Book Review - "The Iron Major Survival Guide" by David W. Dunphy

This book is f#cking awesome.  

BLUF:  First off, this book should be read by every military officer and senior NCO.  Second, I wish I had one back when I was a Group S2/S3Air or the Brigade Training Officer in the 3 shop.  It is useful for all but I would strongly recommend that all 2nd LTs and ensigns have a copy.  This is what they DON'T teach you in ROTC or the Academies or OCS...


Penned with a wry wit, LTC Dunphy outlines the do's and, more importantly, the don'ts of leadership from a staff officer's perspective.  Politically incorrect as hell, Dunphy has items like "mouth breather" alerts and "bush league/amateur hour" statements.  As I read through the survival guide last night, I found myself nodding in agreement or outright laughing along with the author.  However, the book is not about entertaining Major B, it is about making Major B a far better officer than he thinks he is.

With chapters like "The Beer Math of Doctrinal Consumption", Dunphy usually opens up with some smart-ass remark that then evolves into the lesson to be learned. Por ejemplo, in the section about building a solid relationship with your commander, Dunphy starts with, "Fight the close fight and run the daily operations of the Battalion so your boss can look at the big picture, fight the deep fight, and make out with the good idea fairy." before outlining some common sense methods to accomplish that goal. 

While most of the information should be intuitive, with 15+ hour days, deployments and field work, leaders may miss some/most of the points made by Dunphy. The survival guide serves as reminders to us all on (1) what to focus on, (2) what not to step in, (3) how to be a better leader and (4) how not be f#cked up like polio.

Book Review - "Shadow War" by Sean McFate

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

Shadow War
is the debut novel by Sean McFate.  Unlike other thrillers involving geo-politics this does not have a covert organization sanctioned and working secretly with those in the US government.   This Tom Locke series involves an organization that hires private contractors/mercenaries to complete missions.  The many characters do not do it for love of country, but are “for-profit warriors.”

McFate hopes readers will learn more about contractors.  “I wanted to give them a real face.  They are human beings who are not stock villains and do have a warrior ethos.  I wanted to shed light on these new types of warriors. I think they will be used more and more because they allow for plausible deniability, are cheaper, and can provide manpower.  They are a way for administrations to have a lack of transparency, oversight, and accountability.  For example we have 3500 troops on the ground in Iraq, but 7000 contractors.  Remember Senator Obama proposed legislation against private military contractors that President Obama has not touched.  Those in the arena are doing their best given limited time and information and have to work under terrible circumstances.  General McChrystal understood this and was the best military commander I had the privilege to work with.  He is the real deal.  He will go to hell and back with his troops.”

The main character, Tom Locke, is based on McFate’s own experiences. Both served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers, and later worked as a private military contractors.  This allows McFate to create stories with realism and authenticity that encompass deceit, corruption, and wars fought both by “soldiers” on the battlefield and by men wearing suits behind closed doors.

McFate drew all the characters from people he knew.  He stated to, “Locke is a lot like me although more damaged and bad assed. His best friend Miles was an actual person, modeled after my platoon sergeant and was like an older brother to me. Locke and I served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers from 1992 - 2000, and later worked as private military contractors. Locke is still a contractor while I am now a professor at Georgetown University, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and associate professor at National Defense. The differences are I did not have the actual mission assigned to Locke in the Ukraine, but we both worked on stopping genocides, arms deals, and went after African warlords.  Locke’s boss Brad Winters is a composite of two to three people.  As he is portrayed in the book, the bosses are extremely smart, Machiavellian, shrewd, very ambitious, who work for their own interests without any scruples.” 

This captivating plot has terrifying power plays and treachery that can tip the balance of power towards Russia’s Putin. Apollo Outcomes, one of the world’s most successful private contracting firms, assigns Locke a dangerous mission.  He has one week to rescue a Ukraine wealthy businessman’s family, and lead an assault on Russian forces to place that rich oligarch in a position of influence and leadership.  With a team of highly trained mercenaries and careful planning it appears he will accomplish the mission.  Getting in the way of success is Alie Macfarlane, an old love who stumbles, unluckily, back into his life at the very worst time imaginable and his boss, Brad Winters, is engaged in a secretive, high-stakes geopolitical chess game with influential power brokers in capitals around the world.

The author sees Putin as a threat to the US and wrote this as a preview of what could happen.  “In future years the rise of nationalism will allow Putin to move into Eastern Europe through shadow wars. Remember he thought the worst event of the 20th Century was the dismantlement of the Soviet Union.  He has a Czarist ambition for Eastern Europe. This plot shows how he might do it.  In this Internet age someone like Putin will take over a country, not like the Soviets did, but through disruption and installing a puppet to rule.  It is done with massive propaganda, Internet trolls, proxy militia, mercenaries, and “Little Green Men,” Russian soldiers without Russian insignia on their fatigues. Putin understands America will probably not risk World War III over Article 5 of NATO.”

Shadow War is a gripping believable story filled with suspense and intrigue. Readers will learn about the shadowy covert world of private contractors/mercenaries and how wars might be fought in the future.  The grittiness of the main character, Tom Locke, adds to the plotline.  Anyone looking for a different type of thriller should put this book on their radar.  Readers will look forward to the future adventures of Locke.

Book Review - "Ghosts of War" by Brad Taylor

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

9780525954927_p0_v1_s192x300Ghosts Of War by Brad Taylor blends humor, action, and history.  Anyone who was a fan of the late legendary thriller author Vince Flynn should read Taylor, the heir apparent to the Mitch Rapp series with his Pike Logan books.  The realistic scenarios, technology, and military operations keep the plot moving and insightful.

Asked about the humorous scenes the author responded, “Maybe because I am a smart aleck.  While writing something might strike me as funny so I put it in the book. Regarding the believability, I make sure I always go back and answer every question. For example, when writing scene x I think why wouldn’t they just call the police? Another example, I can have Pike driving a car, reach for something and swerve into another lane.  But, if I put that scene into the story people will say ‘how convenient.’ I always think of a good explanation for why the characters do what they do.  I actually become a reader since every 100 pages I go back and reread the story to make sure nothing jumps out.”

He is also able to use his experiences to enhance the story.  Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army infantry, he served for twenty-one years, retiring as a Special Forces Lt. Colonel.  While in the Delta unit he conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations.

This story begins with Pike and Company sidelined because the Taskforce, an illegal off the books group, has been put on hold.  While on stand down, two Israeli contractors, Shoshana and Aaron, hire Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill to help find hidden items stolen by the Nazis. This part of the book uses history to formulate the fictional scenes as the heroes struggle to attain an ancient Torah.  The backstory about the Nazi gold trains explained how the Jewish people were stripped of everything valuable: gold, paintings, wedding rings, and ancient artifacts while they were loaded into cattle cars.

Meanwhile Russia is trying to expand its influence under the guise of fighting terrorism by moving into Belaurs, a country in Eastern Europe on its border. Russian President Putin uses oligarchs and thugs, the Night Wolves, to create a diversion. Having an agenda of their own, they attempt to create a scenario that will cause World War III between the US and Russia that includes shooting down an American aircraft.   With time running out, and America demanding vengeance, Pike and his partner Jennifer enlist the Israelis to help them race to unravel who is involved before a point of no return is reached.

Fast checking this story: the Night Wolves are an actual motorcycle organization, thugs who work for Putin to stop any protests. Putin is trying to leverage countries for their natural resources. Unfortunately, many of the countries in Russia’s sphere of influence can by taken over without any risk of war, since NATO troops have been depleted.  The main antagonist Simon Migonuv is based on a Russian oligarch, the head of a crime syndicate, influential in running the gas pipelines, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list, and has a passport from Israel. Regarding the Nazi gold trains, Taylor noted when he was in Poland doing the research he actually saw these tunnels that he speculates could have possibly been used to build super weapons.

All of Taylor’s books have a reoccurring realistic theme of how US policy is determined by politics while citizens’ lives sometimes take a back seat.  Quotes reflect this opinion such as when the taskforce commander, Kurt Hale states, “Politics trumps security every time,” and “Ignore what the damn politicians say.  You’re the president now.  Not a member of a political party.”

He explained to, “The world is not black and white. During the crisis with Apollo 13 the effort was made to save three lives.  Yet, if an individual hostage is taken as in the case in Syria there might be no effort to get them back, especially if it means risking war.”

As the series progresses so does Taylor’s character development.  He explores the relationship between Jennifer and Pike, as well as between Shoshana and Aaron.  Beyond that readers begin to understand that Jennifer is more comfortable in her Taskforce role and that Shoshana’s backstory has created the person she is today.  These scenes are interesting, emotional, and sometimes funny as the characters banter lightens the intensity.

Taylor commented, “I was going to kill Shoshana and Aaron in the first book they appeared in, but I liked them so much I decided to keep them alive.  In this book we understand why Shoshana was broken from day one.  She looks up to Pike and Jennifer and in many ways wants to emulate them as she searches to find her way.  She admires Jennifer for her moral compass and feels that Pike is a brother to her.  Although Shoshana and Aaron will not be in my next book, Ring of Fire, out in January, they will be the subjects of the short story, The Target, out next year.”

Ghosts Of War is action packed, fast-paced, and gripping.  With each book readers get to know more of the characters’ personalities, making the story more enjoyable to read. Not only will people have a riveting story, well-developed characters, some historical background, but will also enjoy Taylor’s pop culture references.

Book Review - "American Underdog" by Congressman David Brat

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

9781455539918_p0_v1_s192x300American Underdog written by Congressman David Brat discusses how Americans need to return to the moral and economic lessons of Classical Greece and Judeo-Christian values. He emphasizes the need to protect future generations through a solid Conservative agenda.  The Congressman was interviewed regarding important issues of the day.

People might think of him as the 21st Century “Mr. Smith”, or “Dave” Kovic. David Brat resembles these movie characters, a citizen politician, a single voice who tries to put their imprint on American politics and policy.  Brat is known for his odds defying win in 2014 against the then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat was a little known economics and ethics professor who ran against the Washington establishment of his own party. He noted in the book, “In politics, I believe that true power derives from the people…I began my run for office out of the simple recognition that the establishment and oversized federal government are out of touch with the desires of voters and more responsive legislators are needed immediately.”

Winning the Congressional seat for the 7th District of Virginia was a spark that preceded the recent rise of Donald Trump and the Brexit election where voters want leaders to represent them, not a bunch of elitists.  He commented, “Lovers of liberty everywhere should cheer the Brexit vote. The British chose clearly and decisively to take their power back from elites in Europe and to throw off the shackles of punishing rules and regulations handed down by disconnected and unaccountable officials. The people of my district, just as the people of Britain did a few days ago, proved that regular people with legitimate concerns, who play by the rules but feel like they are treated as second-class citizens in their own country, will speak out. The English need to reclaim their culture, borders, and a free economic system.”

What is important for the Congressman is returning to what he considers the three pillars of America’s foundation: moral tradition, rule of law, and the free market system.  He compares what happened in England; how a nation state, took back its sovereignty, to what should happen in the US, with states’ rights and the Congressional branch regaining their power.  He noted, “The Tenth Amendment says the Federal Government has certain powers, but the rest belongs to the states.  Then there is Congress.  I am working with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) regarding an Article I project, which says Congress should make all laws.  The Senator has a picture in his office from 2013, which shows how Congress passed five inches of law compared to the Executive Branch, the President, that had eleven feet. This is a huge difference. This is happening because Congressional members do not want to take a hard vote on anything.”

He cites three examples.  First, the Corker Bill allowed for the passage of the Iran Nuclear Deal.  “This was unconstitutional because it changed the Senate voting on treaties from a 2/3 vote to a 1/3 vote.  Another example is Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX) who tried to stop the refugee flow into this country from terrorist hot spots. “Yet, the Republican leadership refused to consider it, but put a 400% increase in H2B visas in last year’s budget.  They did not do the right thing, and moved 180% in the opposite direction.”  His final example is how then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) promised that he would thwart President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty.  “However, we did not fight it at all.  We did nothing. The standard joke in Washington is ‘it is easy to compromise. Just vote to spend more money.’ In the last two years we had three million immigrants and just last months job report said we created only 38,000 jobs.  Do the math on the job front. 0.7% growth is not sustainable. This is what I am trying to change.”

The book also explains in great detail how Congress must deal with the issue of mandatory spending.  He noted to, “In ten years all Federal revenues will go only to our mandatory programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.  There will not be a dollar left for the military, education, transportation, or anything else.  We will have to deficit finance the entire budget.  This is coming from the report of the Congressional Budget Office.  As representatives, we need to tell the American people about taxes and spending.  We need to explain how our children will not have any basic systems in about fifteen years.  We should be presenting in a clear and understandable way the different options and what will result from each.  We are not doing this.  Republican leadership has left a giant vacuum.”

Congressman Brat has taken a pledge to only serve for twelve years.  He thinks part of the solution is to have Congress make hard choices, and to have term limits.  If there were more Representatives like Brat something might actually get done in Congress.  He is the real life Mr. Smith and Dave, humble and honest with good ideas.  Now if only others in Congress can follow his lead.

Book Review of eco-thriller "Hell's Gate" by Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch

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

9780062412522_p0_v3_s192x300Hell’s Gate by Bill Schutt with J. R. Finch is an eco-thriller.  Combining geo-politics with zoology Schutt uses his knowledge to create this plot involving creatures during World War II.  He is a University professor with a specialty in vertebrate zoology, and a research assistant to the American Museum of Natural History. 

Schutt commented to, “I went to this place in Brazil and thought how it would be a good setting.  Since I am a World War II buff I wanted to combine my profession, with my hobby, and this wonderful place.  At the time of the plot this place was very isolated, where I imagined the possibility of Germany moving its rocket scientists here, a place that could never be found and would be hard to attack. The creatures are based on my studies of vampire bats that lived in this region.  The creatures in the story actually existed.”

The plot has the US military parachuting into the Brazilian jungle Captain R. J. MacCready. He enters into Hell’s Gate, a huge plateau that is one of the most remote regions in the world.  Each character has a special skill to help solve the mysterious puzzle: MacCready is the expert on bats, a quick-witted, brilliant, scientific jack-of-all-trades zoologist, who is unexpectedly reunited with his friend and botanist, Bob Thorne, thought to be dead, and his wife, Yanni, who possesses cryptic skills.  Together they learn of a diabolical Axis plot to destroy America and its allies, and a creepy dark force that attacks at night. The plot has the protagonists trying to save humanity from the Nazis who are attempting to launch a major rocket and a creature, Desmodus draculae, similar to the vampire bats, that has migrated there.

Since the setting is almost a secondary character Schutt used his own experiences of spending nights “in the rain forest and living in caves.  I wanted to get across to the readers what it would be like to be there alone at night: what it would sound like, smell like, and able to crawl around the floor of a cave. I have been up all night in a tree with no one around.”

His next book will be about the natural history of cannibalism out on Valentine’s Day. The sequel to Hell’s Gate, out next year, will have MacCready wearing much warmer clothing and takes place two years later.

As with all of his books, Schutt wants to make sure he is able to include his zoologist background to enhance the plot. Hell’s Gate has vivid descriptions of the rain forest with the authors evoking the dangers of nature.  Combining that with the dangers of Nazi science development the plot has a very adventurous tone.

Book Review - "Jane Doe January" by Emily Winslow

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

9780062434807_p0_v2_s192x300Jane Doe January by crime writer Emily Winslow is a personal memoir of a horrific tragedy, a rape she was forced to endure. While turning the pages people will get fresh insight into the world of the victim as Winslow confronts issues. Readers will begin to understand how there is no set stereotype for a victim, since not everyone is going to act and feel the same way. 

Winslow commented to, “I tried to understand and accept that the jury could only like me if I conformed to some very narrow range of emotion.  I could not be angry.  When on the stand I would have to show emotions of vulnerability and hurt; yet, hold back on other emotions.  I wondered how do you let sadness show but keep anger in, and be vulnerable but keep my dignity.” 

Through this book Winslow takes readers on a journey with her as she delves into her past, reconnects with the original detective on her case, and works with prosecutors as they prepare for a trial.  The story travels back in time to the morning in January 1992 when she was raped.  Over the course of the next two decades she marries, has two children, becomes an American expatriate living in Cambridge England, and becomes a crime writer. The story reveals how she had to become her own legal advocate to get possible retribution.  She would encounter a revolving door of detectives as she tried to keep her case alive through inquiries.  Only through pure luck, when a friend of another victim convinces a cold case detective to test the DNA, do they find the rapist, Arthur Fryar.  After matches were found to provide sufficient evidence he was prosecuted in 2013.  Although the ending would not be happily ever after Winslow did get the truth and some kind of justice.

The most interesting points are when Winslow displays her emotions.  She does not comply with the usual portrayals of rape victims as seen on the TV shows. Readers learn how she did not shy away from the rapist, but became obsessed with him, taking to social media to find as many facts as she could by delving into his family and past.  Beyond that she talks to the reader through her writings, letting them know that she is not going to forgive him and that she is not going to cower, instead showing feelings of anger and defiance.  Finally, people see how the judicial system can let down a victim as Winslow confronts extradition, statutory limits, and sentencing guidelines.

She wants people to understand there is no one fits all type of victim noting, “It’s like people want the victims to follow a script.  I write in the book, ‘What I feel is that I would like him to be sentenced long enough that he will surely die in prison.’ Yet, it seems so important to people that I forgive him.  I think they want it so I would go along with the perfect victim story.  Being a devout Christian, I tried to figure out what forgiveness was supposed to look like.  It was like they were trying to rationalize reasons for my attitude.  They wanted me to say I was testifying to save potential future victims.  I thought what happened to me is enough of a reason to testify.  People tried to see me as selfless, which I gently corrected.”

Jane Doe January is very powerful because it allows people to think how they would have reacted.  It is written in almost a diary form as Winslow recounts her quest to seek justice in a very open and honest way.  People should read this memoir to get invaluable insight into the mind and heart of a victim.

Book Review - "Wake Up America" by Eric Bolling

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

9781250121905_p0_v1_s192x300Wake Up America should be the rallying cry for everyone who wants the United States to be great again.  It is also the name of The Five co-host Eric Bolling’s book.  He presents in it a clear vision for this nation, which has gone adrift over the last seven years.  The book starts off powerfully with a dedication to President Obama and takes off from there as he explains why there is a need to return to the nine virtues of America’s past. Bolling talks about his book with

The qualities he writes about are grit, manliness, individualism, merit, profit and providence, dominion over our environment, thrift, and above all pride in this country. Bolling speaks of his background, raised in a struggling blue-collar family in Chicago, where he learned from his parents that hard work and firm values will allow someone to get ahead in life. Those values drove him as a young baseball player to being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, then success as a New York Mercantile Exchange trader, and now his daily role on Fox News Channel.

The book begins with a dedication to President Obama, “If it weren’t for your announced goal of ‘fundamentally transforming the United States of America,’ I wouldn’t have been to exceedingly motivated to write this book to stop you and your liberal pals from achieving that goal. America will survive your agenda.” 

He explained, “I did the dedication because this upcoming election is extremely important.  It is the last shot we have for at least eight years, maybe longer.  We need to push back against President Obama’s stated goal of not making America exceptional on the world stage. The President has done everything in his power to achieve the goal of undermining American exceptionalism.  We were built on having the strongest work ethic, the motivation to achieve, and the desire to have free market capitalism.”

One group that exemplifies these virtues is the US military. In the “Grit” chapter he wrote, “There are a few major exceptions to today’s ‘softness indoctrination.’ The biggest and by far most important is the US military.  Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are among the toughest, grittiest folks to ever walk the planet.” Bolling circles back to the Obama dedication as he blames this administration for “questioning the actions of our forces, which has allowed us to go from a winning strategy to a losing one.”

How many people have been frustrated with political correctness?  Bolling shows his exasperation calling it “defeatist crap…a huge number of Americans think trying to make everyone equal is the right thing to do. For example, a school board's decision in North Carolina to stop naming valedictorians over the ‘unhealthy competition’ is an example of liberalism run amok. What they are saying, ‘it is not ok to work hard and succeed.’ It is a ‘everyone gets a trophy culture.’  We need to emphasize winning, being in first place or the Asian countries like China will eat us for lunch.  The top ten countries in math, science, and reading are the Asian countries.  We're becoming a nation of wussies. Let's stop America's slide into the liberal abyss. People are fed up with political correctness and are tired of being told what to say, how to say it, and who to say it to.”

The “Manliness” chapter is not intended to offend women.  Bolling explains that he did not want it misinterpreted. “I did not mean it as some kind of sexist statement, man versus woman, but based it on the word ‘mankind.’ We need to be strong, forward, and to say what we think.  Margaret Thatcher epitomized manliness for standing by her values.”

In the “Profit” chapter there is the implication that words such as profit and successful are dirty words to the Liberals.  But isn’t it more than that, it is also the hypocrisy?  Hillary Clinton speaks of her gender; yet, is relying on her two male bookends, President Obama and Bill Clinton.  She also speaks of income inequality, but has made a fortune since being First Lady.  Bolling thinks “being a hypocrite is anonymous with being a liberal.  Hillary talks of income inequality, but gets hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at a college. If she cares for college students’ welfare give the speeches for free. And she speaks of being the first female president at the same time she says her husband will run the economy.”

Bolling has made great points because Americans are asleep.  Just refer to what Jonathan Gruber said about Obamacare and what Ben Rhodes said about the Iran Deal, pulling the wool over people’s eyes.  The common theme in the book is the need to wake-up, to push back against this liberal culture, by returning to the values of what America is founded on.

Book Review - "A Certain Age" by Beatriz Williams

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

9780062404954_p0_v2_s192x300A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams is part mystery, part historical, and part romance that is based upon Richard Strauss’ opera, Der Rosenkavalier.  It has a gripping plot involving family secrets, an unsolved murder, intrigue, and scandal during the l920s. The title is a metaphor for the time period and the age of each character that is very relevant to the storyline. 

The narrative alternates between the perspective of Sophie Fortescue and Theresa  Marshall with each chapter beginning with a quote from the actual journalist and humorist Helen Rowland.  As the story unfolds readers understand that socialite Theresa, age 44, is having a love affair with Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome twenty-two year old aviator and hero of World War I.  She enlists him to act as her brother’s cavalier to present the family’s engagement ring.  After meeting Sophie Octavian becomes enthralled with her.  With the love triangle progressing the saga emphasizes divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists.

Williams once commented that she wants to make her characters interesting with a likeable and unlikeable side.  She has certainly achieved her goal in this book.

Octavian is honorable and loyal, yet appears to be somewhat of a “wus” in the relationship with Theresa.  He allows her to take complete control and while professing his love for her falls head over heals for Sophie. 

She wrote him as a hero who “sacrificed for his country and had to deal with the fact that many of his friends died in the war.  An aviator in WWI has a life span of about six weeks.  He had survivor’s guilt.  He understands he has the power to walk away, but would never do that because it would break his code of loyalty, obligation, and honor.  He loves Theresa because she needs him and has brought him back to life. Theresa’s hurt heals through the love of Octavian while his war wounds heal through her.  The challenge is making readers understand the dynamics of each relationship.” 

Theresa has had a hard time in her life, forced into a marriage at a young age, having her husband cheat on her from day one, has a still born daughter, and loses her favorite son during WWI.  But she is also very manipulative and controlling.  It seems that Octavian to her is no more than a plaything as she calls him Boyo, never by his name, and orders him around as if he is her servant. 

Williams wanted, “readers to sympathize with her.  She has iron around her heart because she has been hurt over and over again.  The shield she hides behind is to appear uncaring.  Her emotional intimacy is expressed through sexual intimacy with Octavian.  She needs to be in complete control of their complicated relationship.”

Sophie is an innocent, gutsy woman who strives for independence and symbolizes the women of that era who challenged the role society has pigeonholed for them.

An added bonus Williams has become known for are the descriptive and detailed happenings of the 1920s, which add depth to the story.  Through the characters people see the conflict between old and new money, the demeanor of Ty Cobb, the famous horse Man O’ War, as well as the growing importance of the new technologies, the automobile and airplane. 

Coming from a middle class life in suburban Seattle, Williams commented to, she went “on vacation with her family to Oregon for the Shakespeare festival.  It was a very absorbing experience with my parents always coaching us about the plays so we knew what is going on.  Since my parents had intellectual interests and were not into the pop culture it made it hard for me to relate to people growing up.  Now as an adult I look on it as my secret weapon.  I love Shakespeare and operas and I don’t care if that makes me a geek.  I feel very fortunate because it helped influence my writings.  Anyone who pays attention to Shakespeare sees the relationship conflict, which is the centerpiece for my books, when characters are placed into emotional jeopardy.” 

Those who read her books will never be disappointed.  She creates a suspenseful plot with characters that are three-dimensional.

Book Review - "Field Of Graves" by J.T. Ellison

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

9780778318927_p0_v3_s192x300Field Of Graves, by J. T. Ellison, the first book in the Taylor Jackson series, is a great read.  Those who have never read this series will enjoy a gripping story with well-developed characters.  Fans of this series will learn about the characters’ backstories, sometimes seeing them in a different light.

The story has two characters facing their demons, Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. They both must overcome the psychological scars of killing their co-workers, either directly or indirectly.  Forgiveness is a major theme where they have to forgive themselves to survive. They work together to help each other recover and to find a serial killer who is murdering Vanderbilt college students in Nashville. Part of the team is medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, a friend of Taylors.  Ellison takes readers on a journey with Taylor’s team, the Murder Squad, as they attempt to find who is responsible for the killings.  As the story notes, “The Murder Squad” is not based on the Scotland Yard detectives in the Victorian era, but high elite Nashville homicide detectives whose closure rate was 83%.

What makes the story so compelling is the interaction between the characters.  Anyone following the series will see how they have grown and changed over the past decade.  Samantha is still blunt and a sister-like best friend to Taylor, but they have seemed to change roles. While Samantha is happy and carefree, Taylor is tough, smart, likeable, and has a troubled edge.  Her kindred spirit is Dr. John Baldwin, someone she saved emotionally.  He is nothing like the person in the later novels, behaving tough as nails.  Together they have unconditional love and make each other whole. 

Ellison writes Taylor as being very black and white, without any grey. She came up with the character because she wanted a female homicide detective “with a moral compass who is half cop, half rock star, and someone who loves her town of Nashville.  I did not want her to be this tortured female who did not have the respect of her peers. But rather, someone good at what she does and is accepted for her intelligence and ability.  I wanted to make sure my heroine was not a victim. I would describe her as Athena, the warrior-goddess of Nashville.”

A loveable supporting character is Jade the cat that adds to the storyline.  Ellison noted to, “Jade is my muse.  She is real.  I had lost a cat and was unemployed when I found Jade.  I adopted her and after taking her to a vet I found a job there.  I actually hurt my back picking up a dog, and while recovering decided to become a crime writer like John Sandford.   I chose the Nashville setting because I wanted to learn more about my new town.  The world knows it as the home of country music, yet it’s a much more complex, dynamic city than it first appears, and has a cosmopolitan air. We have the old South rubbing elbows with newfound fame and fortune. We have a serious dichotomy between the upper and lower classes, and a lot of crime.”

She writes three series. Her latest is A Brit In the FBI, with legendary author Catherine Coulter.  The next book, out in March of next year, has the FBI delving into the history of the Ark of the Covenant.  Because of the popularity of her character Dr. Samantha Owens she started a spin off series. Yet, many times the Taylor and Samantha series overlap characters, which is the case with the next book, All Fall Down, a continuation of the stalker serial killer story in What Lies Behind. Those readers who want to understand more of these characters can read All The Pretty Girls, which is being re-published this July.

Field Of Graves is a compelling and captivating novel.  The characters are realistic and interesting.  Anyone who reads this book will want to read all the books in the series.

Book Review - "Duty And Honor" by Grant Blackwood

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

9780399176807_p0_v2_s192x300Duty And Honor by Grant Blackwood brings back the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan Jr.  This story explores a murder centered around a German connection.

The plot has an organization whose major recruiting technique is to kidnap children and then release them to grateful parents who become part of a neo-warfare plan.  Those who do not freely go along have themselves or their family subjected to torture, drug addiction, and brain washing.  The philosophy is to have private armies answerable to no government, no laws, and no rules of engagement. 

Jack was suspended from The Campus, a covert agency in the government who combats US enemies.  Throughout the book Jack Jr. is seen as rusty from his time off.  Blackwood noted to, “Special operators always have a strong preference for the type of weapon they chose to use.  Knifes play a prevalent role in this book so Jack Jr. can follow clues.  The reason he makes mistakes is to make him more believable.  The mindset of those in Special Forces is that ‘something will always go wrong.’  I wanted to show how Jack responds to that scenario. I think he grew up a lot in this book. He did a lot of thinking of who he is and where he is going.”

A new character is Effrem Likkel, a freelance journalist.  Blackwood has the characters play a role reversal as Jack tries to become more mature.  With Effrem he sees himself looking into the mirror where Effrem is impulsive, undisciplined, and is single-mindedly focused instead of looking at the big picture.  They both must come to grips with being the son of a famous person since Effrem’s mother is a well renowned journalist, while Jack Jr.’s father is the US President. 

Duty And Honor has a fast-paced intriguing plot.  Both Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood have enhanced the Tom Clancy characters and have created new absorbing and captivating roles.