Book Review & Author Interview with former CIA Director Mike Morell

The following book review and interview with Mike Morell 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.

9781455585663_p0_v3_s260x420Mike Morell served thirty-three years at the CIA culminating in becoming the acting director.  His book, The Great War Of Our Time, discusses his critical role in the most important counterterrorism events of the past two decades.  He not only discusses the successes, but is very up front about recognizing the mistakes made as well. The book covers a wide range of issues that include Benghazi, ISIS, his surprising view of President G. W. Bush, the Iraq War, the Enhanced Interrogation Program, the Drone Program, and Iran. interviewed him about some of these issues and will highlight some of the book’s discussions. 

The book begins with a one-sentence dedication, “To the men and women involved in CIA’s fight against terrorism-the finest public servants you will never know.” He also has in the last chapter this same theme of acknowledging the talented and passionate public servants who are part of the front-line to keep Americans safe. Morell reminds the readers that these men and women receive little public acclaim and money while working long dedicated hours. He told, “We must realize that the terrorists will have victories also.  The culture in the United Kingdom is very different than ours.  Because of their history with Irish terrorism they understand it is impossible to stop every attack.  You might have stopped nine, but you can’t stop the tenth.  They are more accepting and less finger-pointing.”

Throughout the book he shows how the CIA had a high regard for those in the American military.  Great success was achieved by the end of the Bush Administration, forcing Al Qaeda Iraq on the ropes.  That progress continued until the US troop withdrawal.  Because of the military and intelligence vacuum as well as Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s aggressive authoritarian ways Al Qaeda Iraq morphed into ISIS. With its supply of arms and money, as well as significant battlefield experiences they were successful in seizing large amounts of territory in western Iraq.  He directly noted, “I think it’s less about the invasion than the decisions by Ambassador Paul Bremer.  The biggest mistake by far in my view is not getting rid of Hussein but the destruction of the Iraqi security service, intelligence service, and military.  The second part of the story is that when the US military leaves Iraq at the end of 2011 Al Qaeda was at its weakest point.  As soon as we leave they start to rebound because the military pressure was taken off.  The problem was that we didn’t want the US military to be somewhere without a status of forces agreement.”

The book includes a very insightful statement: to gain actionable information there is the need for intelligence collectors. The former Counterterrorism Center director, Jose Rodriguez Jr. who wrote the book Hard Measures believes that “dead men don’t talk” and criticizes the policy of not capturing terrorists. Morell explained that times have changed because those plotting against us early on during the War on Terror were “settled in areas of Pakistan so you could capture them.  As soon as they went to the tribal areas capture was almost impossible.  They are in parts of the world that would put American Special Forces lives at risk if we tried to capture them.”

Unfortunately, Iraq during the time of Hussein, as with North Korea and Iran today, are all “denied areas” where there is minimal or no US presence. Morell noted about Iran, “In international relations there is no trust, only verify.  Currently we don’t really know what the deal is with Iran since the Obama Administration says one thing and they say something else.  I think it is important to make sure the President understands the nuclear issue is not the only one we have with Iran.  They desire to be the hegemonic power in the Middle East, to reestablish the Old Persian Empire. They still practice terrorism as a tool of statecraft, support international terrorist groups, namely Hezbollah, and insurgency groups trying to overthrow Sunni governments.  It is Iranian state policy for Israel to disappear from this planet, which the Supreme Leader has made very clear on many occasions.  Even if we take away the nuclear program there are a whole bunch of other issues.  We should tread very carefully with Iran.”

Regarding Benghazi he told the most important questions to him are:

“Why didn’t the State Department facility have better security; why were all the requests for better security rejected; and more importantly why didn’t the people in Washington see the need for greater security given all the strategic warnings provided by the CIA given that the situation was getting worse and worse.  My people initiated a review of our place there and as a result we upgraded the security at least twice.”  

He also writes intimate portraits of President G. W. Bush and former CIA Director Michael Hayden among others.  He became close to President Bush as his intelligence briefer.  He relayed how he was told to be prepared each day because the President will fire “questions at you at a rapid pace and he expects you to be able to answer most of them.  He will test you to see how much you know, and he will test you to see if you are willing to say you don’t know…” Regarding CIA Director Hayden he became his number three in 2006.  He wrote, “Hayden is one of the smartest individuals with whom I have ever worked.”

He directly commented, “Hayden is amazing.  He can make the complicated understandable to the average person.  He gives his honest opinion and never puts his finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing.  He takes a military approach concerning defending his people.”

Morell admires President G. W. Bush and has been impressed from the first day they worked together. “He has strong common sense and a good gut instinct.  It is easy to give him another perspective.”

Morell in The Great War Of Our Time provides a thoughtful insight into the world of intelligence.  He explains the different terrorist threats as well as how the CIA handled and assessed them.  In addition he also shows that a CIA official many times must sacrifice their personal life for their professional duties.

Book Review & Author Interview with Nelson DeMille about "Radiant Angel"

The following book review and interview of Nelson DeMille 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.

9780446580854_p0_v4_s260x420Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille is the 7th novel in the John Corey series. Mr. DeMille has been writing political thrillers for approximately thirty-five years, but like a fine wine he has gotten better with age.  With this new novel he has pivoted from the antagonists of Arab terrorists to the new dangers or a newly resurgent Russia. John Corey has left the Anti-Terrorist Task Force and returned home to New York City, taking a job with the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Corey must follow Vasily Petrov, a colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, who poses  as a diplomat with the Russian U.N. Mission. After he mysteriously disappears from a Russian oligarch's party in Southampton, it's up to Corey to track him down before he endangers America.

Elise Cooper:  This book seems out of character with its length. Agree?

Nelson DeMille:  I purposely made it short.  I could have put more about the ex-Soviet Union and the re-emergence of Russia. But I just wanted to get into the action.  I decided to throw a fastball down the middle. 

EC:  What inspired you for this plot?

ND:  A number of things.  I regret not writing more on the Cold War.  I did write The Talbot Odyssey and The Charm School, but by the time the paperback of The Charm School came out the Soviet Union was imploding.  I also was tired of writing about Arab terrorists, which is why I gave John Corey a new job. Finally, I thought the events of this book could happen. In the real world, the Russians are being aggressive in their area of influence in Europe and, to some extent, in Asia, but also they’re hacking into our computers. I took resurgent Russian to an extreme.

EC:  Why the Long Island setting?

ND:  A lot of my books are set on Long Island because it's diverse culturally, ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically. For a small land area there's a lot going on here. I've written four books about Long Island and I could write another five or six. I've yet to set a book specifically in the Hamptons, but that's something I'm thinking about.

EC:  You had three women protagonists in this story.  Can you explain?

ND:  I got tired of Kate.  I might have broken the rules of series characters, but I think it worked, the implication of her having an affair.  I had to make John’s new partner a female to make it interesting.  Tess, a State Department official, is a viable character.  But the one who definitely knows how to handle John is detective Beth Penrose.  Kate will not be a part of the next book, but Beth will be John’s lady.  It was time to bring her back, which I did in this novel.  I think readers will enjoy Beth’s line to John, “All my friends call me Detective Penrose.  Why don’t you do the same?” But a little later when she wanted to find out what was happening she reminded John that he used to confide in her and he responded, “I also used to call you Beth.”

She concurred and told him to “please call me Beth,” and to see her before he leaves.

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of this book?

ND:  This quote from the book emphasizes the point, “the Cold War was back and no one was paying attention.” The Russian story is still unfolding.  It is a huge country.  Let’s not forget that during the Cold war they were our military equivalent and that can happen again.  Russia has been badly handled since the end of the Cold War, specifically this administration.  President Obama after the election said he was going to have a different relationship.  Well, he was right, but it is not a good one, but a bad one. 

EC:  Rumor has it you are thinking of shelving John for the next book.  True?

ND:  The setting will be in Cuba and Florida.  I am hoping to travel to Cuba sometime this fall.  This stand-alone book will probably be released a year from October. I am not sure in which direction the plot will go.  There are a number of possibilities including having the protagonists searching for millions of dollars of treasure buried by the Batista government; finding six nuclear warheads left behind by the 1962 Russian pullout; and/or finding a convicted police killer, the Black Liberation Army militant. The main character, Mac, is a US veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.  After being severely wounded he decides to start a fishing and tour boat business.  Because of his expertise a Cuban exile group hires him.  The leading lady is a “hot” Cuban female fluent in Spanish. Having a character in the heart of darkness allows for a lot of adventure and suspense. I will definitely weave the backstory of the Cuban Missile Crisis into the plot.

EC:  Are you writing about a new setting and character to get out of your comfort zone?

ND:  I understand the readers are comfortable with the books and the characters.  But after awhile the author gets bored and it shows within the books. The problem with a long running series is how much of the backstory must be told.  Old readers might be bored and new readers don’t know the background.  Authors have to ponder where to begin, what to tell, and do people really remember the first books details, something that fades from my mind. With this next book, I am definitely excited about the Cuban plot.  It is such a part of our history and is so close geographically I think Americans can relate. 




Book Review - "The Harvest Man" by Alex Grecian

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

9780399166440_p0_v2_s260x420The Harvest Man by Alex Grecian portrays Scotland Yard Murder Squad detectives pursuing a violent serial killer.  The main plot has the detectives targeting The Harvest Man, while a secondary plot has detective Walter Day trying to find Jack the Ripper.  These series of books includes a mystery, some historical facts, and explores the new techniques of evidence gathering.

The plot begins where the previous book, The Devil’s Workshop, ends.  Readers new to this series might want to start with the previous book to gain a better understanding of the characters and their motivations.  Regarding the sub-plot Grecian fully explained in The Devil’s Workshop how Jack the Ripper was out for revenge against a group of vigilantes who had captured and tortured him. 

Grecian noted to, “It is a tight ropewalk with every book.  I don’t spell everything out, but try to put in refreshers, especially since there is a year between books.  It is like watching a TV show where in the first minute they recap what went on and then start the new show.” 

The main plot has the antagonist, The Harvest Man, killing and mutilating couples by slicing their faces off.  This sadistic killer is named after the spider that hides in attics and eats the pests.  He enters homes during the day and hides out in the attics until the family retires for the night.  In this installment he has killed the parents of two children, leaving them orphans whom Inspector Day finds and takes home. 

One of the most interesting parts of the book is how the author explores the transition to modern day crime solving.  Introduced are finger printing techniques, roping off of the crime scenes, profiling, and drawing sketches of the culprit.  Grecian incorporates his characters doing these duties:  Walter Day is the profiler, Dr. Kingsley is the CSI, Fiona is the sketch artist, while Nevil Hammersmith is the action hero.  These characters compliment each other with Day (the brains,) Hammersmith (the brawn,) and Kingsley (the conscious.)

But Grecian is of the mindset that no character is safe except Claire.  He explained,   “Partly because I am stubborn and want those who told me to kill her off to know that is not going to happen.  They will have to put up with her. I will also give a heads up that at least one of the main character’s lives will be ended.  By the way, those that had the intriguing theory that Walter Day was Jack are wrong.  Regarding Jack there will be a resolution, but done in my fictional universe, not the real world theories.”

The author also gave a heads up about his next project due out in the summer.  It is a collection of the first five issues of his Rasputin comics put into a book. It takes place during and just after WWI.  It will be a fictional version of Rasputin’s life and times that will include the conspiracy theories. 

As with all his books Grecian likes to take a real-life antagonist and place him in different fictional settings.  He places his own mindset on what will happen to the criminal, deciding on a more original version. These books are thrillers set in the early 20th century, late 19th century. Readers will be scared and thrilled as they read these gruesome, violent, dark, and graphic stories.

Book Review - "Solitude Creek" by Jeffrey Deaver

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.

9781455517152_p0_v1_s260x420Solitude Creek by Jeffery Deaver is a riveting mystery. He is definitely the Master of Suspense with the many twists and turns throughout the novel. It is an understatement to say he manipulates his readers as he sets them up for one course of action and then abruptly changes it.  This latest Kathryn Dance novel is no different.

Deaver commented to, “I like to camouflage clues but the surprises must be grounded with a reference somewhere.  Twists are definitely my trademark.  I think it is better to create suspense than depict gore.  I want to grab readers with the story.  I look for incidents that could scare the heck out of them.  It is important to get that balance where the reader is horrified but not repulsed, which is why I cut away with the sex and violence scenes.  To make my books resonate I raise different questions, but never preach.” 

What makes this plot so gripping is that any person can see themselves in the victim’s situation.  Whether in an elevator, a music club, a book signing, or an amusement park, the antagonist is able to manipulate a situation to cause chaos and panic, something he thrives upon.  His first attempt at turning people’s fears and greed into a weapon was at a small concert venue on the Monterey Peninsula in California.  Cries of fire caused people to panic and run for the doors, only to find them blocked.  Investigators led by Kathryn Dance discover there was no fire and the six who died were stampeded.  The rest of the book finds Kathryn and her team racing the clock to find the perpetrator before he strikes again.

Deaver had this idea for a storyline, “for many years.  In the book I refer to the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, where in 1989 at a FA Cup semi-final 96 people were crushed to death. I came up with this quote from the book from a personal experience, “when the crowd takes over.  You become a helpless cell in a creature whose sole goal is to survive, yet in attempting to do that it will sacrifice some of itself…” I remember feeling like that during an incident in Greenwich Village.  There was this parade and the streets were completely packed.  A scuffle ensued and the crowd started to move. I lost control and the crowd was moving me.  I thought if someone or I fall we would be completely crushed.”

Kathryn Dance, a California Bureau Investigator, uses kinesics to question suspects and witnesses.  As a body language expert she is able to tell if someone might be lying if they begin “to speak more slowly, since your mind is trying to craft the lie and make sure it’ll be consistent with everything you’ve said before.  The second is a slight increase in pitch.” Readers will like Kathryn, finding her caring, intelligent, and perceptive.  Deaver came up with the idea of having Dance as a body language expert, “after watching this special where a jury consultant used it to analyze jurors.  I used it as a springboard for Kathryn’s profession. I wanted her to go one-on-one psychologically with the villains.” 

Through her family interaction, including her two dogs, Dylan and Patsy, named after Bob Dylan and Patsy Cline, Deaver is able to show Kathryn’s personal side.  This makes her more of a realistic character, and in this novel the love triangle that was happening between Kathryn and her two beaus will be settled.  Because he was a folk singer and a failed musician, Deaver decided to have Kathryn mimic him, including loving the era of Dylan and Cline.

Solitude Creek, as with all Deaver books, keeps readers on their toes.  He does not have just one main twist and turn, but numerous ones.  This novel is literally a page-turner since on one page the author sets up an expectation and on the next page twists it around.

The author also gave a heads up about his latest projects, past and present.  The Starling Project written in 2014 is set all over the world.  What makes this unique is that it is an audio play where there are over eighty characters.  The protagonist, Harold Middleton, and his team tracks down war criminals, warlords, and individuals responsible for atrocities.  His next project will be a Lincoln Rhyme novel set in Italy involving that country’s illegal immigration problem with a terrorist twist.

Book Review - "Gathering Prey" by John Sandford

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.

9780399168796_p0_v1_s260x420Gathering Prey by best selling author John Sandford is a thrilling Lucas Davenport story.  Per his usual style the plot combines suspense and humor; although, this one is a lot more graphic and violent. 

The plot begins with Lucas’ adopted daughter, Letty, about to leave Stanford University, heading home for the summer.  At a stop over she meets two “Travelers” and befriends them.  They tell her about a Charles Manson like gang originally from California, but now operating throughout the Midwest. The leader’s name is Pilate and he has about twenty followers who kill for fun, rob, torture, and rape.  After arriving home, Letty tells Lucas about her encounter and how she plans on helping the “Travelers.”  Through the first half of the book she becomes Lucas’ sidekick, playing a major supporting role.  The rest of the book has Lucas working mainly alone, tracking and attempting to apprehend this cruel gang.

Sandford noted to, “The Juggalos are fans and followers of the group, “Insane Clown Posse.”  They “travel” to see this group perform.  They look like street people, but have bike packs, staffs, hiking boots, and a lot of the women have dogs.  For awhile the FBI had them classified as a gang, but there is a lawsuit filed to declassify them. I guess the best description is for them to be considered a modern day hobo.  They are not homeless and just “travel” around because they like it. The Juggalo subculture is split between violent and nonviolent factions. Some of the more violent ones have committed acts against the non-criminal ones.  I made my violent Juggalos essentially a Manson type group.  They are crazy, lost, and screw-ups. When Lucas finds this group it becomes like a war.”

Readers are being set up by the author for a possible career change by Lucas.  As with previous books there is a sense that Lucas is getting fed up with the bureaucracy, office politics, and the way cases are handled.  Throughout his early career at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) he was someone who worked independently.  In this novel, Davenport’s team is sparingly mentioned, basically missing in action, while Lucas hunts down the bad guys mainly by himself.

The author commented, “I do not consider what I am about to say a spoiler since I have been hinting at this for awhile.  It is a goodbye to Letty and Weather since Lucas will be solving cases alone. They will be there but just in the openings. Over the years Lucas has become too bureaucratic and too family oriented. This career change will have him go back to his early days of solving crimes. In the next book as Lucas is taking it easy around the house he gets a call from the Governor who is now running for President.  What he is hoping to do is get the Vice-Presidential nomination.  Sort of like when the former Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, ran.  No one thought he would get the nomination, but he ran anyway to get the Vice-Presidency. In my book the Governor, Elmer Henderson, is told to become more a centrist on the issues because ‘something might happen to the lead candidate.’ He fears for his life and the lead candidate’s life so he brings in Lucas, someone he can trust.  The following book will have the Governor elected Vice-President and he appoints Lucas as a US Marshall.  His job is to find violent criminals throughout the US that essentially have disappeared.” 

Sandford gave a heads up about his next book, which will not be a Virgil Flowers novel. It is entitled Saturn Run and will be released in October.  Co-written with physicist, Ctein, Sandford describes it as a scientific thriller.  This stand-alone is set in 2066 where China and the US race to find some alien technology left behind on Saturn.  He has decided to deviate from many science fiction books by portraying the leadership characters as women, including the President of the US, the chief engineer for both China and the US, and China and America’s Joint Chief of Staff.

It has become obvious that Sandford wants to expand his writing.  With Gathering Prey and his next novel he has decided to move in a new direction. Regardless of what he decides to do this author always seems to incorporate in his novels an adventurous story that is compelling and enjoyable.

Kindle Price Drop Sale

If the hamsters all spun in their cages as planned, a price drop sale began an hour ago on the Kindle version of my short story "Flight of the Fantasy



and on the Kindle version of "A Different View: DJ, Doura, and Arab Jabour (Volume 3)



Flight of the Fantasy has been getting some very good reviews (and my thanks to those of you who have read and posted your reviews!).  ADV3 has also gotten some very good things said about it (check out the cover blurbs), and has an amazing introduction by Sarah A. Hoyt as well as a foreword by my Playboy mentor David Mecey (link may be NSFW).  

The lowest prices are now, and they will bump up back to full price over the next week as the sale progresses.  If you have Kindle Unlimited, they are free and you should get them.  Sale ends at midnight next Thursday.  

NOTE:  If the hamsters didn't spin, and Amazon reverted to 0600 Pacific instead of 0600 Eastern as intended, the sale will start at 0900 instead.  

Trigger Warning

At the recent cigar event, my shirt drew some comments and inquiries.  


I had promised to share where to get them, and am glad to do (it's Mad Mike).  You might also enjoy waterboarding, torture, and smiley.  Also, congratulations to Mad Mike on his Hugo nomination for Wisdom From My Internet (and the wails of anguish from the Social Justice Bullies that came with it), and you really should check out his latest book A Long Time Until Now.   If you are into Pride and Prejudice, allow me to also recommend So Gradually: A Pride & Prejudice Tale by Jessica Schlenker.  

Book Review - "Leaving Berlin" by Joseph Kanon

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.

9781476704647_p0_v5_s260x420Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon is a gripping historical thriller.  The book’s plot takes place in Berlin four years after the end of World War II.  What makes this novel special is that through an action-packed plot readers gain a glimpse of what it was like at the start of the Cold War, where the Stalinists replaced the Nazis.  In many ways it is so realistic people will forget it is a thriller.

The storyline is based on the adventures of Alex Meier, a German whose father was Jewish and who sees himself as a socialist.  With the help of his family he escaped to America before the Holocaust.  Although he did not have his heart with the Communists he still was swept up by the McCarthy era after refusing to name names to a Congressional committee.  To avoid jail and wanting to continue being a celebrity novelist he makes a desperate deal with the CIA.  He must return to Berlin, pose as a disenchanted exile, and gather actionable intelligence by spying on a former lover. Alex finds that espionage in Berlin is a fact of life. 

Kanon commented to, “Alex does not seem to have his heart in communism.  He saw two sides with the Nazis representing the right and the communists representing the left.  At one point in the novel Alex refers to having attended a communist meeting in California.  He basically went with someone who invited him, but he never becomes a party member or commits to it.  I would describe him as a Socialist, partly because he never abandoned his Judaism.  When he got caught up in the cross hairs of the McCarthy sweep he got into trouble because of his principled position of not naming anyone else.  This ruined his life.”

Throughout the story Kanon shows the characters to be unlikely spies. There are some scenes that might suspend belief as Alex suddenly develops into a master manipulator and is able to handle violence with self-confidence.  He is an amazingly fast learner in the art of spy craft, but without this the thriller would be lacking in suspense.

Kanon sets the tone for the readers in the very first pages as he explains in an author’s note about the setting and the various organizations that played a key role in the story.  Readers learn through the main female character, Irene, about the double-dealing that is done to survive by working with the different secret organizations.  Another character to survive is her brother-in-law, an unapologetic Nazi doctor who worked for the Third Reich’s euthanasia program.

The author noted to, “We must remember that the population in Berlin was dependent on the rations for their survival.  There are no jobs or food except what is given out by the occupying forces. How someone answered a questionnaire is one of the ways to determine the amount of rations they received. Irene lied partly for self-preservation, partly because she was devious, and a part for survival. She is damaged by the war, wounded.”

Leaving Berlin is about betrayal, murder, and survival.  It is filled with intrigue that reminds readers of a period and place where loyalties were conflicted and political maneuvering was prevalent.  This is a must read for its complex, riveting, and intricate plot.

Book Review - "And the Good News Is..." by Dana Perino

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 right side bar.

[On a side note, several military bloggers (myself included) met Dana Perino on her first day on the job as Press Secretary for President George W. Bush.  It was also Tony Snow's last day on the job.  I was able to say thank you to him, and, class act that he was, he pointed at Dana Perino and said, "she'll be here for you now."]

9781455584901_p0_v5_s260x420And the Good News Is by Dana Perino is an inspiring book.  It combines a self-portrait of her early years, her journey culminating in becoming the first female Republican press secretary, and her ability to give very practical advice.  No matter what a person’s political affiliation they can draw from this book refreshing stories of loyalty, humility, friendship, and family.

An insightful chapter in the book is her feelings about civility.  She is straightforward in her insistence that America has lost something by disagreeing without respecting one another.  She stated, “there are ways that we can deploy some gentler words to our debates that can make us more productive. There’s no sense in working against each other if we have the same goals in mind, hashing out differences doesn’t have to be a blood sport.  We make a choice when we open our mouths.  Are we going to be gracious or not?” 

Perino portrays President Bush as being gracious, which she sees as effective and persuasive.  Having never sought the limelight or criticized President Obama he understands that his comments could be very damaging. She noted to, “One time I asked President George W. Bush why is that we always have to turn the other cheek and they don’t.  He responded, ‘well its our burden to bear.’” On the other hand, she compares that to Senator Harry Reid who is “a destructive force in Washington D.C. Look at the incivility that is prevalent all over Washington and you will find it leading directly to Harry Reid’s doorstep.”

Perino writes in the book that she had to follow her own advice while dealing with the press’ constant criticism of the President.  While forcing herself to be outwardly civil as press secretary, she secretly released her emotions by sometimes flipping them the bird under the podium, while holding a glass of water and keeping a pleasant look.  She noted, “it was my secret way of firing back when the briefing questioning got heated.”

Readers are reminded how G. W. Bush was very supportive of the military.  As President he would send a personal note to all families who lost a loved one while serving their country. There is a heart-wrenching scene where a mother whose son was on life support severely criticized President Bush.  She writes, “He didn't leave. He stood there, almost as if he needed to absorb it and to understand it. Commanders in chief make really tough decisions, and we went on to the next rooms, and I remember those being experiences where the families were very happy to see him. But when we got on Marine One to fly back to the White House, the president was looking out the window, and then he looked at me and he said, "That mama sure was mad at me." And then he looked out the window and he said, "And I don't blame her a bit." And a tear rolled down his cheek, but he didn't wipe it away, and then we flew back to the White House.”

Perino discussed with the unbelievable attitude of those who have criticized the movie American Sniper.  As someone who was able to personally interact with Navy SEALs she finds it humbling to be around them and respects them for “their courage and bravery.  They’re remarkably unselfish, honorable, strong, and courageous. One of the themes of my book is optimism.  I am very optimistic because all this criticism has backfired on those protesting the movie because Americans are not persuaded by the left’s call to not support it.  The market obviously showed the condemnation is not working.”

Readers will find And the Good News Is, a book that has a positive outlook toward America, with an optimistic undertone.  Through her anecdotes and stories Dana Perino offers advice that is both practical and moralistic.  This book is written in a witty and articulate manner that will have readers go through a gamut of emotions as they reflect on her personal experiences.

Exclusive Interview with David Baldacci

The following interview with best-selling author David Baldacci 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.

9781455559824_p0_v3_s260x420Memory Man by David Baldacci is a compelling novel.  This new series is a fascinating characterization, featuring Detective Amos Decker who has unique abilities. It is a psychological thriller that does not only get into the mind of the characters but gets into the mind of the readers. The plot has Decker suffering from the neurological condition, synesthesia, after a football hit.  A few years later his loved ones are brutally murdered, throwing him into a downward spiral, costing him his self-esteem and job. That is until the arrest of Sebastian Leopold who confesses to the slaughter of his family.  At the same time, a horrific event, a mass killing, occurs at the local high school.  To help solve the cases, Decker becomes a police paid consultant so they can utilize his ability to never forget anything. His startling discovery links the school killings with those of his family as it becomes evident the murders are personal. The plot becomes intense as Decker and the killer play mind games, attempting to manipulate one another to see which one will be left standing in the end.

Elise Cooper:  Why did you decide to write a new series?

David Baldacci:  It is always a challenge to keep things fresh.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, to challenge myself.  I decided to write it as a series because I can develop the characters over time.  I will have the main character working with the FBI so there will be endless possibilities.  Because he is the anti-thesis character I normally write about, this series has energized me.  I really like getting into his skin. 

EC:  Can you describe your new character, Amos Decker?

DB:  I did not make him good looking because I wanted the reader to focus on the inside of him, not the outside.  He is someone with a lot of baggage and is trying to understand who he is.  He takes life one day at a time. 

EC:  Why did you give him synesthesia?

DB:  I like that the diagnosis of synesthesia gives him a different perspective.  He has problems and issues.  He cannot relate socially any more because of what happened to his mind after the football hit. Yet, what makes him such a good detective is, as he says in the book, “the bad guys take care of the big details, but it is the small ones that trip us up.” Many of us go through life and are oblivious to the small things around us, not Amos. He is extraordinary in select fields because of his recall ability.

EC:  Did you do any research for this book?

DB: I have always been intrigued and have read lots of books about the functions of the mind, particularly after trauma.  I read the book Born On A Blue Day and realized this neurological condition is a change in the brain wiring.  What this is about is the sensory pathways in our head that deal with sight, smell, etc.  Think of this as railroad lines that get crossed because of a hit in the head where all of a sudden numbers are colors.  For example, Amos saw the murders of his family in blue.

EC:  He also saw the “army of 3’s.”  Please explain.

DB:  Numbers represent a lot of things to Decker.  Three was a number he was not comfortable with.  Many people with his diagnosis see numbers taking on shapes and forms.  For him, 3’s are like armies in the darkness.  It is something he has to live with and suffer through.  Decker’s mind convinced him this is a threat.  Think of people with OCD who are afraid to walk out of the house unless they do their counting rituals.  

EC:  You have Amos working closely with the reporter Alexandra.  Do you plan on continuing the relationship?

DB:  I envision that she will be a partner to him, which is why I gave them so much face time together.  She is obviously very intrigued by him and I am hoping to see this relationship build.  He had such incredible love for his wife and child that Alex will basically stay just a partner to Amos, although ‘I never say never.’  Currently, he is a guy that can no longer process sympathy and empathy except for his family who were exceptions in his mind.  Maybe a way I will humanize him is to have him gradually and slowly become like he was before the hit, a little of what he used to be. As one of the doctors told him, ‘there is a possibility that your mind could evolve and change. Every day is a new day.’

EC:  Is the theme about losing a loved one?

DB:  I try to put into my books something everybody could relate with.  Most people have suffered a loss, someone they cared about.  For Amos it was the catalyst of losing everything.  It is about falling down and getting back up.  The grieving process should include the understanding that even though our loved ones are no longer here you have to go on living.

EC:  You have some scenes that are not flattering to the sport of football.  Do you not like that sport?

DB:  Actually, I have been a long time Redskins fan.  But a few years ago during a Super Bowl I saw the parade of all the past MVPs.  I was struck by how many of them were crippled.  You see them now in their 40s and 50s, a shell of what they were. The NFL came out with a report that at least 1/3 of the players will suffer some cognitive impairment.  I found that to be extraordinary.  Is it worth it?  It seems, as I said in the book, they are like modern day gladiators. 

EC:  An important scene in the book involves the underground bomb shelter.  Where did you get the idea?

DB:  In the 50’s and 60’s people had bomb shelters under their house, businesses, and even schools. I remember being in elementary school and the bomb siren going off.  We were supposed to huddle under our desk.  And then we were told after the bomb goes off proceed quickly and calmly to the exit. Looking back on it now I am not sure a little wooden desk would have protected me from an H bomb. 

EC:  What do you want the readers to get out of the book?

DB:  To understand that someone who is seen as bizarre or different is a human being and they deserve our respect.  Hopefully the same reaction as my wife who reads all my stuff, usually in manuscript form.  This time I held off until the book was actually finished.  I gave it to her hot off the presses.  She sat down with it one morning and after finishing it that night, told me ‘Wow.’  The reaction I received from her is usually one I do not get.  She told me she was sucked in immediately and found the characters fascinating as well as being enraptured by Amos.

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

DB: In the fall a Will Robie book will be released.  It has him returning home, a backstory.  I want to show where he came from and what created him.  But there will also be a mystery he must solve.  Then in the spring there will be the next Amos Decker book.  Down the line I might write a King and Maxwell book where they investigate a mistake by the Secret Service. I don’t want to add to that service’s troubles, but it is something that is in the back of my mind.  For all my books I must come up with a story that fits the character’s personalities.