes to the games.  Both coaches, as with today, believed change is not necessarily for the better.  Regarding basketball Wooden was disheartened with the one and done, the slam-dunk, and the “show-off” players.  He felt basketball was no longer a sport but pure entertainment.  For him, the beauty of basketball was in the fundamentals of it being a team sport.  In the book Adams quotes Wooden, “Those fancy behind-the-back passes and showmanship slam dunks do not make the execution of the game any better.  They are only done to entertain the fans.  Well it does not entertain me.” He went on to say that the best basketball is having sound fundamentals that emphasize “good old-fashioned teamwork.”

Wooden thought, “the slam dunk may be good for entertainment, but it’s not good for the game.”  He once told Adams that at a UCLA basketball game a Bruin went high in the air and did a slam-dunk.  His response was, “that player would have been sitting on the bench before his feet landed on the ground.”

Baseball according to both coaches has not changed for the better with the American League rule of having a designated hitter. Adams said he and Coach Wooden did not like the designated hitter rule because it took the strategy away from the game.  Would a pitcher who is doing well be pulled for a pinch-hitter?

Conversations with Coach Wooden is an engrossing book for both a sports fan and a non-sports fan.  If you like basketball or baseball, the reader will love the personal stories of the coaches and players in this book.  But beyond that is the life lessons these two coaches taught through the sports of baseball and basketball.  These lessons seem to have been forgotten by some Americans today.

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Book Review - Children of the Revolution

Posted By Blackfive

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062240507_p0_v3_s260x420Peter Robinson’s latest book, Children Of The Revolution, intertwines a murder mystery while bringing back the seventies era.  As with all of his books Robinson explores a few social issues within a strong character based story.  For this novel, he discussed the issues of date rape, sexual abuse, abuse of power, betrayal, Marxism, and the comparison of students in the seventies with today. What makes the plot intriguing is the use of folk music lyrics to enhance it. 

Being a Grateful Dead fan he used their songs to enrich the plot.  He noted, “ Folk songs talk about love and murder.  I thought of the idea from the time I did performances in England with Martin Carthy.  I wrote a story specifically around the songs he wanted to sing.  He would open with a song and then I would start reading the story, pause, and have him sing another song.  Five songs were chosen throughout and the short stories, Deadly Pleasures, was specifically written for this performance.  By the way, Carthy was one of the people who introduced Bob Dylan to England in the sixties.”

Children of the Revolution begins with Inspector Banks investigating the death of a recluse college professor who was dismissed for alleged sexual misconduct four years ago. Along with 5,000 pounds found in his pockets, Professor Gavin Miller’s body position indicated that the cause of death was not natural. Banks struggles to find answers as to why Miller would have committed suicide and begins to wonder if he was pushed off the nearby bridge. Robbery, blackmail, or revenge is the possible motive for the untimely death. Banks suspects Lady Veronica Chalmers because of her apparent link with the victim going back to the early seventies at the University of Essex, then a hotbed of political activism. After the inquiries, he is brought on the carpet by his supervisors and warned to stop. Banks continues to conduct his investigation under the radar, with the help of new DC Geraldine Masterson, DI Annie Cabbot and DS Winsome Jackman.

Robinson commented to, “My stories start with the setting, in this case the old abandoned railway line that had a bridge overhead.  I thought this would be an interesting place to find a body.  Then I began to look at British contemporary history and thought it would be interesting to see what happened to those people from the seventies era.  I came up with a plot that allowed me to do this. I enjoy writing about the characters.  In fact, I never know who did it until I am part way through the plot and a character seems to present itself.”

Readers can see the evolution of Detective Alan Banks from his initial appearance in 1987 to now where he is a lot more cynical and melancholy.  He is an old fashioned detective that would rather use his thought process, assessment of characters and his own decision-making than the modern technology of today.  This can be exemplified with the quote by Banks, “I’ve often thought that solving a crime has far more to do with understanding people and their motives than it does with spectrographic analysis and DNA.” Robinson does not see his main character as a hero figure or a brilliant sleuth like Sherlock Holmes but does think “he is from the age group that finds political correctness rather tedious.” was given a heads up about his next book, whose title for the British audience will be Abattoir Blues, but could change for the American reader.  The theme deals with some rural crimes in Northern England, that Robinson considers “a nice backdrop for a murder mystery.”

Children of the Revolution has Banks pondering aging and his mortality as well as his career.  Through his contrast of the different periods including student life the readers will learn about those eras.  This book is complex and thought provoking between a riveting mystery and an exploration of the social issues.

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Big Boys Don't Cry

Posted By Laughing_Wolf

Confession time:  I've always enjoyed Keith Laumer's Retief/BOLO universe.  My thoughts on Jame Retief versus the (stereo)typical member of the lace panty brigade should come as no surprise.  Bolos struck a chord with me early on (Honor of the Regiment) and the idea of someone (something) striving to do the job no matter what (and the incompetents) with honor and integrity was comforting (particularly in the Carter era). 

For all that, there were some things about that universe that bugged me.  Nevermind that it would take thousands of Retiefs to keep things above water and moving along.  Never mind that the incompetents won way too often and no one ever, EVER, followed up on the example of the heroic BOLO.  There was something more to it that bugged the bleep out of me deep down. 

Thanks to Tom Kratman, I now have a better idea of why that is and you have a great story to go read.  Big Boys Don't Cry is a novella, and for me a quick read -- but keep in mind that I can even polish off something of Weberian size rather quickly. For all that it is a novella, and a good read, it is not necessarily an easy read and Tom gleefully uses a flamethrower (and I imagine was laughing maniacly as he did so) to remove the curtains and expose what has been bugging me about the Bolo universe. 


who reminds you that you still have time to go order the Freehold Signed Limited Edition by Michael Z. Williamson.  Trust me, you want to and you need to. 

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Book Review - "Kill Fee" by Owen Laukkanen

Posted By Blackfive

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

9781101624777_p0_v1_s260x420Owen Laukkanen is a relative newcomer to the thriller genre.  Kill Fee, the third book of the series, once again reunites FBI special agent Carla Windermere with Minnesota State police investigator Kirk Stevens. Fans of crime thrillers will be reminded of best-selling author John Sandford because the setting and the main character’s career path are the same. However, it becomes abundantly obvious that Laukkanen is able to put his own distinctive imprint on his books. 

The plot begins when Windermere and Stevens witness an assassination, and are unable to apprehend the fleeing murderer. As other targeted killings occur these two law enforcement officers travel throughout the US to find answers and to catch those responsible.  What becomes obvious is that they are always one step behind as they try to put the pieces together including a murder for hire Internet site. They seek to find the person behind turning young war veterans into unemotional killers. Using complete control their handler transforms them into broken human beings who are obedient and lethal. 

Laukkanen told, “I had been reading about how the Internet can be used to help build crime empires.  I expanded that to having a murder site since it is so easy to hide your identity online.  This is one of the issues I dealt with in the book, how these criminals can hide out and avoid detection.  I made sure that the bad guy knew how to steal other people’s IP addresses and then bounce them around to make it difficult to detect.”

The readers can readily identify with very realistic characters. The protagonists share varying degrees of dissatisfaction with their personal lives as they struggle to balance that with their job responsibilities.  The author weaves the various characters actions together in an intense plot.  Even many of the antagonists become sympathetic figures as they struggle with PTSD and to free themselves from the control of this one person who is their lifeline to the world.

In all of his books Laukkanen makes sure to write about societal issues.  After researching the emotional state of many returning combat soldiers he decided to include it as a powerful theme in the book.  He explained, “I used a DOD clearance to keep the antagonist’s identity secret.  I compared this guy who spent his life building bombs to now running a murder for hire.  I had him kidnap and take control of the veterans’ lives where there is this bond between the tortured and the torturer.  After reading about the vulnerabilities of the veterans as they return home from Iraq and Afghanistan I became struck by how let down they are by the government and society.  They are left to deal with their traumas in silence and by themselves since many are uncomfortable to talk about their mental health.”

He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will be about sex trafficking.  Two Romanian sisters are brought to the US in containers, but one escapes.  Windermere and Stevens attempt to find out the people behind this ring.  This plot will also have a struggle between their private and job responsibilities.  Laukkanen has Stevens trying to handle how women are treated as commodities and the evilness of men as his daughter begins the dating scene.

Kill Fee has a very riveting plot that includes mayhem and misdirection.  It has characters that are very well developed and intriguing.  This intense novel is a must read for anyone who enjoys suspenseful thrillers.

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