Book Review - "Host" by Robin Cook

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 right side bar.

9780399172144_p0_v1_s192x300Host by Robin Cook explores medical/biotech ethical issues intertwined with a thrilling storyline. This book mirrors his best-selling 1977 novel Coma that spurred him to be known as the master of medical thrillers. Now over thirty books later this ophthalmologist turned writer expands on the issues of greed and medicine.

The plot begins with Carl Vandermeer, a healthy Millennial, undergoing a routine operation to repair his knee. Yet, something goes terribly wrong with the anesthesia, leaving Carl in a vegetative state with no brain activity. His girlfriend, Lynn Peirce, a fourth-year medical student at South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University, where Carl’s operation took place, believes something has gone awry. She enlists her good friend, Michael Pender, also a fourth year medical student, to find out why this hospital, and others associated with Sentinel Healthcare, have high rates of unexplained anesthetic complications. This is in addition to patients entering the hospital with one complaint, but leaving with a more serious medical issue. Lynn and Michael must find answers while fighting the shadowy forces that are attempting to thwart their efforts.

Besides getting an action packed story readers learn about the dangers regarding healthcare. The theme of the book explains how both pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are basically robbing patients legally. In this case a conspiracy exists between Mason-Dixon University, Shapiro Institute, and Sidereal Pharmaceuticals. A powerful quote shows the pharmaceutical industry’s hypocrisy, “They want people to think their motivation is for the public good when they are, in fact, poster boys for capitalism run amok...The reality is that they spend more money on advertising prescription drugs directly to the pubic than they spend on research.”

Cook commented to, “Once I began medical school, I realized the patient was not the center of things; the doctor and the medical profession were. I thought, 'Someday, I'm going to write about the way it really is.' I became a writer to show the problems with healthcare. I wanted to write about medicine that was closer to the truth. For this book I wanted to point out how the various stockholders are taking advantage of all of us. We are spending way too much on healthcare with very mediocre results. Hospitals are unsafe, just look at the statistics I quote in my book, which are all true. The only people now disenfranchised and out of the system are the patients and doctors. The only way the system can change is the people must demand change, which is where my books come in, as warnings.”

As with all of Cook’s books he lends a level of authenticity by including medical procedures and research. In Host he details with some exaggeration how biologics works. This new product of the pharmaceutical companies is not based on drugs being made with chemicals but with antibodies. Cook explained, “They are derived from mouse cells that have been further altered with great effort to make them invisible to the human immune system. What they are doing in Host would make them all human. The mystery comes in when the hospital conspires to create guinea pigs by putting patients in a vegetarian state. I did not tie everything up in a bow because I want readers to understand how the pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are still using patients for their own benefit, both monetarily and for research purposes.”

He also gave a heads up about his next projects. The book will delve into social media and medicine. It takes place in Boston, which means both Lynn and Michael might be returning. Cook is also hoping to make a movie after forming his own production company. He did this because he wants control over his own storyline based on his vision, not the director’s.

Host is a very suspenseful novel that is also a warning to all readers. They begin to understand that those in charge of healthcare have no restrictions and are never transparent. Since healthcare will affect everyone people need to read this informative, action-packed page-turner.

Book Review - "The Lost Codex" by Alan Jacobson

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 right side bar.

9781504003636_p0_v5_s192x300The Lost Codex by Alan Jacobson blends realism with a riveting story. Besides a thriller, readers will gain an understanding of the geo-political climate and the historical significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyone familiar with Jacobson’s characters will enjoy the return of the Operations Support Intelligence Group: FBI profiler Karen Vail, Special Forces veteran Hector DeSantos, and Aaron Uziel, the FBI Joint Terrorism Chief.

As with the real world, the government leaders appear weak, hesitant, and inept. Set in Washington DC, New York, Paris, England, and Israel, the Operations Support Intelligence Group must uncover and thwart an international terrorist plot. Their mission is to find the stolen Dead Sea documents and those responsible for unleashing coordinated and unprecedented attacks on US soil.

The author uses his experience writing crime novels to compare terrorists with snipers and organized criminals. Both snipers and the extremists create fear through the unknown of where and when they will strike. A very attention-grabbing quote relates the terrorist organizations to organized crime when a character comments, “The stuff that’s brought through-food, cement, oil and gas, medical supplies, you name it- it’s all highly taxed with the graft going to their personal bank accounts. In the US we call it organized crime.” Readers begin to understand through the newly introduced character, CIA operative Mahmoud El-Fahad, how many Palestinian people are robbed by their leaders who divert the money to their own bank accounts. Major fund raising is held for the supposed welfare and relief of the Palestinians, yet the money never goes for their benefit.

The Fahad character was created according to Jacobson “to present the issues and concerns of the Palestinians. Uzi is the character that explains the Israelis point of view since he vividly lived the horrors of a terrorist attack after his wife and child were murdered. I hope this created a powerful dynamic.”

But, an even more telling quote can be taken right from today’s headlines where the Palestinians are once again murdering Israelis. Jacobson points out to through his characters how “This two-state solution is a political invention, an attempt to compromise, to appease the Palestinians… Even if they’re given the West Bank, they will not stop until they have it all. Make no mistake. This is about Israel’s survival.”

Jacobson stated to, “I tried very hard to present a factual case, telling it like it is. We need to remember, when talking to extremists, journalists are misled or told false facts. Words do matter, but actions are more important. The question that comes to mind, ‘do people ignore the facts that don’t fit their worldview? I had extensive sources in law enforcement, Middle Eastern Studies, and journalists who felt that it would be hard to negotiate with terrorists because you cannot speak commonsense with them.”

Because The Lost Codex was the third book in the spy series after The Hunted and Hard Target Jacobson wants to go back to writing a crime novel. Karen Vail will be front and center as she investigates a serial killer, more in the theme of The 7th Victim.

The Lost Codex has a plot that ratchets up the action in a realistic scenario. With intriguing characters anyone interested in learning more about the Middle East conflict should read this book with the added bonus of a great story line.

Book Review - "PT 109" by William Doyle

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.

9780062346582_p0_v6_s192x300PT 109 by William Doyle highlights the combat incident that influenced John F. Kennedy for the rest of his life. This book written about fifty years after the best-selling book by Robert Donavan charted the event, Kennedy’s leadership skills, and how it shaped Kennedy’s attitude.

The book recounts how the mission assigned to Kennedy and other PT boat commanders was doomed from the start. On August 2, 1943 while patrolling the Solomon Islands the Japanese destroyer Amagiri barreled through thick fog and struck the U.S. Navy's motor torpedo boat PT 109, splitting the craft nearly in half and killing two American sailors instantly. The other eleven survivors swam through flame and shark-infested waters to reach an island that was surrounded by the Japanese. Kennedy was set up for failure because the black darkened waters made it difficult to stay in the convoy, there was no radar on board the boat so communication among the convoy was inhibited, the torpedoes fired inaccurately, and the overall commander, Warfield, refused to take questions or input from his subordinates.

Doyle noted to, “I believe Kennedy had proven to himself and to others that he was capable of leadership and command, and possessed of considerable courage under fire. Kennedy could have avoided harms way by using the influence of his father, instead he demanded to be on the front lines of combat.”

Readers will also learn that during this time period Kennedy became a respected leader. Interestingly not one of his crewmembers ever faulted him and in fact many admitted to admiring him. It is said that circumstances create heroes, and the case can be made that in the aftermath of the sinking he was courageous and daring. Kennedy became a hero that night by choosing to risk his life for his men. He swam in shark-infested waters all night trying to get help. Doyle points out that after being rescued Kennedy did not return home, “showing how important was his sense of duty, bravery, and patriotism,” but took command of another PT boat, and that remarkably two of his former crewmembers chose to once again serve under him.”

The book also conveys how Kennedy was furious because his superior, Commander Warfield, believing that all crew members had been killed during the sinking, decided not to send out a search mission that might jeopardize the lives of other PT rescuers. The PT 109 crew survived those six days despite broken bones, burns, no medical supplies, radio, water, food, and arms. Doyle recalls in the book Kennedy’s bitterness since his feelings were that his comrades should have looked “for us and would fight to save us beyond reasonable expectation… The tragedy was that the comrades of the 109 did not go back to look for survivors.”

Yet, JFK also did not whitewash his responsibility in the PT 109 disaster. One quality of a good leader is being able to admit mistakes. He candidly blamed the collision on his decision to patrol with one engine, and have too many of his exhausted men asleep. Doyle remarked that Kennedy’s honesty seems to be something of the past considering “most politicians today think we are idiots and that we will believe whatever they say, never admitting to their mistakes. Yet, JFK was perfectly comfortable admitting mistakes and trying to learn from them.”

A powerful quote in the book summarized Kennedy’s feelings about his experience during WWII, “The war made us. It was and is our single greatest moment. The memory of the war is key to our characters… No school or parent could have shaped us the way that fight shaped us. No other experience could have brought forth in us the same fortitude and resilience.” Today’s candidates should read this account of PT 109 to learn from Kennedy’s leadership skills, honesty, and a desire to protect those willing to fight for America’s values.

Book Review - "Depraved Hearts" by Patricia Cornwell

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.

Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell combines suspense with modern day forensics to make a riveting story. This is the 25th anniversary of the hugely popular Dr. Kay Scarpetta series. People forget that Cornwell was on the forefront, one of the people most credited for launching the interest in forensic research, about a decade before the CSI TV Show.

Cornwell noted to, “I would say it is very interesting to have a series out this long. You start to create a biography of the character. With each new book you want to tell readers something about Scarpetta that defines her better. You start creating scenes that happened long before you even started the series, such as what happened to her when she was a little girl. Slowly but surely I am flushing her personal side out. With each book we get to know her better. She has matured and is now more comfortable with herself. She was a woman in a man’s world and had to prove herself a lot in the earlier books. Currently, she has more humor and has become more philosophical.”

Having worked in a Medical Examiner’s office Cornwell is able to create an informative and realistic story. In her latest novel she not only explores a murder, but also examines government overreach, the influence of technology, and data fiction. In today’s world the term coined by the author, data fiction, examines how digital data including texts, posts, images, and videos, can generate a new fictional reality, similar to Star Trek’s Holograms.

Readers have heard of the “CSI effect,” and Cornwell commented she feels a little guilty because “I made that world as accessible as I did with the advent of the Scarpetta series. It opened the door for the CSI Shows that caused the CSI effect. Many times it is harmful to law enforcement. For example, five or six years ago while riding with a Florida crime scene investigator when we got there the victim had already collected and bagged the evidence. This one woman told me, ‘I watched the shows on TV and know fingerprints don’t matter anymore.’ I thought to myself, ‘I hope I am not a little bit to blame.’”

This psychological thriller ramps up the suspense from the very first page. The plot starts two months after the last book, Flesh and Blood, ended. Dr. Kay Scarpetta realizes that the body found in a house is not an accidental death. While working this investigation she receives a mysterious text, supposedly from the cell of her niece, Lucy Farinelli, with a video link showing Lucy’s FBI dorm room almost twenty years earlier. Through these videos readers learn more about Lucy’s backstory, her time at the FBI Academy. Because the links are sent by Carrie Grethen, Dr. Kay’s nemesis, and they contain potentially incriminating material, Scarpetta races to Lucy’s house to get answers, only to find more questions. The FBI is there, with a search and seizure order, turning Lucy and Dr. Kay’s life upside down. It is up to Kay to find answers before Lucy is arrested.

A powerful quote in the book shows how people are dependent on technology, but that it sometimes can be used for devious purposes, including taking away someone’s privacy. The whole essence of this story warns that every detail of a person’s life and business can be compromised, and that people will lose the ability to communicate because of the fear of who can be trusted. In the novel, Scarpetta comments, “Technology made everything better for a while and now it seems life is circling back around to the dark ages… I miss paper and pen. I miss face-to-face conversations.”

She also gave a shout out to the book American Sniper, explaining “It was my tipping my hat to him even though I never met him. I read American Sniper and thought what an unbelievable look at what it is really like over there. I marveled over his ability. It was a book I recommend to people. Because I do a lot of my firearm research out in the Austin area I have a lot of friends in Texas, specifically law enforcement. This was a terrible blow to them. It is so tragic and maddening beyond belief that this could happen to someone who was trying to be helpful. I care about those in the military, especially since my brother is retired from the Air Force. They have faced a lot of trauma along with first responders. Both have seen very bad people who have done very wicked things.”

Although readers might want to read the previous book, after a few pages into this book, Depraved Heart, they will be mesmerized with the plot and captivating characters. The story is full of twists and turns creating a page-turner that the reader will not want to put down.

Book Review - "The Spy House" by Matthew Dunn

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 right side bar.

9780062309495_p0_v3_s192x300The Spy House by Matthew Dunn brings back the character Will Cochrane.  Having been an MI6 operative himself Dunn is able to write realistic scenarios. With his background in intelligence collection, agent running, debriefing, deep cover deployments, surveillance, and covert actions he is able to apply that to his characters and plots. 

In addition to being a thriller this fifth novel is also a mystery. Will must figure out how four international agents from the US, England, Israel, and France, working on a super-secret mission, died in a safe house in Beirut. They were trying to find out if a terrorist organization was behind the killing of the Israeli ambassador to France.  The investigation leads to the American Agent Roger Koenig killing the other agents.  Cochrane, no longer with MI6 is tasked with finding out the truth behind all five killings.  But he is being thwarted by a mysterious and shadowy figure that seems to know his every move. 

A great character introduced in this novel is Danny Weiss, a Mossad agent who is also investigating the killings.  He teams up with Will as the two agents use their skills to find out what really happened.  Like Will, Danny strives to protect his fellow citizens and will do what is necessary.  He is ruthless, professional, and honorable.  Unfortunately, Dunn does not know when Danny will come back in another story, stating, “It has to be natural to bring any character back.”

It appears that the next book will continue where this book left off.  Dunn will take Will into a completely new direction where he will be even more of a loner than he already is, almost like a fugitive on the run.  The author told, “I will be writing mainstream thriller novels instead of spy novels.  Will is going to be put in testy situations where he may well break the law but he is going to make the right decision.  The next novel focuses on someone out for revenge against Will, framing him for murder.”

Fans of Will Cochrane need to stay tuned to see what direction Dunn will move him. Will he be more like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, or Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan? 

Book Review - "The Saturn Run" by John Sanford and Ctein

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 right side bar.

9780147542700_p0_v1_s192x300Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein can best be described as a thriller that takes place in space.  It is obvious the authors strove to make this story realistic. Some may put it in the science fiction genre but that is only because there are real scientific concepts in a plausible fictional thriller story.

The authors commented they met through a photography website, the Online Photography and became friends.  Because Sandford wanted to venture into the science fiction world he decided to consult Ctein who has a dual degree in English and Physics from Caltech.  He obviously wrote the science parts and the two collaborated on the rest of the book.  But, Sandford wrote in the character, Fiorella, an L. A. Times reporter, to explain science to the reader as she explains it to her audience on the ground. This was a real way to say what the engineer, Captain, photographer Sandy, and scientists were doing.

Portions of the book have a very detailed explanation of the technology and science used.  For some who are bogged down with too much content, they can skip over those details since they are clustered together. Others will enjoy the particulars of how the spacecrafts and their engines are built.  In the author’s note at the end of the book is a description of the science behind the story.  This includes the authors' philosophy regarding the science and technology, along with pertinent reference points for those who want to know more, an explanation of the actual science behind the fiction. Another way the authors made the science and technology more understandable is through the character Cassandra Fiorella’s eyes.  She is an on board space journalist that sends back reports to Earth, explaining in layman terms the science and technology. 

The plot begins fifty years into the future when a Caltech employee notices an anomaly from a space telescope.  Officials come to an inescapable conclusion; a space ship is headed for Saturn.  A race begins between the US and China to see which country will get to Saturn first to discover the alien technology.  A quickly assembled crew is chosen for the adventure of traveling to that planet and confronting the unknown extraterrestrial.  The conflict arises when the Chinese are not content to allow the Americans to gain the advantage and put themselves at a disadvantage.  This is where the action intensifies as the authors explore the questions:  Should the Earth nations work as a community or work for their own benefit, and should space law take the same rules from Maritime law?

Sandford explained to the “target audience is people who read authors like Michael Crichton.  He wrote dinosaur books, but was really talking of a way of using DNA to recreate animals, the ability to create a whole new species.  Then there is John Grisham who has nailed down the lawyer market.  I hope we get readers from the fields of computer programmers, engineers, and scientists that are interested in science fiction but want realism.  But we also want to appeal to thriller fans.  I think the closest novel like this book is The Hunt For Red October by Tom Clancy.  The technology of the submarine is advanced but very possible.  It is about the struggle between countries and what must be done to return home.” 

The authors are hoping readers will not know who wrote what scenes and which characters.  Obviously, Ctein wrote the science parts because he is an expert who wrote articles on computer and space technology.  However, Sandford, a photography enthusiast, wrote many of the scenes involving the description of cameras and their abilities. 

The characters are a potpourri of personalities and professions.  The main character is Sandy, a super rich, good looking ladies man, a patriot, and a surfer dude.  He is the direct opposite of Crow, the security chief who is unfriendly and tends to look at everything as a threat.  Dr. Rebecca Johansson, who readers will know as Becca, is the one readers will most identify with.  The Captain of the ship is Naomi Fang-Castro, whom the authors refer to by her last name throughout most of the story.  She is very formal, makes it clear she is in a position of command, and believes in absolute discipline. 

The authors commented on their desire to travel to space.  Sandford told, it does not “appeal to me, being confined in what I see as a giant cigar tube.  I had an experience as a reporter when I went on this airplane that flew back and forth between Cuba and the US.  They were looking for drug planes and any incursion aircraft from Cuba.  We were stuffed in for eight hours and there were no windows. I realized I wanted to be able to go outside.  The danger would not bother me since I landed in tight areas in Iraq on a Black Hawk helicopter.” On the other hand, Ctein would go up in a minute.

Saturn Run is a tale of courage, treachery, and takes readers on a ride through space.  The best parts are the descriptions of how the crew finds their strength and wits against formidable adversaries. An added bonus is the cool cover of the book that is almost in 3-D and seems to be a photographic representation of the technology developed, “the ribbons,” used to help power the spaceship.

Book Review - Vince Flynn's "The Survivor", a Mitch Rapp novel by Kyle Mills

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 right side bar.

9781476783475_p0_v3_s192x300The Survivor, a Mitch Rapp novel, by Kyle Mills, brings back the beloved Vince Flynn characters.  All Flynn books are based upon action, suspense, and very strong character development.  It appears that at least with this book the torch has been passed to Mills while the light still shines on Mitch and Dr. Irene Kennedy. 

Mills has the mannerisms of the characters down pat.  Although fans might spot some transition in that Mitch uses more psychology than enhanced interrogation to get the terrorists to talk and Irene is referred to as a “bitch” instead of a manipulator and controller.   Many readers might try to spot where Vince left off and Kyle’s writing begins.  But that is an attempt in futility since Vince only wrote three pages of this novel.

The characters can be seen as role models since Irene is described as “unemotional in public and would allow people to see what she wanted them to. She would not bow down to anyone.  As described in the book, she was seen as an icy intellectual who made decisions not based on her gut, but her head.  She believed in getting the job done.” Mitch is seen as “having no discernible physical or mental weaknesses with uncanny instincts and no remorse.  He’s a survivor.” 

The Survivor picks up where Vince’s last book, The Last Man left off.  In the previous novel, Joseph “Rick” Rickman staged his own kidnapping and beating, to make it look as though Islamic terrorists tortured him. A video of the staged event was later posted on the Internet and featured what appeared to be Rickman breaking at the hands of his tormentors to reveal secrets. To cover his tracks, he conjured up a plan to kill Mitch Rapp, the one person he feared. But Mitch and Irene figured out Rickman’s scheme and thought they could permanently plug the leak of information by having Mitch kill him. Unfortunately even from the grave Rickman is imposing his revenge by releasing tidbits of information that include top secret CIA intelligence of classified operations and assets.  Kennedy, the CIA Director, uses her skills to connect the dots while using Rapp’s skills to find those tasked with leaking the information.  Mitch finds himself up against Ahmed Taj, the power hungry Pakistani ISI Director, who wants to bring down the CIA, specifically his nemesis Dr. Kennedy. Mitch must also work briefly with his adversary, Louis Gould, who has his own plans for Rapp’s demise.

Mills told, “My father was an FBI agent most of his life who went on to become the Director of Interpol.  He was a good friend with the head of the FBI and MI6.  I guess I am pretty well connected in that world and found it very interesting.  When I decided to write my own novels I decided to write about what I knew, the CIA, FBI, and MI6. The CIA has to work within certain parameters.  In the Mitch Rapp universe they are broader than in the real world.  Because I grew up in that world I did not want to take that storyline farther.  I did not want it to feel unrealistic.  I did some soul searching when I started because Mitch is always doing something above the law. In the books there was always a great benefit that came out of torturing without any costs.  But I do not think torture is a super effective way to get information.  My father has done a lot of interrogation work at the FBI and said torture doesn’t work.  In The Survivor I used a more sophisticated technique similar to what the FBI will do.  Having Mitch torture is not something I will strive for.”

One of the reasons readers loved Vince Flynn books is that his main characters always had one goal in mind, the safety of Americans.  He was able to break down this complicated world into good guys and bad guys where in the end the good guys win.  It was very satisfying to read how the bad guys get their just punishments, which many times includes death.  Kyle Mills does a good job in continuing this style of writing. Now that Mills has taken over the storyline it is gratifying to know that Vince will live on through his characters Mitch Rapp and Irene Kennedy as he rests in peace.

Slaughterhouse: MilSF Short

I'm not only writing fiction these days, but am also doing some experiments.  One that falls in both categories is a MilSF short story I have on Kindle for just $0.99.  The plan is for this story to be the first in a series that flips between combat and what happens after the troops return home.  I hope you will check it out, and feel free to leave honest reviews on this or any of my other works.  


Book Review - "Buffalo Trail" by Jeff Guinn

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.

9780399165429_p0_v1_s192x300Buffalo Trail by Jeff Guinn is an action packed historical novel.  Readers will understand the realities of western culture in the 1870s through Guinn’s story and characters, historical notables from the west. The title fits the plot perfectly since it explains the importance of the buffalo to both the Indians and white hunters. 

This story makes the era come alive with vivid descriptions of Dodge City and the Frontier life.  Through the main character, Cash McLendon, one of the few fictional people in the book, the plot unfolds.  He escapes from Glorious, Arizona, on the run from Killer Boots.  Fleeing to Dodge City, he falls in with an intrepid band of buffalo hunters determined to head south to forbidden Indian Territory in the Texas Panhandle. Cash is befriended by Western legends Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon and decides to travel with them to hunt buffalo.  They establish a camp known as Adobe Walls.  His desire is to get enough money to pursue his true love, Gabriella Tirrito.   Unfortunately, the Indians have other ideas, forming an alliance of Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa, targeting the camp to defeat the white man. This is an authentic confrontation that became known as the Adobe Walls battle, one of the fiercest and bloodiest in frontier history. 

Because Guinn wanted to create a realistic atmosphere he noted, “All the descriptions are true.  I want readers to feel the dust blow in their eyes and the fear as the hunters were attacked. In fact, I followed the exact trail of the hunters to Adobe Walls.  In the hardback will be photos for the readers to see the actual figures.  I also showed the accuracy of the Sharps 50 that Billy Dixon shot with, able to get his target from about a mile away.”

What makes the story even more interesting is how Cash is portrayed as someone down on his luck that seems to make the wrong choices.  In the first novel he betrayed his fiancé Gabriella, his true love, to marry into a wealthy family. After his wife dies his father-in-law hires an assassin to kill him.  Escaping to the frontier, Cash drifts through Texas, loses his savings to Doc Holliday, and stumbles into unsightly and dangerous Dodge City. Cash then ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to survive a vicious Indian attack. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes because he is constantly penalized for his wrong choices. 

There are also the rich characters of real life Indians, such as the Comanche war chief Quanah Parker, Lone Wolf, Medicine Water, and the Dog Soldiers.  But the most intriguing unique figure, was the real life female Indian warrior, Mochi, a Cheyenne woman and Sand Creek massacre survivor who's later accepted into the fierce dog soldier clan. 

Guinn commented to, “Mochi will have to stay in my stories except she will not be in the next book.  Almost everything in this book, from her witnessing the slaughter of her tribe and being wounded to her fighting at Adobe Walls is true.  Although one scene in the book came completely out of my imagination, when she does a courageous and astonishing sacrifice to recon for the Indians.  She is not the type of person that would sit back and be told what to do.  No matter the cost to herself she is determined to get revenge.  I hope I showed Mochi’s desire along with the other Indians to have Adobe Walls where the collision occurred. It is like today with the tribes in the Middle East, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. These Indian tribes united through the common enemy, the white hunters who they saw as a threat to their way of life.”

Buffalo Trail has an action atmosphere that puts readers right into the battle and on the western frontier.  It brings to life the era and the western legends that have fascinated people.  This novel is riveting and filled with action.

The next book in the series, Silver City, according to Guinn, will resolve the original story arc.  It brings closure to Cash/Boots and Cash/Gabriella.  Although Gabriella basically made cameo appearances in Buffalo Trail, with this next book she will be front and center, since much of the story is written from her perspective. Guinn stated that any future stories will have “Cash and Gabriella intrinsically bonded.”

Book Review and Interview with the Cheneys - EXCEPTIONAL: Why the World Needs a Powerful America

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.

The title of this book, Exceptional, applies to its authors, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. From Presidents Franklin Roosevelt through George W. Bush America remained the world’s premier power, triumphing during WW II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror. The Cheney’s take readers on a historical journey while pointing out how President Obama’s policies have weakened this nation. Below is a Q/A with the Cheneys.

Liz Cheney explained to, “The point of our book is to say America is an exceptional nation.  We have been since our founding and are today, but for different reasons. After America’s founding we became a model for freedom in the world and from the time of WWII we became the defender of that freedom. The fact that we have a President that is embarking on dangerous policies does not mean we are not exceptional.  Rather it means he does not recognize the unique role we must play in the world. We need a president that truly believes we are freedom’s defender.”

The book is separated into three parts.  The authors first give a short history of America’s foreign policy and the unique role played as the world’s protector of freedom.  The authors add flavor by using quotes from past Presidents.  They show how Presidents knew that weakness invites aggression.  They write about President Roosevelt who in 1940 convinced a war weary and isolationist leaning country to join WWII because America has an obligation as "the defender of freedom" and “the arsenal of democracy." And in 1962, Kennedy said, “The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.”

Throughout the first part they show that both Democratic and Republican Presidents believed in a bi-partisan approach that recognized America’s prominence in the world.  Vice-President Cheney commented, “I don’t think Theodore Roosevelt would recognize Barack Obama in terms of his policy.  Looking at the Democratic Party from Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy, all shared in the consensus view that we had to be strong and the leader of the free world.  I don’t think they would associate themselves with Barack Obama’s policies. This is a guy who wanted to go to Japan and apologize for what we did in WW II at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harry Truman’s decision to use the bomb was crucial in reducing loss of life or we would have had to invade Japan. He is trying to rewrite our history through his apologies of what his American predecessors did. It comes down to an issue of leadership.  As we quote in the book, President Ronald Reagan said, ‘It is up to us in our time to choose, and choose wisely, between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.’”

Part II explains how President Obama’s policies have made America less safe, citing ISIS, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.  This part is especially relevant since they speak about the Iranian nuclear deal.  They write, “The president has tried to sell this bad deal by claiming that there is no alternative, save war. In fact, this agreement makes war more, not less, likely… In addition to accelerating the spread of nuclear weapons across the Middle East, it will provide the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which even the Obama administration admits likely will be used to fund terror." The Cheney’s also criticize what they see as inadequate verifications for inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, the removal of restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and the lifting of sanctions against the regime, which they believe will help Iran fund terror.

Liz Cheney commented about the above quote, “President Obama believes the US is a maligned force in the world, a force for ill.  He tries to do anything possible to minimize our impact in the world and to limit our engagement/involvement. Look at the Iranian nuclear deal that will basically give the Iranians a path for a nuclear arsenal.”  The Vice-president added, “He has taken us down a very dangerous road by making a deal with Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism.”

Part III is the most interesting part of the book.  The Cheney’s make recommendations on how to use America’s power against its enemies.  This path restores America as the world’s leader that includes rebuilding the military, negotiating with our adversaries out of a position of strength, and working closely with our allies. 

The authors advocate the need for a robust military.  The Vice-President stated to, “My dad and an awful lot of Americans served in WWII.  They look back on their service with pride.  Today President Obama has sent a tremendous signal to friends and adversaries of weakness and our inability to influence events in the world.  For example, when America withdrew from the Middle East the Iranians, ISIS, and Russia, all our adversaries, filled the void.  He has decimated our military capabilities in the face of rising threats. I can’t think of a time in history, in our history, when we’ve seen such rising threats: ISIS in the Middle East, creator of a caliphate, China on the march in the South China Sea, Putin in Europe, we see threats rise, yet the President is consciously and obviously doing whatever he can to reduce our military capabilities. The military has been very sadly neglected, especially in the strategic systems. The damage to the defense department will take years to be built up.  What really bugs me is Barack Obama has taken away a future President’s ability to play defender.  I remember after Desert Storm one of the first things I did was call Ronald Reagan and thank him for having a magnificent military force that helped us to wrap things up in a very short order.  Now we will have future President’s that will look back and tear their hair out because of the damage done to the military. But I am hopeful because of all the good candidates on the Republican side.  A number of them have been very clear about their understanding of what it will take to return American power and influence across the globe.”

Exceptional: Why The World Needs A Powerful America is a must read.  Unlike many authors the Cheney’s actually make clear and concise recommendations of what future Presidents need to accomplish.  Through the historical journey readers will understand why the authors criticism of the current President is valid.  They make the excellent point that to safeguard America, Presidents must “speak softly, but carry a big stick.”  As they said in the book, “Without our armed forces, there would be no liberty.  They are the ultimate guarantor and protector of our freedoms.”