The following book review is a special provided by Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
A book for animal lovers is The Puppy That Came for Christmas, by Megan Rix. Do not let the title fool you since just the last few chapters include Christmas, while the rest of the book takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride as Ms. Rix discusses how she and her husband, Ian, became Helper Dog puppy parents.
The author honestly and compassionately recalls how she and her husband found out that they had an infertility problem, shortly after deciding they wanted to have a child. After enduring the torturous road of schedules, constantly taking temperatures, blood tests, and doctor visits; they decide to become involved with a group that trains puppies to help people with disabilities; thus becoming puppy parents for a six-month stint. These puppy parents nurture and train their dogs so they can become a full-fledged helper dog. She found out that her emptiness caused by not being able to conceive was replaced by the mutual love between owner and dog, “I started being a foster dog parent not knowing anything about dogs.”
Megan discussed with BlackFive.net how there appears to be two types of dog owners: a “one” dog person and a person who after losing their dog for whatever reason must fill the void of not having a dog to come home to. She noted, “A house with no dog would be a miserable, miserable house. It never means you did not love the dog lost, but each dog has a different personality. I had four Golden Retrievers in my life. The first two dogs, Emma and Freddy were puppies we were raising to become helper dogs. Emma is a sweet, good girl, who always wants to please and tries to do her best. Freddy is a bombastic little boy that is very possessive. Traffy is my little lovely girl who is my companion and protector. Then there is the youngest, Bella who is ball crazy and when we saw her at the breeder’s she was swinging from an ornament on the Christmas tree.”
Having to give up Emma and Freddy after six months Ian and Megan realized it is too hard and decided that they would become puppy parents for themselves, “a forever puppy.” The book goes into a lot of detail how these puppy parents had grown to love the puppies and the empty filling they had when it was time to give them up. They knew deep in their heart it was the correct thing to do, but that did not make it any easier. “The dog becomes your life. It was very, very hard to give them up. What did help, as I say in the book, is to keep in touch with the people who became the dog’s new parents, the physically disabled. In fact, Emma was the flower girl in her partner’s wedding.”
What the author wants people to get out of the book is how the puppies filled the void of not being able to have a baby. She decided to expand on her weekly newspaper articles about each of her dogs and allow the reader to understand what it was like for a puppy growing up.
Two powerful quotes from the book, “(each dog) does a 1000 times more things for me than I could ever do for (them),” and “Every puppy was so different, so vulnerable, so in need of loving: how could we not love them entirely?” She explained that having a dog to love and care for could lift a person’s spirits since “they are a bundle of love. Every person should be able to cuddle up to a dog, waking up with that furry, kind face. You end up thinking about caring for more than yourself.”
This is no more evident than when she talked about Traffy’s current situation. Since the book ended with Traffy as a puppy she brought her readers up to speed by telling how Traffy, now five years old, had a growth the size of a baby. She had two major operations and now has a tube inserted that works like a catheter, which Megan drains three times a day. “I put a t-shirt on her to stop her from licking it and to keep it clean. Even though we really love the sea, we will not go since she cannot go in the seawater, having the possibility of the tube corroding. I want everyone to know Traffy is full of energy now.”
The book also shows how dogs can help take care of people. There is a touching story of how one of the puppy parent dog helpers developed cancer and the dog seemed to sense it. This dog could not adjust to being away from her and ran away numerous times to try to get back to the original puppy parent. Not to spoil the story the reader can discover what transpired.
Megan Rix’s next projects will be a three book fictional series about World War II dogs. The Great Escape, currently out, is about how dogs had to be abandoned and left behind during the Nazi bombings of London. Victory Dogs is about two puppies that become heroes during the Nazi blitz. The last in the series is about parachute dogs in WWII.
The Puppy That Came for Christmas allows the reader to experience a gamut of emotions with the author. It shows how dogs can help to enrich people’s lives and make them happy. Anyone who wants a book showing how dogs give unrequited love should definitely read this book.
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by click on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
New York Times best selling author Alex Berenson’s latest novel, The Night Ranger, is a very compelling thriller. He uses his journalistic background to explore the issues of terrorism, and in the case of this book, international justice.
With most of his novels Berenson travels to the setting of the book. He went to Kenya to explore the sights, sounds, politics, and culture, gaining information to create a plot centered on the refugee camps. He traveled to refugee camps in northern Kenya and spent a large amount of time in its biggest city, Nairobi, to make sure the plot of The Night Ranger was realistic.
Instead of fighting terrorism the main character and hero, John Wells, goes underground in East Africa to find and rescue four kidnapped Americans. They are kidnapped by Somali bandits, while on a tour to see more of Kenya. As a personal favor to his son, Wells investigates the kidnappings and finds himself in a very complex situation as he attempts to rescue the four Americans.
As the novel takes off it becomes obvious that there were multiple plots involving refugees, the Civil War in northern Africa, corruptness, and how a father can reconnect with his son. Berenson told blackfive.net, “I enjoy the complexity. Over the last few books Wells had lost his relationships. In the previous book, The Shadow Patrol his son told him in no uncertain terms that he considered him a war criminal. In this book he reconnects with his son.”
The reader will see Berenson’s transformation, although the politics presented are very subtle. He effectively shows how the refugee camps are somewhere between prisons and a welfare state, and wonders, “The aid community should consider if what they are doing is any good since the camps breed dependency where the refugees have no alternative.” He also shows how the Kenyan government is pitted against the two fighting militia, similar to a gang-like atmosphere.
An interesting side note is that many of the past supporting cast is MIA, such as Jennifer Exley and his current girlfriend Anne. He told BlackFive.net that some day in the future he is considering bringing Exley back to work with Wells and explore the interpersonal problems that might arise having the former lovers working together.
Besides the hostages the supporting cast is the African setting, where Wells has to combat the plains that are dry and desolate. There are also the animals that take on an important role. Berenson commented, “You expect Wells to take on other people in this book, but instead, he takes on these animals, snakes and hyenas.” The hated protagonists are the hyenas just as they were in the Disney movie, The Lion King, where he displays them as tough, disgusting creatures.
His next book will be a John Wells novel where the hero returns to the profession of being a spy instead of a hunter, as in Berenson’s last two books. He gave a heads up that the plot will take place in Istanbul and will involve an effort to interfere with US foreign policy.
Will Berenson write another series? “No,” says the author. “I don’t think I would like to do another series. I don’t have time to write two books a year the way I would like it. I don’t want a book to suffer in terms of quality. Although, I will never say never.”
The Night Ranger is a very engrossing book. The reader should make sure they pick it up when they have some time because they will not want to put it down. It is a very fast paced and riveting novel.
Book Review: The Sandbox: Stories of the Human Spirit and War
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 click on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
The Sandbox: Stories of Human Spirit and War, written by Mike Liguori, is an outstanding chronicle of his attempts to fight the war in Iraq and on the home front, after being discharged from the Marines. Mike discussed his two tours in the Al Anbar Province as a truck driver in the motor transport unit, and after arriving home how he struggled with PTS (post traumatic stress.) He wrote this book to find a purpose to his life after war.
The book was titled, “Sandbox, because when you arrived in Iraq there is nothing but sand, looking like a giant sandbox with just these borders, and no vegetation. It was like quicksand, a trap that I was stuck in. By the way, military jargon called Iraq, ‘the big old sandbox.’”
The parts about serving in Iraq were very revealing since he constantly had thoughts of killing and death. He said this was no more evident than when he saw children on the streets and “all the kids knew was that we were Americans and that was enough for them to hate us…A kid raised one hand in the shape of a handgun, and pointed it directly at me. He pulled the imaginary trigger, smirking as if he had hit me.”
After arriving home he remembers how he felt, both isolated and fearful, that the sounds of Iraq were all around him. He told BlackFive.net that he was trapped in a dark hole, being overweight, unhappy, depressed, and a very heavy drinker. It all came to a head when he attempted to commit suicide. He describes it; “I had planned to cut myself with a knife. I walked over to the knife drawer in my kitchen and opened it. A voice in my ear calmly whispered to me to put it down. I shut the drawer as hard as I could and cried. I had never cried like that in my life. I realized I was just trying to hurt myself. I decided to ask for help and take the support of others, that this was not a sign of weakness.”
He decided to write this book because it was easier to write his feelings than express them verbally. Mike was glad that he was able to chronicle his experiences without having anyone immediately respond or give feedback. “I could write without any judgment and share my experiences on my timeline. I think writing this book became therapeutic and empowered me.”
Like other veterans, after graduating college with a business degree he is currently unemployed and points out that the unemployment rate among veterans is a whopping 29.1%. Because of that he decided to start a non-profit organization, Operation Work Warriors, dedicated to helping veterans transition from the military to the civilian workforce. “People need to understand that combat vets served their country honorably. There should be a standard out there to help the vet.”
Mike is hopeful that those who read the book, The Sandbox: Stories of Human Spirit and War, will see that “no matter how bad things can get or whatever your situation, you’ve got to keep on pushing through. Things might get worse before they get better, but I am encouraged that my story transitioning from war to assimilating back home will help other vets and their families, that there is help out there to assist you in finding a purpose.”
This book is very insightful for those who want to understand what soldiers went through during the war and how they fought a war after arriving home. He explains in detail through his personal story how PTS is very treatable. This book is a must read because Mike shows for all those with PTS that there are success stories and he is not afraid to discuss his journey from defeat to triumph.
The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right side bar.
Former FBI agent Gerald Clark, along with investigative reporter Ed Palattella, wrote a book, Pizza Bomber, about one of his most important cases. The book unravels the twists and turns of a plot conceived by eight emotionally unstable and devious people. The author’s give interesting insider details on how the investigation unfolded and why it took so long to solve. This is one of the most ingenious bank robbery schemes in history and is known as the “Collarbomb,” by the FBI.
The plot was conceived on August 28, 2003 in the suburbs of Erie, Pennsylvania. A pizza deliveryman, Brian Wells, had a time bomb locked around his neck, and was ordered to rob a bank. After delivering the money he would receive clues to disarm the bomb. The police surrounded Wells shortly after the robbery. Special FBI Agent Clark came on the scene, standing thirty feet away as Wells was interrogated by the police. To Clark’s horror the bomb exploded, killing Wells. The Agent would spend the next seven years investigating the incident, identifying, and charging those responsible.
Clark told BlackFive.net that he wrote it “for the educational component. I wanted people to understand the pitfalls that were involved. If you break this case down it is really about eight characters that found each other. They called themselves the ‘fractural individuals’ because they could not relate to anyone outside the group.”
The book also discusses the personality traits of each of the eight. Clark who has a Ph.D in criminology and a Masters degree in Forensic Psychology believes that four of the eight had an anti-social personality disorder, psychopaths. The instigator was Marjorie Diehl Armstrong who developed the idea to rob the bank to get money to pay for someone to murder her father for his inheritance. Clark felt “Diehl was one of those who had the anti-social personality disorder. She is one of the most unique, manipulative, really bright individuals I ever talked with.”
The person who had a major part in making the bomb was Bill Rothstein, also a psychopath. He was the one responsible for coming up with the plan to put a bomb on someone and to make sure they died so there would be no witnesses. On his deathbed Clark tried to get him to “cleanse his soul. However, he refused to talk. The bottom line is that he would not give us the satisfaction of telling us what happened. He once told me ‘I am the smartest guy in this room.’ He believed he was smarter than anybody and as he was dying had the attitude, ‘the joke is on you.’ He was such an arrogant guy who had a really dark side.”
The chapter in the book where Clark conducts this interview is fascinating since the reader can get a glimpse on how an interrogator is able to find details as they interviewed the suspect. Clark commented, “I massaged his ego and talked to him in hypothetical terms. He responded in hypothetical terms since he thought I could not use the evidence against him.”
The authors also explained how they were able to connect some clues through the FBI profiler, Mary Ellen O’Toole. “She was great and was able to come up with ideas as to the personalities behind the bomb maker. Just from examining all the pieces she was able to come up with a very accurate profile and her facts were right on. This case involved a lot of circumstantial evidence since there was no forensic evidence.”
Clark said he wants readers to understand that many cases take a toll on those trying to find the perpetrators. “There was a lot of pressure. It was intense. We had to have a lot of perseverance because this took a long time to get resolved. The information had to be developed to know what facts are related and how they can be pinned on the defendants. At the end of the case I was honored to get a letter and a phone call from FBI Director Mueller who congratulated me on sticking with and solving the case.”
Pizza Bomber is a true crime book that is informative and insightful. The characters are described in such a way that the reader will understand how their behavior allows them to conceive and initiate such a horrific act. Having it written from the perspective of FBI Agent Clark makes the book interesting because it traces the investigative process and the passion he had for making sure justice would prevail.
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 sidebar.
Suspect by Robert Crais is an intense thriller involving powerful personal relationships. The author slightly veered away from his other novels in that this book involves new main characters instead of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. However, after reading this book Crais fans will not be longing for the past characters. In fact, they will be longing and hoping for another book involving the new characters: Maggie, Sergeant Dominick Leland, Joyce Cowly, and Scott James.
Crais decided to write this book because he was thinking a lot about his dog, Yossi, who died sixteen years ago. “Yossi’s loyalty was absolute. At the end of his days, he died in my arms, me blubbering like a baby. I have never replaced him. I think in writing this book it was very much a healing process for me. Maybe it is finally time to get another dog. I planned on writing it as a ‘stand alone book,’ telling Scott and Maggie’s story. I am thinking of possibly having Maggie and Scott cross paths with my other characters, Elvis and Joe. Yet, I am certainly not against making another series with Maggie, Scott, Leland, and Joyce. As long as I can come up with stories that keeps Maggie in a realistic situation I will keep writing this story.”
The first chapters of the book are very powerful and will draw the reader in completely. The story unfolds with a military working dog, Maggie, losing her handler after being wounded herself. While across the world, LAPD officer Scott James is in a similar situation as he watches his partner Stephanie being murdered and is helpless to do anything because he has been seriously wounded.
Fast-forward nine months later where Scott and Maggie’s journey begins. They have become kindred souls who must battle back from grave injuries, lost partners, and the need to prove themselves to others while battling horrific nightmares. A quote from the book summarizes it best as they become a team, a pack of two trying to make it in the LAPD canine unit, “That poor animal is unfit for this job, and I suspect the same about him. I hope to G-d in His Glory I am wrong, sincerely I do, but there it is. They are SUSPECT. That dog will help him realize he is not right for this job. Then she’ll go back to that family, and he’ll retire or transfer to a more suitable job, and all of us will be happier for it.”
Crais told BlackFive.net that he intentionally used the title, Suspect, to convey to the reader that both Scott and Maggie were “suspect” and had to prove to the world that they were fit for duty, they could perform their jobs, and they could overcome their disorders. Yet, Crais did not want to steer too far away from what he is best known for, a crime novelist, so he evolved the story where Scott became a suspect in a crime.
There are many different layers to this book, including discussing the different relationship a military handler has with their dog as opposed to a police dog/handler relationship. A police handler is responsible for their dog over a longer period of years and they are partners on a 24/7 basis each and every day. Crais also goes into great detail how both Scott and Maggie battle PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and the ways they attempt to overcome it. He commented to BlackFive.net, “My goal was to bring these two damaged creatures together pointing out how they needed each other to heal. I wanted to show how a person and a dog could fit together in a relationship.” This becomes evident during a scene in the book when Scott first sees Maggie, hears that the canine supervisors are not optimistic about her succeeding, and feels that in some ways they are talking about him. If he can save Maggie then he can save himself.
Just as many of his readers have done with their pets, Crais conveyed the thoughts of Maggie. He did this in a compelling and believable way. “I wanted to portray Maggie as a real dog and try to interpret what goes on in a dog’s head, their motivations, what they do and why. Dogs either want to please us or protect us. They become the BETA to the human ALPHA.”
The characters are extremely well developed. Scott has the drive to overcome his disorder and solve the mystery of his partner’s death. Leland became the voice of the handler/dog relationship, a pure dog man who is on this earth to shout out the importance of these dogs. Joyce is the police detective that befriends Scott and joins his mission to find the killer. And then there is Maggie. A word of caution, Crais’ portrayal of Maggie is so realistic, as the story unfolds readers might want to be next to their pet or at least have a picture by their side.
Suspect is a superb book. Hopefully the author will decide to continue writing about these characters in a series. There are two plots in this novel, one for those who love Crais as a crime novelist, and the other is a very powerful characterization that proves dog and man are truly best friends. He told BlackFive.net, “I fell in love with Maggie. She is like my dog now. I miss her and want her in my life,” which is how his readers will feel as well.
So, if you were interested in my photograpy and what Blackfive and JD wrote in the front, now's your chance.
Oh, and if you do want the pricey version, it is not free, but located here.
Also, thanks to my friends at The Jawa Report and to Instapundit for their support. If you are not reading The Jawa Report you should be.
UPDATE II (Sunday): More than 1,400 copies were downloaded yesterday, and my thanks to all who did so. I hope that those who do will leave reviews at Amazon. The free download continues today too. I have a post up to thank all of you who did so, and it includes links to related information. Meantime, be sure to like and follow things on Facebook
UPDATE III (Monday Morning): Thanks to all who have downloaded, and especially to those posting reviews on Amazon. The latter will help with the next book in the series, among other things. Apparently, because of the way things are set up at Amazon, you can download for free today too. So, if you didn't get it, head on over! Also, check out some of the other free offerings, as there is a lot of Kipling, a number of the classics, some other good stuff (Locke, Paine, etc.), and even a bit from our good friends at Baen Books. So, what are you doing still here? Git.
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.
Brad Meltzer’s latest novel, The Fifth Assassin, is the second installment in the Culper Ring Trilogy. Because of all the research he puts into his books, it takes Meltzer two years to write his novels. With The Fifth Assassin the wait was well worth it since it is a fascinating story that blends historical facts, secret codes, with an engrossing mystery.
Beecher White, the trilogy’s hero, discovers a killer in Washington DC who is copycatting Presidential assassinations. The fifth assassin, called the Knight, re-enacts the assassinations by killing church figures, with the final target the current President, Orson Wallace. The Culper Ring, created by President George Washington to protect the presidency rather than the president, takes action to find the assassin. Meltzer told BlackFive.net that he had the church figures assassinated to “have the Knight on the same journey as the first three Presidential assassins. They are divine interventionists on a divine mission. There is always the power struggle between Church and State.”
The characters are very well developed. Besides Beecher those returning are President Orson Wallace; fellow archivist Aristotle “Tot” Westman, Clementine, Beecher’s childhood love interest and daughter of Nico Hadrian, the institutionalized unsuccessful presidential assassin. Meltzer also introduces some new characters: Mac, the undercover computer nerd, and Marshall Lusk, Beecher’s childhood friend who now works for the Government Accountability Office to uncover, through stealth tactics, possible security breaches.
Meltzer commented that sometimes the writing process takes over since, “Marshall was supposed to be a real minor character, but as the story unfolded he took on a voice of his own and elbowed his way throughout the entire book. The same was true with the real-life assassins since I never thought of telling their stories. I was able to study them and learn what they all had in common.”
Through these character’s eyes the reader is able to grasp the theme of the book, learning to forgive. The author noted, “My point is that I wanted to show it is possible to make peace with yourself or someone else. What happens to us as children makes up who and what we are today as we try to grow up and change. There is a large segment of our population that turns to the belief in G-d, and wants a relationship with G-d to help heal wounds.”
Since Meltzer lost his dad, are the scenes in the book about Beecher’s feelings for his dad biographical? “This is the first book I have written since both my parents have died. That is what I have had to deal with the past two years of my life, my parent’s death. You show me a novel and I will show you what the author is dealing with at that time. Beecher is dealing with what I am dealing with. I know Beecher’s story real well because it is my own story.”
How did he come up with such an interesting plot involving the deck of playing cards, and the four Presidential assassins, John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, and Lee Harvey Oswald? “At The Museum of Health and Medicine visitors can find the bones of Booth, pieces of the skull of Abraham Lincoln, and I saw a swatch of leather with writing on it. When I asked about it I was told it was a tattoo. I realized at that moment I was not holding a piece of leather, but it was actually someone’s skin. The tattoo was a red diamond. Being a history major in college any book I write will have my love of history in it. I remembered learning that Booth handed the valet at Lincoln’s side a card. I imagined it could by a playing card. The novelist in me took over and the plot was born. I was able to study and learn what all the presidential assassins had in common. There was no question if I was going to write a book involving presidential assassinations Lincoln would have to be involved.” He actually came full circle since the beginning of the book has a copycat assassination of Lincoln while the ending takes place at the Lincoln Memorial.
Meltzer is a master at writing his mysteries as puzzles where the pieces are hints dropped throughout the book. The reader is challenged to connect the dots with the clues presented in the novel. These puzzle pieces include secret codes, invisible ink, commonality between the presidential assassins/assassinations, and playing cards. The symbols of the cards include the four facets of society: hearts being the sign of the Church, diamonds as the arrowheads, representing vassals and archers, clubs as the husbandmen of farmers, and spades as the points of lances, representing the knights. For example, Meltzer wants his readers to consider the King of hearts, and look very closely to see why it represents the “suicide king.”
Although the books do not have to be read in order, to get a better grasp of the plot The Inner Circle should be read first. Intertwined throughout the books are history tidbits combined with secret codes that create fast-paced, riveting plots. The Fifth Assassin is a must read novel for anyone who wants a mystery involving many twists and turns. This book is well worth the wait, but unfortunately fans most wait another two years for the next installment.
The following book review is a special provided to BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
James Rollins has collaborated with Rebecca Cantrell in their newly released book, The Blood Gospel. This book is the first in a trilogy about the Sanguines, an order of good vampires. Readers who enjoy thrillers, mysteries, or the Rollins’ Sigma series might be apprehensive about reading this thriller-fantasy. However, give it a chance because it has a captivating story that is fast-paced and interesting.
The plot of the book begins when an earthquake in Masada reveals a tomb buried deep into the mountain. The three main characters: Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist are asked to investigate a newfound discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl. The three protagonists escape a brutal attack at Masada and find themselves racing to find a book, The Blood Gospel, rumored to have been written in Christ’s own hand, before it falls into the hands of a horrific enemy.
Rollins told BlackFive.net he came up with the plot at the Los Angeles Museum of Art while viewing Rembrandt’s painting of “The Raising of Lazarus." It struck him “how scared everyone looked, and this started me down a road of reflection about early Catholicism, vampirism, and a story began to unfold. I knew this could be a huge, groundbreaking new mythology, a story so epic in scope that I knew I didn’t want to tackle this alone. Surprisingly writing with Rebecca was fun and refreshing. It was nice to have someone else to lean on. Oddly enough we did not get into arguments because we let the story dictate.”
Rebecca Cantrell who has written a historical series set in 1930s Berlin featuring the main character Hannah Vogel was elicited by Rollins. They told blackfive.net that they met in Hawaii at a Writer’s Retreat. Cantrell was intrigued about the premise and jumped on board. Rollins believes that since each had certain strengths and unique skills they were able to create an enriched story. He wrote the action scenes and brought a thematic approach to try to find the common ground between science/religion, faith/logic, and the believers versus those disillusioned with their faith. Cantrell wrote great characterizations and historical descriptions in the book.
This plot has the reader wondering about certain traditions of Catholicism: Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the Monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ's own blood? Rollins decided to answer some of these questions by having a vampire sect within the Vatican, called the Sanguines, become the protectors of the Church after they pledged not to drink human blood.
Rollins wanted to explore the “what if” regarding how Christ would have dealt with these vampires, “What would he have done to save these people. I used the actual traditions, for example, Sanguines can be out in the day as long as they wear hoods and thought maybe that this is the origin of the Monks wearing hoods. I was able to pair these things up by playing with the trappings of the Catholic faith and the mythology.”
Not only did they draw on mythology they also used past influences. Cantrell shyly admitted that she watches Saturday cartoons, but now has an excuse because of her young child. She believes these viewings have probably had an influence on her subconscious. In the book there was the “silver bullet” used for protection and a scene where Erin was taken prisoner and had a spiked dog collar put on her. What comes to mind is Superman, the Lone Ranger, and a Star Wars scene between Jabba the Hut and Princess Lea.
This novel uses a lot of different settings and historical situations. The characters travel to Jerusalem, Europe, St. Petersburg, and the Vatican City getting clues from Nazi plans, Masada’s history, and the Rasputin character. Cantrell wants her readers to think about the fact that Rasputin, who was killed four times over, could be a vampire. “I wanted to think how vampires could exist in these scenarios.” In the next book she and Rollins will continue to bring into focus historical characters and eras. “A character will be introduced that is more modern because he was turned into a Sanguine during the sixties.”
The Blood Gospel has something for everyone: conspiracy, ancient mystery, action-adventure, and a touch of the Bible. Just as the Rollins’ Sigma series is a thriller with a tinge of science fiction, this novel is also a thriller, but one with a lot of fantasy. Once again Rollins, along with Cantrell, has shown that it is possible to write an intriguing story that can leap over different genres.
The following review is a special for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.
Nelson DeMille’s latest book, The Panther, is a gripping tale about fanatical Muslims. He decided to place John Corey and Kate Mayfield in a hostile environment and chose Yemen. Although seeing what is going on today in that part of the world, he could have substituted many other countries.
DeMille explained to BlackFive.net that The Panther parallels what is happening in the headlines today. He used the Yemen setting because “right now it is the center of Al Qaeda activity. I did a lot of research on the American embassy there. I did think about it when I saw the mob storming the American embassy compound.” He joked that being a history major taught him to use what he researched, which is why he included certain aspects: the historical tidbits, such as Noah’s Ark resting place, Arsh Bilqis, and the throne of Sheba, as well as focusing on the backward society of Yemen. In addition he allows the reader to understand the Yemen culture made up of tribal warlords and Bedouin tribes. In the book he summarized that Yemen had “… mostly a history of civil wars, revolutions, and invasions.”
The plot has John Corey, an anti-terrorist Task Force agent, and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, being sent to Yemen to apprehend the Panther, the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. There is also a sub-plot involving a conspiracy theory where Corey sees himself and Mayfield as bait: Corey killed the Lion, a Libyan terrorist which earned him a spot on Al Qaeda’s kill list, and Mayfield killed a rogue CIA official who had plotted to nuke the Middle East. To understand this sub-plot it is not necessary to read the previous books, The Lion, The Lion’s Game, and Wild Fire, although they do make for a very interesting read.
As in all his books DeMille presents interesting, likeable, funny, and powerful characters. He is able to use his dry wit to enhance the dialogue, especially when he teams up Corey with Paul Brenner, the embassy DSS chief and a two-tour Vietnam veteran. He commented, “These are two alpha males that butt heads. It is a tricky thing to do. I was able to pull it off in this book. Hopefully, I will do it again.” Corey throughout the book is the wise cracking NYPD cop, Kate is his straight person, and Brenner is the joking military veteran hero.
Fans of DeMille will recognize Brenner from previous books including the epic novel, Up Country, where the plot involved Brenner having to return to the country that haunts him, in order to investigate a murder that took place during the Vietnam War. One of the best quotes in The Panther, is when Brenner compares the Vietnam War to the War in Yemen, “It’s like Vietnam… Incompetent and weak-willed allies fighting an enemy who are motivated by something higher than saving their own worthless asses.”
The Panther, a terrorist, born in America is shown to be a religious fanatic. DeMille tries to explore how someone brought up in America can turn to terrorism. “After speaking to those in the terrorism task force and the FBI I cannot understand what is the thinking behind an American turned terrorist. How could they leave America and go to someplace like Yemen? It must be religious fanaticism. I don’t believe the political motive would be that strong.”
Since DeMille was a former US Army Lt. who served in Vietnam during the Tet offensive it is no surprise that he uses the USS Cole as a backdrop for this plot and brings back a former character who fought in the Vietnam war. Through his characters it becomes obvious that he is angry over the Cole incident, blaming “… the Navy’s Rules of Engagement (that) were rewritten by some committee of politically correct, ball-less wonders in the bowels of the Pentagon.” He told blackfive.net that he hopes this book shows his support of the military, and is grateful “to have a lot of military fans. I get a large amount of emails, first from Iraq, and now from Afghanistan. I love when these guys can relate to the book and hopefully find them accurate.”
He gave a heads up about his next projects. He will be writing the seventh book in the John Corey series. The plot has John Corey and Kate Mayfield, with a possibility of Paul Brenner, working with the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. Once again they will leave New York and be placed in a hostile environment somewhere in the Middle East, this time to rescue hostages. There is also the possibility of making a TV series based around the John Corey books.
The Panther is a very entertaining and informative book. Even though it is fiction, it is very insightful about Yemen. Readers will learn what America is up against in the Middle East and why the Islamic extremists are at war through DeMille’s in depth narrative on the culture, the psyche, and the motive behind those fighting in Yemen. It is a must read for anyone who enjoys political thrillers.
The following is a special report from Elise Cooper for BlackFive readers. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar or by clicking here. Here is the latest review by Elise Cooper:
Joseph Finder’s The Moscow Club re-released this past Christmas is a very realistic novel about the Russian coup. If the reader wants a change of pace from the terrorist based Middle East thrillers this is a book to delve into. Originally written as a contemporary novel, it has now become a historical novel since its plot is based on a coup overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev.
The characters are well developed and interesting. The heroes are Charlie Stone, a CIA analyst and his estranged wife, Charlotte. Both are intellectual, and tough individuals who are able to piece together a conspiracy by a group of Kremlin insiders working with rogue CIA individuals. Stone also finds himself having to prove his innocence after being accused of murder. He decides to get to the truth, which has him traveling across the US, throughout Europe, and ending up in the Soviet Union.
The villain is Winthrop Lehman who is based on Armand Hammer. Finder told blackfive.net that he wrote the book “to show how Hammer was friendly with Lenin. Here was a billionaire industrialist who had easy access to the White House and was working with the Russians against American interests. I used fiction as a way to tell a larger truth about Hammer. My contacts in the CIA were more willing to talk to me if I wrote a novel. I knew he would make a compelling villain in the story.”
A powerful quote from the book, describes how after Gorbachev is overthrown he will be replaced with “a right wing, neofascist Soviet leadership that will be dangerous.” Finder wanted to point out the way the Russian government worked and that today’s leadership is no different. “I predicted it. I remember having so many arguments as to what will happen in Russia. So many people thought that the bad guys were gone from Russia and the good guys were in control. I kept emphasizing it does not work that way. The people in power want to keep their power. I wanted to show glimpses of what Russia is really like.”
He did that by showing how the Russians broke up families and many times held a wife or child behind as hostages to ensure someone’s cooperation. He also goes into great detail on how the Russians tortured and murdered those who did not agree with the government. The author explores the question of Lenin’s death, which becomes a central part of the plot. Was he poisoned instead of dying a natural death?
An interesting side note is that it was written pre-9/11. There are parts of the book that can never happen today. For example how easy it was to get a fake passport, cross the border between the US and Canada, get a plane ticket at the last minute by paying with cash, and sneaking a gun through the detectors. Finder commented that he actually had someone field test sneaking a gun on a plane from Boston to Washington. The reader can compare how rules have changed in this nation post 9/11.
The Moscow Club is an engrossing spy novel. It is very insightful since it was written about the Russian coup just months before it really happened. It delves into the Russian culture and political scene. The plot is very believable and is a quick read for those who like engrossing thrillers.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.