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Book Review - "The British Lion" by Tony Schumacher

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.

9780062394590_p0_v2_s192x300The British Lion by Tony Schumacher is the sequel to his first novel, an alternate history where the Nazis actually win World War II, occupy England, and are supported by the US government.

The hero of The Darkest Hour, John Rossett, returns as he helps his Nazi boss save his daughter, who has been kidnapped by American spies. He must find Ruth Hartz, a Jewish scientist imprisoned by the Germans and forced to work on developing an atom bomb, so she can be swapped for the daughter. Rossett battles not only the Nazi occupiers, but also the British Resistance who are from the criminal underworld, as well as some rogue American spies led by Allen Dulles who covertly works to defeat Hitler.

Besides the real-life figure of Dulles, Schumacher incorporates into the story Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joe Kennedy and US President Charles Lindbergh. Both men desire to have a good relationship with Hitler and to start a trade agreement. Although many historical books ignore Kennedy’s and Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism, Schumacher uses it to enhance the plot. Readers will learn the true facts of Lindbergh’s views regarding the Jews, considering them sinister, corrupt, and committed to destroying Christian morality. They also learn that Kennedy looked upon appeasement with Hitler as something positive, especially the economic ties between the two sides.

But the most powerful part of the novel is its theme, what will people morally sacrifice to pay the price for their life? This is brought home by the quote, “We’re part of a machine, John…whatever I think about the machine, how I feel about what it does, it doesn’t matter. If I don’t do what I’m supposed to do…I die.” The author also takes the theme one step further by having readers decide if the person with the clipboard is as responsible or more responsible for the Jewish deaths than the ones who actually did the killings.

The author noted to blackfive.net, “I read about this incident where a sixteen year old shot a policeman in the 1950s. There were these two guys on the rooftop, one pulled the trigger and the other told him to do it. I thought about my book story and wondered about those who ordered people on trains: are they just as guilty as those who actually killed. I think the minute anyone knows what they are doing they are just as responsible. Without the bureaucrat you could not have had the actual killer. I want readers to ask questions and think about the issues.”

Through his brilliant character development readers begin to sympathize with not only Ruth, the Jewish scientist, but with her Nazi collaborator rescuer, John Rossett. Ruth is the only one in the story with complete moralistic integrity, willing to kill herself to make sure the Nazis never get the bomb. Rossett comes across as someone wanting to make amends, to become a better person, since his original job was to displace Jews. Although people will not give this complex and flawed character a full pardon, they find themselves rooting for him as he tries to overcome his sins by fighting subversively against the Nazi regime.

The British Lion reminds readers in many different ways about man’s inhumanity to man. It becomes obvious Schumacher has done his historical research about Nazis, their sympathizers, and the Holocaust, He mixes those facts into a riveting story, creating an alternate history that has readers tremble with the realistic possibilities. This is a must read considering what is happening in the world today.

Chopped Veterans

My friend, AF veteran Ellen Adams, will be on a special episode of Chopped tonight.  Please tune in to cheer her, and the other veteran participants, on what looks to be quite a challenge! 

Premiering Tuesday, November 10th at 10pm – “Military Vets”
Veterans of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy face off in the Chopped kitchen. In the first round, one of the chefs stumbles upon a brilliant way to treat scalloped potatoes. Precooked meatloaf is the big challenge in the second round. The two final chefs go all out in the dessert round, making very clever sweet treats from a crispy snack and a sweet and tart drink.
Host: Ted Allen Judges: Maneet Chauhan, Marc Murphy, Chris Santos

Metrojet Flight 9268, Daesh, & Russia, Oh My

There is a lot of speculation that Daesh brought down Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian civilian airliner, over Egypt.  This is both behind the scenes and in the media, and it brings up some interesting points for consideration. 

First, it brings up the point of what did happen and how that is handled.  In the US, airline, railroad, and other similar accidents fall under the National Transportation Safety Board.  Yes, they can and have investigated more than airline incidents.  One of the best legacy products of the now defunct Aviation/Space Writers association is a booklet called Air Accidents and the News Media.  If you can find a copy, it gives a good breakdown of what happens, when, why, and who is authorized to talk at any given point.  The actual process used is designed to allow a complete and impartial investigation and to avoid political interference in same.  

Sadly, the latter is needed as politics do come into play.  It has since the early days of the railroads and continues today, and my thoughts on current and recent administrations eagerly coming out with immediate denials of terrorism should be easy to guess.  The early, and often completely unfounded, speculation about any accident/incident is not helpful, and flat out wrong.  It does, however, give the media and politicians ratings and a chance to grandstand.  

Getting real data is time consuming, and involves a lot of engineering and non-engineering forensics.  It means testing each piece of debris, and often requires that the pieces be, in effect, re-assembled so that a full and accurate reconstruction of events can be developed.  These days, it also involves a lot of computer modeling, which is a time-consuming process in and of itself -- and GIGO is very much on the minds of those involved.  Those involved via the NTSB and similar agencies around the world tend not to talk or leak, knowing that while pieces may be sensational, how they fit together can provide a very different story.  

In my personal opinion and experience, the first speculations are often wildly wrong.  The mid-phase speculation is more on target.  The final report is (at least here with the NTSB) is accurate, fairly complete, and somewhat boring to read even when the results are significant or even spectacular.  I will also note, for the conspiracy theorists out there, that I have never seen a final report that was clearly changed or whitewashed -- and trust me, given the hundreds of people that end up involved it would be very hard to keep such an event secret.  I will also note that not every country follows our model.  

We are into that middle period of public speculation, and it is interesting to say the least.  While there were early reports of the co-pilot being unhappy with the condition of the aircraft, there is a lot of back channel discussion of involvement by Daesh.  This is now coming out in public announcements, and I do find it telling that the UK has stopped direct flights to the UK from the Sinai.  This is not, however, definitive by any means.  

Which leads to a second major bit of food for thought.  The Russians (and the Soviet Union before them) tend towards direct action when terrorism is involved.  For our older readers, I simply will say Beirut, though there are many other examples.  

If this was indeed an act of terrorism, I suspect that the apocalpytic cult that is Daesh may well get some of what they seek.  Speaking strictly for myself, I will simply say Владимир: Добрый Охота!  Your mileage may vary, and if so sound off in the comments.  

Book Review - "Blood Red" by Wendy Staub

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

9780062349736_p0_v2_s192x300Blood Red by Wendy Staub focuses on a small town in the USA, which must come to grips with a serial killer. The book’s setting, Mundy’s Landing, in New York’s Hudson Valley, is presented as a character, the focal point of the story.

The Historical Society memorializes the Sleeping Beauty murders of 1916, and has become legendary throughout the celebrations held every year. The newspaper clippings in each chapter add to the authenticity and offer some background on the town.

Known as a domestic thriller author, Staub skillfully keeps the reader in suspense concerning the identity of the real serial killer. The story takes people into the mind of the murderer and the woman is he stalking that has a sinister secret. By having the killer’s name as Casey and having numerous viable suspects she is able to keep the readers guessing until the very end of the story.

As cleverly as the author sets up the serial killer, some may have problems relating to the main character Rowan, a bad girl turned good. She was not very sympathetic and definitely is irritating.

Staub noted to blackfive.net that she based the town on what happened in Massachusetts where Lizzie Borden murdered her family with an axe.   She was hoping to convey, “How family dynamics can affect an ordinary heroine. The stakes become much higher when a loved one is involved. I wanted to make sure the town’s industry is based on brutal murders. I liked the idea of a town that is popular because something horrible happened where no one knows the truth.”

Blood Red captures the essence of a small town fabric. People will find the action takes place off the page because it is more of a “who done it” type of story. Anyone wanting to get in the mind of a serial killer will enjoy this book.

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 blackfive.net, “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.

Godspeed Fred Thompson

Lawyer, politician, and actor Fred Thompson has passed.  He played an instrumental role in the Watergate investigation as chief minority council; went on to serve in the Senate and run for president; and, was a successful actor of film and television -- and much enjoyed in the military community for the clip above.  While he did not serve, I can say that he did indeed support the troops and encouraged private efforts to help troops and veterans.  He also enjoyed a good cigar, and I plan to have one in his honor.  Godspeed. 

Troop/Veteran Employment in Indianapolis/Indiana

Post previously pinned
Indy Hub Handler Flyer

The FedEx hub in Indianapolis is looking to hire a large number of people (I've heard up to 500).  This is part-time work, but comes with full-time benefits including medical, dental, vision, 401k and pension plans, tuition reimbursement, and more.  There are opportunities to move up to a variety of other positions (nationwide even) after six months.  I will note that the FedEx recruiter Mission: VALOR is working with is a Reservist, and we would like to see as many of these jobs as possible go to our troops and veterans.  Please help us spread the word!  

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 blackfive.net 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 blackfive.net, “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.