Book Review - "Stone Cold" by C.J. Box

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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.

9780399160769_p0_v2_s260x420C.J. Box’s latest, Stone Cold, a Joe Pickett novel, will definitely become a “mega country hit.” His books based in Wyoming have the flavor of a modern day Western, where the setting becomes almost a character in itself. Box’s novels always include two plots: one involving Pickett’s family and the other, a story of adventure, with some political intrigue and culture from that part of the US.

Although the Joe Pickett novels are a series, each individual book is a stand alone, due in large part to Box’s writing style.  Stone Cold has two intertwining plots, one involving Pickett’s college age daughter and the other a murder for hire company, based in Wyoming’s Black Hills.  Each piece of the story goes beyond the “who done it,” allowing the reader to question modern day issues.

The family story has Pickett’s older daughter, Sheridan, worried about a fellow dorm student at the University of Wyoming who appears to have a mass shooter type personality. Box explores the issue of the 2nd Amendment on college campuses, such as, whether colleges should be gun free zones, or should college students shave the freedom to carry a weapon.  He told, “What I put in the book is really happening in Wyoming where students can have up to three guns, but not in their dorm room.  They need to store it with the UW Police Department.  Times have obviously changed since when I was younger I had a rifle in my high school locker for finding prairie dogs.  In my college days we would have our guns to go hunting.  I am a big 2nd Amendment supporter but I wanted my readers to question the issue of allowing guns in dorm rooms.  I remember my college days where we twenty-one year old boys would get all liquored up.  I am not so sure it is a good idea to have a gun then.  I go back and forth, but I do think what is being done today is a fair compromise.”

The other plot has Joe traveling to Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel County to investigate the shady dealing of a wealthy landowner, Wolfgang Templeton who owns the county, land, people, and law.  The issue focuses on being above the law for righteous reasons.  Box gets the point across through his characters:  Joe tends to bend the rules while Nate Romanowski goes against the rules.  For those who have not read any past books, Nate is the antithesis of Joe, a loner who lives in the woods with his falcons. This plot brings back “Frontier Justice,” since Nate rights a wrong against those morally degenerate elitists who are untouchable in society. The other issue examined is the idea of handouts and the dependency it can cause among the people. 

Box commented, “There is the perception in this country that some bad people are untouchable because they are part of the elite and part of the system.  This is something Templeton and Nate address since they go after people that cannot be touched in any way due to their connections.  Regarding the other issue, Templeton, to gain control, established in this county handouts to take care of everybody and bring the people on his side.  Yet, they want more and more from him.  This shows how the county people became dependent, unhappy, and is always asking for more and more.  Both Templeton and the county people become hostages to each other.”

The reader should be aware that although the main plot comes to an ending the side plots are left up in the air, which is Box’s style.  He always leaves certain threads that run through the series that don’t have a definitive conclusion, and resume in future books. 

He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will also include Nate.  The plots will include Joe’s daughter April’s disappearance that will be intertwined with a plot surrounding endangered species and the effect it has on energy development. 

Wyoming citizen, the former Second Lady of the US, Lynne Cheney told, “I love Box's novels.  His realistic plots yield plenty of surprises, and his characters are fabulous, especially Joe Pickett.  And all of this is set against an evocative Wyoming background that he draws perfectly. There is never a false note to break the spell.  I hope Box keeps writing for many years to come.”

Stone Cold has non-stop action with captivating characters.  The plots are thought provoking, suspenseful, and compelling.  These western tale books are a welcome difference from other crime novels and should be on any readers’ list that wants a thrilling mystery. 

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Book Review - "Moving Target" by J.A. Lance

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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.

9781476745008_p0_v4_s260x420Best-Selling author J.A. Jance has written her 50th novel, Moving Target. It features the character Ali Reynolds and her supporting cast: fiancé and computer expert B. Simpson, longtime gay household assistant, Leland Brooks, and good friend, Taser carrying nun, Sister Anselm.  It also introduces a powerful character, Lance Tucker, a talented teenage computer hacker.

This book involves two plotlines that take place in Arizona, Texas, and England.  Although the plots are basically unrelated Jance is able to weave them together through Ali and B’s relationship.  The first plot explores Leland’s background, why his parents supposedly disowned him for being gay, and a cold case that Ali helps to solve involving Leland’s family.  This plot is wrapped up mid-way through the book, which allows readers to concentrate on the very suspenseful plot that explores online research.  This is where Jance introduces the character Lance Tucker, an incarcerated juvenile offender for hacking into the San Leandro School District’s Computer system.  While setting up Christmas decorations in the lockup rec room he is severely burned.  Because B. Simpson’s testimony helped to find Lance guilty he now feels bad and is obliged to get to the bottom of what really happened to Lance. Simpson, the founder of the high-tech security company High Noon Enterprises, elicits the help of Ali and Sister Anselm, and is determined to hire Lance for his GHOST program. It is a revolutionary computer software that allows users to surf any part of the web completely undetected.

Jance commented to about some of her characters, “Although I made Leland gay he is a person who is gay, not a gay person. His homosexuality does not define who he is or is not. He is a wonderful person who has a true blue nature.  I made sure his gayness did not get into people’s faces.  It’s a telling story of one character that happens to be gay.” 

Regarding newcomer Tucker, “Lance is a great character that will be in future books.  I cannot have a character like that show up and then drop him.  Basically this was a story about people where I intentionally compared the two character’s families.  One family was very supportive with unconditional love while the other family was not very supportive.”

She gave a heads up about her next few books, or as she calls them “books 51.4.” Due out this July will be a Johanna Brady book where readers will find out what happened to her dog Tigger, based on the Winnie the Pooh character. Jance is currently working on her next Ali Reynolds book.  It takes place in Minnesota during the wintertime, and has a plot that delves into certain religious cults treatment of women. 

Jance explained why she always includes some form of discrimination against women in all of her books.  “I was a feminist that was not allowed into the University of Arizona’s creative writing program because I was a woman.  Although today in looking back I think the early day feminists lost their sense of humor and never got it back.  I enjoy writing about things I really care about and what is important to me.  In Moving Target I put that scene in where a character was barred from being accepted into Oxford by an all male admissions board.  I had her hiring only women for the lab and loved the line, ‘Payback is a bitch.’”

Moving Target has a fast paced plot with very likeable and sympathetic characters.  Through a riveting plot it explores the technological world while also allowing readers to get to know the human side behind the characters.

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Book Review: Code Name: Johnny Walker

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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

9780062267559_p0_v3_s260x420Code Name: Johnny Walker is an informative personal journey of an Iraqi translator who worked with the Navy SEALs.  Co-authored by Jim DeFelice it reads more like a fictional thriller than a memoir.  Walker’s story is amazing and gives a unique perspective on the Iraqi War. 

Johnny Walker, a Mosul born, pro-American Muslim’s story is an invaluable insider’s perspective of Iraq.  The book traces how Mosul transformed from a ‘melting pot’ of religious tolerance to a refuge for extremists and terrorists.  Although the military describes his job as an interpreter his duties can be best described as an investigator.  He explained to, “my country, my rules…What to one culture seems a sign of strength, to another may be a billboard of weakness.  And that was often true in Iraq. My tricks of the trade included asking children for an ID, examining papers, looking at the house culture, and allowing the enemy to let their guard down. I had to be careful to determine who were the innocents and who were the bad guys.  For example, one time this militia guy we were looking for gave me a Sunni name.  After talking to the children and searching his house I found he was a Shia.”

Although he first took the job for the money and to feed his family the book traces how he came to consider himself part of the SEAL team and his teammates as family.  He worked side by side with them to bring the bad guys to justice even though his family lived in constant jeopardy.  He stated, “The SEALs toughness and their loyalty to one another made them accept each other, and they had adopted me as one of them.  They were honorable while the extremists were not.  The insurgents never battled you face to face and would kill innocent people to send a message as they had on 9/11.  They killed people because of their beliefs. It became more than a job.  They are part of my family. I would do anything to find the bad guys and save my team’s life.”

The book also goes into great detail on how the SEALs never deserted their “terp” and how they helped him to come to America, where he is currently in the process of becoming an American citizen.  He feels he found the American dream and no longer has to worry about his and his family’s safety.  He still works with the SEALs as a cultural advisor.

This book as in American Sniper explores why the insurgency took hold in Iraq.  He agrees with the comment by the late Chris Kyle, “Iraq is like an early 1776 America.  We helped to set them up now they have to get it right.”  Johnny regards Iraq as a child that is trying to see their place in the world.  He is hoping, “Over a period of time Iraq will be healthy.  There is a saying that G-d will never change you until you start changing yourself.  Iraqis need to speak out and insist on change.  We need to take charge of our own destiny.”

Code Name: Johnny Walker is an insightful book filled with details on SEAL operations and the price ordinary Iraqis had to pay.  Throughout the book the author gives a vivid sense of his perspective and desires.  This amazing story is very riveting and illuminating. 

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Book Review: The Counterfeit Agent

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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 in the far right side bar.

Alex Berenson’s latest book, The Counterfeit Agent, explores the political implications of Iran developing a nuclear bomb. He places his well-known characters into a dangerous scenario of threats against the US and its ally Israel, including the possibility of Iran luring the US into war. 

Because the world is a different place after September 11th it is wishful thinking to want heroes like Berenson’s John Wells to save the day and fight against evil regimes.  A quote in the book reminds Americans, “September 11th had faded in his memory, along with everyone else’s.” It is with this backdrop that the plot begins, with Wells traveling around the world to chase down leads.  From Guatemala to Thailand to Hong Kong to Istanbul, Wells tries to find those responsible for conducting a complex Iranian campaign against the US and its allies.

Berenson stated to, “There are three scenarios.  First, are the Iranians serious with their intentions to drop the plan for getting a bomb because it is not worth the sanctions?  Second, is this just a delaying tactic to buy some immediate relief? Third, is it a complete head fake?  I wanted to show in my book all the risks, realizing that the Iranians are not friends of the US, and are a very dangerous, strategic enemy.  They killed hundreds of our soldiers in Iraq.  They used roadside bombs that were devastating to our soldiers.”

Unfortunately, readers will have to wait until next year to find out the plot’s resolution. Although many issues were solved, the ending to this book is a cliffhanger.  Berenson explained, “As I was outlining The Counterfeit Agent I realized that I had too much story for a single 400 page novel. I think 400 or so pages is a natural comfortable length for books and I also wanted the challenge of writing a novel that would feel complete on its own; yet, offer a springboard for the next novel.  This is the first time I wrote a cliffhanger.  Having to wait a year is no different than a TV show.” 

The next book brings back the mysterious woman, Salome, who procured bomb grade uranium in Johannesburg and is heading the deception project.  Readers will be able to find out more about this character, seeing that a lot of her personality is similar to Wells: willing to give up a personal life for her duty.  This will lead to some tension between her and Wells that could end up in a relationship.

Just as in the current situation where no one knows the outcome of Iran’s gestures Berenson fans must also wait for his plot solution.  For now readers should be satisfied with The Counterfeit Agent since it is a geo-political thriller that is action packed, mimics the real world, and is full of surprises.

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Book Review - "City of Mirrors"

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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.

9781605984681_p0_v1_s260x420Melodie Johnson Howe’s latest serial novel, City of Mirrors, introduces the character Diana Poole.  She is one of those actresses where you recognize the face but cannot place the name.  The mystery is not whether Diana will find work but her discovery of a young actress’ body, Jenny Parson.  This book is a compelling view of Hollywood’s dark side as Diana, along with fixer Leo Heath, must find the killer or risk death.

Diana Poole is trying to put her life together after her husband’s death, and in need of money must find work, something not easy to do for an actress over forty.  She finally lands an acting job after being out of the business for a number of years.  Knowing that people in this business go to dangerous lengths to protect their images Diana realizes her life is in danger since she was the one to discover the murdered actress. She elicits the help of the fixer Heath and together they search out the killer while forming a bond.

The author “Hopes that my readers will like Diana and view her as someone they could sit down and have a cup of coffee with. She is a survivor in a business that many people, especially women, don’t survive.  My intention was to show what Hollywood is really like from a working actress, not a red carpet actress’, point of view.  Because people in this business have giant egos I am able to create an atmosphere of mayhem.”

Through Diana’s eyes readers will discover how the Hollywood rich and famous live. Having been an actress herself Howe knows the ins and outs of the Hollywood scene and magnificently intertwines it in the mystery, making “Hollywood” a supporting character.  Diana is someone witty, intelligent, likeable, and does not take herself too seriously.  Yet, she is also vulnerable, especially as she struggles to understand her relationship with her famous mother, Nora, who has recently died.

Howe noted to, “If you are a creative and driven person as my character Nora Poole was you find that there is a stronger need to be that red carpet actress than to be a loving mother. I think this happens a lot in Hollywood.  I want to explore more, probably in the next book, how it is that Hollywood children have no sense of home. Throughout my novels I write about the mother-daughter relationship.  Even though Diana was ill treated she is attempting to respect her mother.”

The title, City of Mirrors, says it all.  This novel is one reflection after another.  It is a complex tale with a dark and twisting plot.  The author blends humor and suspense to create a very interesting story.

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Book Review - "Hunting Shadows" by Charles Todd

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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 Books category on the far right side bar.

9780062237118_p0_v7_s260x420Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, once again has Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge attempting to solve a murder case.  Their books are part historical novels and part gripping thrillers that are always character based. Readers who live in the technology age should find it fascinating how the protagonists must solve the crimes by studying human character and behavior and not with DNA or forensic evidence. 

The plot begins when a sniper shoots a former British captain during a wedding at Ely Cathedral.  As the investigation widens a political candidate is also gunned down, with a witness claiming the shooter a monster.  Because of the double murder, Scotland Yard becomes involved and sends Ian Rutledge to investigate.  This tale becomes very complicated and complex as there are a number of twists regarding the suspects.

As in all Todd novels they explore different issues of the WWI era.  Through the voice of a dead comrade, Corporal Hamish, shell shock, known today as PTSD, is examined along with the attitude towards snipers.  Besides the subject of soldiers scarred by war readers are able to learn how young single women were doomed to spinsterhood due to the large number of men lost in the war.

The Todds told, “We put the quote about snipers, ‘I wasn’t ashamed of what I did. It saved lives, my skill,’ because in pre Viet Nam wars snipers were not looked upon favorably. Many of the British, during WWI, despised snipers, including their own. It wasn’t sporting to kill by sniping. It was not considered gentlemanly, shooting a man from ambush.  The attitude was not like it is today where the sniper skill is recognized as doing a service for their fellow teammates. In fact, in 1920 snipers lied to people on what they did in the war because of the shame.”

The setting takes on an importance as it becomes vital to the plot.  Through the vast descriptions, the reader feels as if they were in Rutledge’s motorcar.  The creaking windmill in the low-lying Fens along with the fog and heavy rain makes the mystery eerier. The authors noted that they do extensive research including “traveling to England at least once a year.  For this book we went to the Cathedral to scope out where the sniper could hide as he killed.  We wanted to find villages that were isolated which would fit into the storyline.  The landscape was very important to the plot.”

They gave a heads up about their next book, due out in the summer.  It will be a Bess Crawford novel, An Unwilling Accomplice. Bess is on leave from her duties in France and is asked to take a wounded soldier to the palace for a medal awards ceremony.  After the ceremony her charge disappears and she is blamed. This leads to her having to prove that she is not in any way involved in the conspiracy leading to his disappearance.

Hunting Shadows is cleverly written.  The reader is led down one path only to find through the many twists that there are other possibilities.  The story is very riveting and informative that will keep people’s attention throughout.

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Book Review - "Worthy Brown's Daughter" by Phillip Margolin

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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.

9780062195340_p0_v2_s260x420Worthy Brown’s Daughter, the latest book by Phillip Margolin, is a superb tale. Different genres are magnificently combined within the story: legal thriller, historical novel, romance, and western.  The novel is loosely based on true events from a 19th century Oregon case that presents many moral dilemmas.

Worthy Brown, a freed slave made a deal with his former employer, a powerful Portland lawyer, that he and his daughter would be released after a years worth of hard work.  After the employer reneged on his promise, Brown turns to the Oregon justice system, seeking the help of a lawyer, Matthew Penny to rescue and free his fifteen-year-old daughter from their former master, Calib Balfour. 

Margolin told, “I spent thirty years trying to figure out the plot and make it readable. Because it was based on a true case I tried to keep the emotional impact true to life.  There was this father who was kept from his daughter simply because of his color. I changed the time period from the 1840s to the 1860s to show my readers that Oregonians voted overwhelmingly, by 70%, to not have slavery when Oregon became a state.  Yet, by about that same percentage they voted to exclude blacks from living in Oregon unless they were there before the Constitution was passed.”

The book delves into many serious issues from the emotional impact of a father losing his daughter to slavery to losing the love of one’s life. That starts a domino effect when Worthy sues to free his daughter, which sets in motion events that lead to Worthy’s arrest for murder.  At the same time Margolin explores, through Matthew’s eyes, how someone handles losing a spouse and his struggles with the accompanying guilt that comes from finding a new love. He noted to, “I lost my wife Doreen in 2007.  There is this emotional element in the book which is me trying to handle her death.  When you are madly in love with someone and they die it’s the worst possible scenario. That is why I put this quote in my book, ‘death did not part people who truly loved each other.  A person was not only a body.  The body was a vessel that contained a person’s soul.  The way a person looked did not define her. It was her personality…’”

These two storylines are intertwined with a sub-plot of a deranged psychopath, Sharon Hill.  She uses her beauty and charm to entrap men like businessman, Benjamin Gilletee and a hanging Judge Jed Tyler.  Both men are powerful yet have barren personal lives that lead them to become infatuated with Hill.  Margolin skillfully links all the different themes and plots through the intriguing cast of characters.

Worthy Brown’s Daughter is a riveting and intriguing novel.  Through the plot very serious and powerful themes are examined.  Margolin brings the issues of slavery, abuse, life vs. death, and frontier justice to the forefront.  Readers will not want to put this exciting page-turner down.

He also wants to give a shout out to those serving. Margolin decided to participate in a USO Tour this past October.  He traveled to bases and hospitals to tell the men and women serving how much they were appreciated.  Instead of eating in the special designated place, he and the other authors ate in the mess hall sitting amongst the soldiers. He told he hopes military readers enjoy his books.

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Book Review: "The Kill Order" by Robin Burcell

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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.

9780062273710_p0_v2_s260x420Robin Burcell’s latest novel, The Kill Order, comes right out of the NSA scandal.  Although written a year ago she delves into the notion that a secret government agency will spy on friends and foes via their computers.  Known for writing about political espionage and conspiracy theories she has written an action and adventure story involving a cat/mouse game with computer technology.

This book brings back all the characters from the ATLAS series including Sydney Fitzpatrick and Zachary Griffin.  Sydney still works for the FBI as a forensic artist but finds herself being outsourced to the ATLAS crew, a US intelligence agency that is off the charts and works clandestinely outside and inside the US.

In this book, Burcell explores the personal relationship between FBI Agent Fitzpatrick and ATLAS operative, Griffin, focusing on how a couple can overcome guilt, confusion, and the hurt based upon untruths.  The Kill Order, the fourth book in the series, has Sydney changing from a rule follower, someone who is black and white, to someone who believes in grey areas.  Being heavily influenced by the ATLAS group she bends the rule for the greater good, emphasis on the good. 

This book continues where the last book left off so it is better to read the series in order. The plot has Sydney being hunted along with Piper Lawrence since both accidentally came upon a very important code.  This code, known as the Devil’s Key, is invaluable and must never fall into the wrong hands.  Having eidetic memory Piper remembers strings of random numbers she has seen, which includes the code. Sydney, on the other hand, recovered it while investigating her father’s murder. Thus, the President issued a “kill order,” for anyone who has knowledge of it. The cat and mouse game begins as both good guys and bad search to get their hands on the “Devil’s Key,” because it could seemingly devastate America’s entire infrastructure.

Burcell noted to, “I wanted to show in this book how we have lost our privacy.  We see in my current storyline how we carry around in our pockets mini computers with our cell phones.  People know where we are and what we are saying.  What is scary is that there are countries like China that make our phones which means control goes out the window.  I hope my book encourages readers to question what is currently happening with technology. As far as the NSA let’s remember that our government is made up of individuals.  What I did with this book is use “the Devil’s Key,” based on a software that interconnects things.  Allegedly, the person who built this software put in a “back door” at the request of the US government so they could spy on people using it.  After it was discovered, by I believe Canada, people started to get killed.”

The Kill Order is a gripping account of what could happen in today’s technology age.  It is a very suspenseful novel whose action begins from page one and never lets up.

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Book Review - "Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge" By Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

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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 on the far right side bar.

9781595231079_p0_v1_s260x420Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker recently wrote a compelling book, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge. This book, co-written with Marc Thiessen, is not an autobiography but is a gripping account of his early years as Governor.  It delves into his recollection of the high profile fights over pension reform and bringing spending under control.

Whatever are one’s politics, readers should be outraged the way the Governor and his supporters were treated from the nasty rhetoric to the mob scene mentality.  The Governor and his family were repeatedly threatened, legislators who supported him had their house vandalized, Walker was repeatedly called a Nazi, and his supporters were compared to terrorists. In the book, the Governor quoted President Obama’s speech after Congresswomen Gabby Giffords was shot, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”  Walker then goes on to say, “Those words apparently fell on deaf ears in Madison.”

The book focuses on his decision to reform the state’s employee’s pensions and take on the way the Union forced membership.  He explains how he could have either raised taxes, laid off thousands of public workers, cut Medicaid or school budgets, or reform collective bargaining.  He chose the latter, explaining, “Rather than a right, collective bargaining has turned out to be an expensive entitlement.  It denies hardworking taxpayers their ‘right’ to the efficient delivery of public services.”

He told, that it was insane that a Wisconsin bus driver was “Madison’s highest paid city government employee last year.  In addition, before I became Governor, a teacher was laid off even though she was chosen as the outstanding teacher of the year.  She was fired because she was the last hired so the first fired under the then collective bargaining system.”

Because he was able to communicate this to the residents of Wisconsin, and show how the reforms implemented would change things for the better, he overwhelmingly won a recall election.  He received more votes for his second Gubernatorial election than the first.  He noted to, “We won by explaining to the people in real relative terms why we were on their side.  The winning combination for a Republican is to mix logic with the emotion of the heart.”

In the latter part of the book, Walker explains his model of leadership.  All politicians, regardless of political party, should take note that he kept his campaign promises by making bold and necessary decisions.  He came into office with a fiscal crisis and actually fixed it. Prior to his election, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit, an unemployment rate of 7.8%, and a 27% increase in property taxes.  Under his leadership Wisconsin now enjoys a $342 million budget surplus, a decline in property taxes, and an unemployment rate of 6.7%. He commented directly, “A good leader has to fix things but also communicate to the people they represent what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

Regardless of one’s ideology, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge, is a must read.  Governor Walker should be recognized for being a leader of principle, action, and resolve.  He was able to offer those in his state big, bold, and positive solutions through the reforms implemented.  As he said in the book’s dedication to his sons, “I want them to live in an America as great as the one I grew up in,” and noted “What we need to do is to think more about the next generation than we do about the next election.”

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Book Review - Exclusive Interview with W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV

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First, I had the honor of receiving an advance copy of Hazardous Duty and thought it was the most different but interesting W.E.B. Griffin book that I've read...and I have read them all...yes, all of them (the first one, The LTs, I bought at the Airborne School shopette at Benning in the mid 80s).  I think two whole shelves of my small library 

While reading Hazardous Duty, I kept thinking this book was written like an Elmore Leonard or Joseph Heller. Turns out, Griffin wrote the M*A*S*H books in the 70s, and knowing this will help you enjoy his work even more. Fan of Griffin books or not, I believe that you will find the latest note from Elise Cooper very interesting.

9780399160677_p0_v1_s260x420Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV is the latest book in the Presidential Agent Series.  Unfortunately for those who enjoyed these adventures this will be the last installment.  The plot is a satirical look on how the US President handles national security from the Mexican Drug Cartels to Somali pirates holding three tankers for ransom.  The President calls upon members of his cabinet, and Lieutenant Colonel Carlos “Charley” G. Castillo to resolve these problems.  The rest of the story is how Castillo and the Secretary of State, Natalie Cohen, deals with a President gone crazy that leaves readers with an amusing storyline. 

Elise Cooper had the privilege of interviewing Griffin and his son Butterworth IV for You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

EC:  Why did you write a satire about US politicians?

Griffin:  I felt I had to write it as a satire.  I am really outraged how people have changed.  What ever happened to duty and country?  I turned this book into a sort of M*A*S*H type story involving the White House and Langley so readers could possibly forget for a minute or so the mess we have in Washington D.C. I had a lot of fun in writing it and hope that people will see some parts are very funny, especially the parts with the porn queen.  I wrote it because I was at a low point and was disgusted at what was happening here in the US. 

Butterworth IV:  The reason dad could not write this as a serious book is because of the moral indignation coming out of Washington D.C.  Just look at the outrageous decision to reduce the military retirement as part of the budget.  It is one more thing being jammed down our throat.  Many of the politicians today have never served so they don’t understand what someone in the military has to go through. 

EC:  So what will you replace this series with?

Griffin:  A new series about the Cold War and the formation of the OSS, the prelude to the CIA. The first book in the Clandestine Operations series, published next year, will be called Top Secret and the main character will be Second Lieutenant James D. Cronley JR. It is already written and I am currently writing the second novel.  The initial book is about how those in the clandestine service had to fight the FBI, the Russians, and a lot of others.  I think it is interesting because of the details of the people involved like Reinhard Gehlen, who wound up as chief of the West German intelligence in the 1950s. Of course I had to change the names but kept some similarities so people will know what I am talking about. I made sure to put all those “nice charming Russians” in it like Stalin.

EC:  In Hazardous Duty and in the new book Top Secret you do not hide your feelings about the Russians.  For example in this latest book a character throws darts at Putin’s face.  Please comment.

Griffin:  I wanted to show how Putin is a very dangerous man.  He is a merciless, tough guy who, in my opinion, is smarter than our President.  He will do whatever is necessary for Russia, which is not in our interests.  In the new book I hope to show how Russia has always been an imperialistic power that wanted to control the world. 

EC:  You also continue to write about the drug cartels.  What do you want the readers to get out of this type of subject?

Butterworth IV:  This money is driving corruption to all levels of politicians.  It’s an ongoing job to fight the Cartels.  As in Laredo and El Paso, which we describe in this book, there is a spill over of drug violence from Mexico.  All the major crossroads have it.  For example, I-35 in Dallas is a major stepping off point for the drugs to travel across the country from Miami to Houston.  It’s being distributed like regular commerce and is not a pleasant picture. 

EC:  At the beginning of the book there was a very nice dedication, “Our nation owes these Patriots a debt beyond payment.”  Please comment

Griffin:  I did it because I admire these guys and gals.  They are the heavy hitters who have done a lot for our country.  Today I am afraid that those serving in the military and CIA are being taken for granted.  They are not in it for the glory, but for G-d, country, and family.

EC:  Did you base the characters on anyone in particular?

Griffin: Not the President whose character was designed to entertain.  Regarding the Secretary of State Natalie Cohen I liked her and made sure she is a good person and an interesting character.  She is very honorable, soft spoken, the voice of reason, and could see into a problem.  I am a great admirer of Condoleezza Rice who I possibly based Natalie on.  Rice is bright as a button and a very delicate lady.

EC:  What is it like working together?

Griffin:  We are two strong willed people.  (Jokingly) William never pays the proper respect to me as his father and an old man.  Seriously, Billie is a great editor and a writer. 

Butterworth IV: Since dad is the master if he says this is a good way to do it I do it.  We know how the other thinks and we attempt to write stuff knowing that the other will not object to it.  There is always a positive to our questioning each other.  We write by Skyping, emailing, and talking to each other. We are able to do it because we can easily go back and forth with emails. 

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

Butterworth IV:  It will be a Matt Payne novel. The plot has Matt being haunted by some of what he did in the past.  He has the bad guys after him and some unfounded accusations from the good guys.  He has to survive both.  It was grounded in that all the various good guys, whether spooks, the military, or cops have to deal with the revenge factor.  Some of the guys who do their job very quietly get thrown under the bus and get burned with no one ever hearing about it.  They are all from the same breed and are the same kind of guy who protects all of us. There is a great cross over between all these groups. 


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