Book Review: Cutting Edge

The following 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.


Cutting Edge by Ward Larsen is a modern-day western, that also reminds readers of Superman and The Six Million Dollar Man.  As the book describes it, the antagonist, Delta, and the protagonist, Trey have a “High Noon standoff 21st Century.”  The Superman qualities is that each have x-ray vision of sorts where their brains become a computer monitor, and Delta has similar qualities of the Six Million Dollar Man with his speed and strength.

The other character in the book is technology.  Larsen connected his characters to the Web, which he does not see as far-fetched.  “Trey has a screen in his right eye.  Voice and facial recognition are at his fingertips where he can even record and send conversations.  I made sure to allow him to have access to only people who are in databases, so he could not find recent refugees or children.  He can find any information on a person because he is given top level security access.  It is doable where implants are put in the brain and then a person can connect directly to the Internet.  I would describe it as an implantable brain computer that interfaces.  It is being designed to for those who have prosthetics.”

The plot has Trey Debolt, a Coast Guard rescuer swimmer, fighting for his life after a helicopter crash.  Officially he was declared dead, because no one knows that there is a rogue government experimental unit who chose to use him as a guinea pig.  He becomes a man on the run after he witnesses his savior, nurse Joan Chandler, being gunned down. It becomes a game of cat and mouse as the hunted and the hunter try to outwit each other.  Fortunately for Trey, Shannon Lund decides to investigate his death.  Having access to records as a civilian working for the Coast Guard Investigative Service, she agrees to help him get to the bottom of what was done to him and to find the culprits chasing him including Delta.

Besides the fast-paced plot Larsen explores how technology has both good and bad points.  Readers will hope that he turns Trey and Shannon into a series and that there will be sequels written.

Book Review: Oath Of Honor

The following 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.


Oath Of Honor by Lynette Eason is the first in a new series. This thrilling story is a shout out to those in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each and every day to keep everyone safe.  The action never ceases as the plot combines a mystery, criminal investigation, politics, gang wars, shootings, and bad cops.  What makes this story stand out is that Eason also brings to life engaging and well-developed characters, including some who have a subtle romance.

The plot begins with childhood friends who are now police partners, Izzy St. John and Kevin Marshall, surveilling an abandoned warehouse after they receive a tip that a high-level arms deal will take place.  Kevin decides to go rogue, sprinting into the warehouse and dies in a spray of bullets.  Izzy is determined to discover what exactly happened and agrees to work with Kevin’s brother, detective Ryan Marshall, as they unofficially work the case.  

This family affair book might remind readers of the TV show Blue Bloods. “I really enjoy it.  One day I was sitting there watching it and thought it might be cool to create my own law enforcement family that will have their own adventures, dangers, and romantic situations.  The Reagan family loves each other unconditionally and shows how law enforcement is in their blood, passed down from generation to generation. Since I married into a big extended family I thought how nice it is to have a large family and used my imagination to create one.”

The hero and heroine are determined, hard-working, and have a sense of right versus wrong. Eason describes Izzy as someone who is “a go-getter.  She is smart, inquisitive, loyal, seeks justice, and will always have her friends and family’s back.  But she is also stubborn and has a pit bull type of mentality.  Izzy believes anyone who does wrong should face consequences. The hero, Ryan, is tough, a protector, who wants to make everything right.”

Izzy should be singing the song “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” because in this story she is put through the ringer.  She was shot, beaten, had her house set on fire, and thrown from a building.  When writing Izzy’s hardships Eason thought of “the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen, having a dust cloud over their heads.  She also had a traumatic past which has shaped her current thought process.  She is determined to not let it define who she is and will not let it get the best of her. This is why I put in the book this quote, ‘I think sometimes we let our fears build to a point where they’re bigger in our minds than in reality.’  She will always face her fears.”

This first in the series is a mystery that will keep readers guessing with the many twists and turns. Her details, descriptions, and characters have people yearning for more. Beyond the mystery it is a great story of love, family, and as Eason writes in the dedication, this series is “to the men and women in blue…who risk everything to keep us safe.”

Book Review: The English Wife

The following 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 English Wife by Lauren Willig is full of intrigue and suspense.  It is a refreshing change from all the recent Gone Girl look alikes, and instead is part mystery, part love story, and part family drama. This historical crime fiction novel involves murder, scandals, and secrets.

The Gilded Age is highlighted between the years 1894 in England to 1899 in New York.  Bayard, the son of a Knickerbocker prominent family returns after a three-year absence with his English wife, Annabelle aka Georgie.  Their supposed whirlwind romance is shattered at the opening of their Twelfth Night Ball to highlight the new manor.  Bayard is discovered with a dagger in his chest, while Annabelle appears to have drowned in the Hudson.

The story should remind readers of the Clue Game with an abundance of suspects and motives.  There is Bay’s cousin Anne, who could be having an affair, his sister Janie who found the body, his mother who is omnipresent, and his wife Georgie who has disappeared.  As rumors swirl, Janie decides to work with a reporter, Burke, to save the reputation of her brother and sister-in-law to uncover the truth.

Readers are taken back to stories of the past with the characters.  Bayard reminds people of Noel Coward, enjoying music, the arts, and plays, while having another side to his life.  The cousin Anne and Bay’s sister Janie are close to the Cinderella characters with the mother, Mrs. Van Duyvil a reminder of the stepmother. 

Willig noted, “Mrs. Van Duyvil was cold, controlling, impersonal, and distant.  She was only concerned with the lineage, money, and power.  She represented the old New York attitude.  I put in the quote of her telling Annabelle that her heritage went back to Revolutionary times to prove how important her family was. Of course, Annabelle replies that her lineage goes back to the Magna Carta.  I guess that was her in your face moment to her mother-in-law. The comparison fits well with the Cinderella story because Anne is told she has no place in this world.  Like Cinderella Anne is beautiful and charming. Mrs. Van Duyvil treated Janie and Anne as her pawns.”

The ball called the Twelfth Night is based on the Shakespearean play of the same name.  Willig wanted to show that the play’s story “is all about misunderstanding.  It has everyone thinking someone is someone else.  This plays into the secrets the characters are keeping from each other.  There are a lot of people masquerading as someone else. This is similar to this novel’s story where it delves into what the world has done to them.  The real heart of my story is that all the characters are forced by the world they live in to try to be people they are not. This is especially true with Georgie and Bay who were full of secrets with each hiding something from the other.  There were these implied lies based on the omission of information.  Georgie first saw Bay as the Prince Charming and he thinks of her as the missing heiress.”

Readers will enjoy this novel because Willig brings to the forefront the attitudes and issues of the period within the context of a riveting mystery.  She shows through the characters how the Gilded Age was based on wealth and stature, and with it came scandal.  This is where the murder mystery comes into play allowing Willig to combine everything into a very compelling story.   

Book Review: Promise Not To Tell

The following 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.


Promise Not To Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz is a breath-taking story.  While the first in the series, When All the Girls Have Gone, was spell-binding, this book leaves the readers’ heart pounding as it is more of a thriller than a mystery.  Krentz delivers an impactful series by focusing each novel on one of three brothers.  Each book can be read as a stand-alone, but in not reading the first people will miss out on the engaging story of Max Sutter.

The premise for the series has police chief Anson Salinas rescuing eight children trapped in a blazing barn, but unfortunately, he was unable to save their mothers.  They were entrapped in a compound, part of a cult run by a manipulative, controlling psychopath Quinton Zane.  Now, over twenty years later, Salinas has a private investigative service with two of the three boys he rescued and then adopted. 

Krentz noted, “Even though I do not know anyone in a cult, I wanted to write about that whole notion of getting sucked in and used. This was not a religious cult, but one based on technology and the desire to change the future of the world. It was more of a pyramid scheme cult based on money and power. I was very careful to show that the children were not sucked in, just the parents.  The mothers were very smart and intelligent people who became entrapped as they feared for their lives as well as their child’s life.” 

One of the children, Virginia Troy, has tracked Anson down to uncover what happened to her good friend, Hannah Brewster, a reclusive artist, who died under suspicious circumstances. After agreeing to take the assignment he assigns his adoptive son, Cabot Cutler to the case. He and Virginia suspect that the death could be related to the cult since Hannah was one of a few adults who escaped. The intensity takes off from there and never lets up.

On the surface, it appears Cabot and Virginia only have in common their past. What does the owner of an art gallery have in common with a former law enforcement officer? The hero and heroine share the inability to sustain a relationship, putting a wall between themselves and others. This is due in part to their suffering from PTSD, reliving the fire in their nightmares, panic attacks, and strange sleeping behaviors. Throughout the story they overcome their emotional scars and begin to connect with each other intimately, sharing a mutual understanding of respect, empathy, and tolerance of their differences.

Comparing Cabot and Virginia, Krentz sees both similarities and differences. “Cabot appears aloof and unemotional.  Very literal, serious, and curious.  A complicated character. As with so many of my characters he is reinventing himself with a new job and a new life, starting over emotionally and professionally.  In order to navigate his world, he needs a mission, which is why he became a part of the private investigative business, to help people find answers.  All my characters are complicated and reserved emotionally because they have been burned in some way.  With Cabot, the burn is literal and goes back to his childhood drama while in the cult. Virginia is in the same boat as Cabot.  They both looked at the world in two ways, seeing the humor and the dark side.  She is outwardly reserved, sharp, polished, and sophisticated. She likes to size up people.”

This book is action-packed and fast-paced. It has everything a reader can desire: suspense, romance, and riveting characters. Readers will be left yearning for the concluding story of the series.

Book Review and Author Q/A: The Power Of A Seal

The following 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.

Many military books have been written by and about SEALs.  The Power of A Seal by Anne Elizabeth is a suspense-romance novel that highlights the SEAL community. It blends a mysterious plot, some romance, and a realistic look at those serving.

Readers gain an insight into the personality of a SEAL.  They are truly the selfless warriors that do not require any accolades: humble, bold, strong, brave, with an inner calm during the missions. 

The Power of A Seal explores the mental anguish many who serve go through when their bodies, either emotionally or physically, tell them it is time to look for another line of work.  The hero, Leaper Lefton, after undergoing a traumatic experience, is reassigned to the BUD training program as a SEAL instructor to teach, lead, assess, evaluate, and test the trainees, making sure they have the emotional and physical skills. While on a training mission in Coronado Leaper spots a woman in danger in the middle of the ocean.  After rescuing her, he finds out that Kerry Hamilton is a marine veterinarian assigned to the Marine Mammal Program that works with the Navy.  She is responsible for the health and well-being of the dolphins and sea lions.  After discovering a disease among the dolphins, she enlists Leaper’s help to medicate the wild dolphins and test a cure. The love story takes off from here, but readers are also treated to details about the SEAL training and the Marine Mammal Program.

Elise Cooper:  Why did you want to write a series centered on the SEAL community?

Anne Elizabeth:  My husband Carl served in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964, part of the Underwater Demolition Team, as a swimmer scout, better known as a Navy Frogman. He then became part of SEAL Team 1 in 1965 and was deployed back to Vietnam in 1966 and 1969. He told me I could honor the community and country by writing about these dedicated men.  I wanted to inform people about the challenges and to show their personal courage. There are basic facts that are true to all military life: struggles with marriage, family, relationships, money, health, and returning home.

EC:  Is your heroine as strong-willed as her male counterpart?

AE:  Anyone having a relationship with a SEAL needs to be their own person with their own self-expression. The woman has to be as alpha and strong as the man. Kerry is very comfortable with her dolphins.  It is not that she is not sociable, but really involved with her career.

EC:  How would you describe the hero?

AE:  Leaper is very old-fashioned, protective, a workaholic, and very private.

EC: You also do the walk by helping your community?

AE:  My husband and I strive to honor those serving 365 days a year.  The public should be aware of the sacrifices made and understand that the SEALs are selfless warriors.  Carl is still part of the Legacy Program that remembers those who served.  We always send holiday packages to some families that have faced hardships to remember the sacrifices they make as well. We want to show them they are not alone and Americans are thinking of them.

EC:  You address the disease of dolphins?

AE: They are really sick.  Remember the book is a novel, but in reality, there is no solution.  The Amazon is the only place they have not found the sick dolphins.  These pink dolphins might be the clue to help the species. 

EC:  You highlight the Marine Mammal Program?

AE:  It is pretty amazing.  It upsets me that people think they are harming the mammals.  I think these people do not understand the program.  My husband and another family member have worked for the organization. I know the people who work for this program do not think of it as a job, but as a calling. Because it is part of the Navy we have found that they can help and teach us.  For example, people with kidney stones eat the same diet, gelatin, as the dolphins. Both are hydrated by putting an IV right into their stomach.  They were taught to identify mines and enemy swimmers.  They also teach us how to communicate. 

EC:  How do you handle the relationship aspect?

AE:  Anyone who has a relationship with a military member knows that when they meet a person it usually blows their mind. It is the concept I write about where they know there is something unique and special during that first moment. Basically, it is about knowing it right away, which is what happened when I met my husband; even though, we took our time. I can’t imagine my life without him.

EC:  How would you describe the relationship between Leaper and Kerry?

AE: They want to move forward with a purpose.  I think there has to be that spark that creates chemistry.  Of course, a sense of humor helps, which is why the banter between them was special.  I wanted them to be “swim buddies for life.”

EC:  They were a little older, it seemed Kerry was in her thirties and Leaper in his forties?

AE:  I do not want to reveal their ages but people can do the math considering he has been a SEAL for decades and she is a vet.  This is just reality today.  It used to be people married right out of college, in their twenties.  But I do not see that at all anymore.  I don’t remember the last time I went to a twenty something marriage.

EC:  This book is not as action-packed as the previous ones, and emphasizes the SEAL philosophy?

AE:  I did concentrate on the training.  My husband Carl taught me something emphasized in the BUDs program.  There is a lot to be afraid of in the world. It is not about running from danger, but facing it, and holding your ground.  There is a difference between being fearful versus facing your fear.  This is one of the big lessons of the book, stand up to your fear.

EC:  Music plays a big role in the story and you even have a playlist at the end?

AE:  My husband and I absolutely love music.  A good friend of mine, Mimi Cruz, owns a comic book store, Carl and Mimi had a big influence on my music choices.  I love the Pixies and had as one of my character’s theme song: having their feet on the air and their head on the ground.  As I was writing scenes I found I was drawn to certain music.  For example, when Kerry is sitting in her car I could imagine American Authors singing “Best Day of My Life.” I also thought of the Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believin,” where the characters would feel the realness of the moment.

EC:  Besides good entertainment what do you want readers to get out of your books?

AE:  To get their mind working.  Every book I have written has some kind of educational element whether about technology, the SEAL community, the space race, Veteran issues, or the Mammal Program.  I never lecture, but hope to spark the readers’ imagination and engage them.


Book Review and Q/A with W.E.B. Griffin about Death At Nuremberg

The following 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.


Death At Nuremberg by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV is more than a thriller.  These authors have a knack for telling a riveting story that is intertwined with historical facts.  It is a reminder of past history and the plot supports how history in many ways is repeating itself.  Some of the facts are so incredibly gripping they can make for a thriller in and of themselves. 

This plot covers the time period when the Nuremberg war trials began with covert intelligence agent Captain James Cronley Jr. having to handle many fronts: the Russians, Nazis, and a bureaucracy. He has been reassigned from the Chief, DCI-Europe to protecting the Nuremberg US Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson and the American Judge Francis Biddle from a possible Soviet NKGB kidnapping.  In addition to that he is still hunting down and dismantling Odessa, an organization dedicated to helping Nazi war criminals escape to South America.  In trying to play nice he decides to work with the CIC, a counter agency to the DCI and enlists the help of Colonel Morty Cohen who also has another agenda.  He asks for Cronley’s help in getting to the bottom of a religious cult organized by SS Commander Heinrich Himmler. Griffin’s signature writing style is very evident as he blends humor, espionage, danger, and great characters in his latest novel.

Below is an interview with W.E.B. Griffin and his son William JR.


Elise Cooper:  This series delves into the beginnings of the Cold War?

William E. Butterworth IV (JR):  The Cold War is back.  President Trump speaks of not surrendering our sovereignty to foreign bureaucrats and that there should be a new era of competition to protect our national interest.  Now just as then we have rivals that are tough and tenacious, and we have to make sure we do not trust the Russians or Chinese.  Dad put in the last few books how no one wanted to believe that at the end of WWII the Russians were not our “allies” after they were our “allies.”  Behind the scenes they were working only for the Russians.  We hoped to show through our plots that Russia was and still is a “revisionist power” seeking to change the global status quo, rejecting cooperation in favor of competition. 

EC:  Can you explain what is meant by the 1000-year old reign?

JR:  The Nazis used the discontent of the German people who felt emasculated by the Treaty Of Versailles after losing WWI.  They promised a 1000-year old Third Reich.  They claimed the First Reich began with Charlemagne in 800 AD, ending in 1806 AD.  The Second Reich started in the early 1870s and ended with the conclusion of WWI.  The Third Reich was supposed to bring back Germanic power and pride. They removed political opponents, so called criminals, deviants, gypsies, Jews, Slavs, and the handicapped, those deemed to be sub-human.

EC:  Himmler started a religious cult, the Black Knights of the SS?

W.E.B. Griffin: Himmler was obsessed with the Nordic/German past and thought himself as divine.  He had the Wewelsburg Castle designated as his fortress that would display Nazi greatness and the ideological center of the SS. The German people were completely taken in by Hitler who gave them their pride back and convinced them they were superior to everyone else. It also became a collection place for what the Nazis stole from the occupied lands including famous paintings.  I hope readers understand through the story that it was a holy place that justified mass murder.  It was very real and very dangerous.  They wanted to own the world.

EC:  Throughout the book you show the true identity of the SS?

Griffin:  I mention Operation Phoenix where the Germans were willing to ransom Jews out of Concentration Camps. FDR allowed it to continue to save some from the ovens.  The SS were a bunch of gangsters as well as murderers, crooked to the core. President Truman was a genius for having the Nuremberg Trials because the Nazis were seen as criminals as well as killers.

EC:  A powerful quote in the books seems like it could have come from the German-born iconic actress Marlene Dietrich?

Griffin:  Marlene was a good person who supported our side against her own people. The quote, “Now when I think about my German blood, I’m a little ashamed about it.  That people ‘of my blood’ could do what the Nazis did.”  My mother’s maiden name is Gladys Schnable so I have some German blood.  This is how I feel.  When I was in Germany, in the US Army, shortly after the War, you couldn’t find anyone who was a Nazi even though about 90% of the population supported them. I went to the film vault to look at what happened in the Concentration Camps.  My boss, General White, came in and told me I should never forget.

EC:  Here in America is a statute of the poster boy for German nationalism.  Maybe that is a statue that should be destroyed?

Griffin: The statue is in New York City and is of Hermann der Cheruskerfurst.  It was put up around the turn of the century, and is called the Hermann Heights Monument.  Many Germans are named after him including Hermann Goring.  I am against taking statues down because they need to stay up for historical value to remind us what did happen. 

EC:  This series describes the turf wars between agencies of the DIA and CIC?

Griffin:  There were turf wars all the time.  Everyone wanted to protect their territory.  I put in the quote, “You spend as much time in turf warfare as you do in fighting the Red Menace.”  The beginning of the book explains how Truman disbanded the OSS.  Everyone fought over wanting to take that agency over and filling in the intelligence vacuum with their own agency. The CIC, the counter-intelligence Corp of the Army, the Navy, State Department, FBI, all wanted to take control and in the process tried to make a fool of Truman.  Basically, he thought, ‘screw this,’ and started the DCI, appointing Admiral Sidney Souers as its head. It morphed into the CIA.

EC:  What about Colonel Wallace, the nemesis of Captain Cronley?

Griffin:  Most of the upper military are interested in their careers.  My character Wallace represented these types. I wanted to show how ethics play an important role.  Are those involved more concerned about themselves, their agency, or their country?  The regular Army guys are patriots.  I would also include all the Generals in Trump’s staff as patriots. I think Wallace knew how to work around the bureaucracy, where his actions served him and not the country.  The bureaucracy is the cancer on society.

EC:  It appears there was fake news even then?

Griffin:  The AP reporter was Janice Johansen. She is based on the real-life war correspondent that covered the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, named Maggie Higgins. Instead of reporting that the American was kidnapped by the Russians and exchanged for a Russian we had, she said the exchange took place after both were arrested for being intoxicated. Other times she did not report the information until she received approval. 

JR:  During the Cold War, at the conclusion of WWII disinformation was put out.  It is wrong information that was sold as true.  It is basically subversive and is done on purpose.  Misinformation is where mistakes are made.  Janice agrees to write disinformation because she understands the security ramifications and knows that Cronley will feed her bigger stories before any other reporter.

EC:  Is German General Reinhard Gehlen a good guy or a bad guy?

Griffin:  He was a good guy.  During the War, he was a Lt-General, but was anti-Hitler from the beginning and was involved in multiple plots to kill Hitler.  After the War, he helped us with espionage against the Russians and became the German head of intelligence.  He even had agents in the Kremlin that tipped us that there were spies in the US Atomic Energy Program.

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

Griffin:  It continues the plotline about Himmler’s religion.  It will also continue to show how the Cold War began, and how it is important to get to know the enemy and try to con them.


Book Review: Countdown

The following 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.

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Countdown by Carey Baldwin is a story ripped from the headlines.  Juggling two professions, psychologist and pediatrician, has helped her with formulating different storylines.  This novel is a departure from her last one, and is much more of a fun read.  

The plot begins with what appears to be someone drowning on the beach of Tahiti.  Forensic psychiatrist Caitlyn Cassidy and FBI Agent Atticus Spenser are enjoying some R and R while preparing for their upcoming wedding. Unfortunately their best-laid plans go awry when they attempt to rescue the couple. They then become embroiled in a case that involves a con, dirty secrets and murder. After agreeing to help local law enforcement that seems to be overwhelmed, Cassidy and Spenser find that each clue of the investigation is nothing, as it seems. The story takes off with many twists and turns.

Although not a Christmas story, it is a light-hearted read with the emphasis on family.  During the holiday times more often than not people gather around to spend quality time with their loved ones.  This novel showcases both sides.  The supporting character Rose, has a large sense of duty towards family with a highly advanced sense of right and wrong. She is willing to make sacrifices to do right by her family.

Baldwin noted, “Rose’s driving force is an overdeveloped sense of conscience. All the motivations for the supporting characters is protecting someone in their family, including the police brothers.  The twins were searching for the ideal family when in reality they had a dysfunctional one.  Caity and Spenser had their moms and each other to contend with.”

This story is fun and adventurous with a happy ending for Caity and Spenser.  Readers will enjoy reading a book filled with action that is not always gloomy.

Book Review Touch Of Red and Cover Of Night

The following 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. 51cV-46H9BL._SX303_BO1 204 203 200_

Touch Of Red and Cover Of Night by Laura Griffin have a plot with intricate suspense, and well-developed characters.  The intensity on the pages is prevalent in the story and with the character’s relationship.  Touch Of Red is part of the Tracer series and Cover Of Night is part of the SEAL series, but each can by read as a stand-alone.

Griffin noted, “The “Tracer Series” has the Delphi Crime Lab at the center, while the SEAL series has the Alpha Crew as the focal point.  You will see some overlap of characters, but each book has its own plot and a different couple.  Those highlighted in the past will come back for a cameo appearance where readers can see what they are doing now.”

Cover Of Night starts off with a bang when journalist Karly Bonham witnesses a terrorist attack in Thailand.  Sent on an assignment to interview the US Ambassador to Thailand she is packing up to leave and realizes Islamic Jihadists are taking the Ambassador and his daughter as hostages.  After receiving an SOS message from Karly, four members of the elite SEAL Alpha Crew team arrive to attempt a rescue. Karly inadvertently finds herself at the team’s insertion point, and insists on helping them by providing vital intelligence.  The action will come in waves, having the reader feel like it has a tsunami effect.

The author first became “interested after reading some autobiographical books written by SEALs.  I decided to have a SEAL character in the book, Beyond Limits, from my “Tracer Series.” I enjoyed writing about their missions, training, and teammates.  I was lucky enough to view the training area in Coronado, touring the base and speaking with some retired SEALs.  This allowed me to have a feel for the area of San Diego. This series is less about forensics and more of an action and adventure story. I hope this series showcases all the great things they do, since I have a ton of respect for them.”

Touch Of Red also has non-stop action.  It begins with the investigation of a violent, gruesome murder.  Delphi Center crime scene forensics expert Brooke Porter is gathering evidence to help detective Sean Byrne find the culprit.  Through her expertise she is able to determine that there was indeed an eyewitness, a child. Not only are Byrne and Porter brave, tough, and intelligent, they are heroic in their attempt to solve the crime. While working together they form a chemistry that becomes sizzling with Brooke the one who is independent and stubborn, while Sean is nurturing and sensitive.

Besides the murder mystery, Griffin also tackles a very relevant subject, harassment.  She wants readers to understand, “The person harassed does not necessarily have to be a ‘victim type,’ someone weak, helpless, and incapable.  Many see the warning signs, but do not listen to them.  It can happen to someone smart, opinionated, strong, and competent.  This is exactly what happened with Brooke.  At first, the signs are subtle such as someone trying to control their mate’s life with family and friends.”

Living in Texas, she saw first hand the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.  “My parents were impacted by the hurricane when they lost their house in the flood. Someone in a boat who they did not even know rescued my parents.  A lot of my close friends had to relocate.  The neighborhood where I grew up was flooded with water.  It has been a hard time for the city of Houston so when the Astros won the World Series it gave all of us a boost and was pretty awesome.  Some of the proceeds from Cover Of Night went to benefit Hurricane Harvey.”

Griffin is known for her fast-paced plots that are spellbinding and full of twists and turns.  She beautifully blends dry humor, a gripping mystery, and a sizzling romance, with plenty of action.


Robert "Concrete Bob" Miller - Someone You Should've Known

I’ve seen Concrete Bob cry. 

That’s not the normal opening for a SYSK, is it?

Robert “Concrete Bob” Miller did not have the sobs of a wimp – instead it was gigantic howling, mad physical crying, leaving him breathless.  Crying the way a strong man shows grief. Then, Bob would stop and say, “We got work to do.”

Everyone that knows Bob also knew that he laughed in the very same way...


I don’t recall if I first met Concrete Bob in the basement bar at Fran O’Brien’s or at the gate at Walter Reed.  It was about twelve years ago, and my first recollection of him was standing on the corner on a Friday night, outside the gate at Walter Reed, counter protesting Code Pink - a group of hardcore socialist women deliberately trying to demoralize our newly arriving wounded troops with signs that said "you got maimed for a lie" and displaying coffins, among other nasty things. Once per week, on Friday night, our most severely wounded troops came to Walter Reed from Germany.  Once on the ground, a bus brought them to the base at about 9pm.  And Code Pink would be there to send a horrible message.

I remember getting off of the Georgia Ave bus and Bob handing me the flag when the Army bus of wounded troops arrived at about 2130.  The flag was huge and I stepped out into the street to block the hags from Code Pink protesting our wounded warriors just arriving.  I know that Major Pain was there, too. Maybe John and Mary Bell, among others. 

After the bus with our wounded troops entered the fort, we all went to Malone House (Fisher House) to see if anyone needed anything. 

In Malone House, Bob wanted to check on a few of the long term guests there.  He hadn’t seen some of them in a few months. The wounded soldiers and their families greeted Bob like a hero.  Because Bob was a hero.  A big damn hero.

Concrete Bob was a Marine veteran - street smart and cunning.  As my friend Jonn Lilyea wrote the other day:

“When Code Pink’s protest permit expired, Bob was at the DC office and got permission for the counter-protest to occupy both sides of the main gate. The Code Pink protest got moved down the block away from the sight of the wounded troops as they arrived on the Friday night bus.”

Bob ensured that those horrible people would not damage our troops any more than they already had been. 

Big. Damn. Hero.


Your BBQ sauce is a healing elixir of joy and goodness.” – review of Concrete Bob’s BBQ Sauce

If you knew Bob, you never were hungry around him.  Bob fed everyone.  

There are stories upon stories upon stories of Concrete Bob and his amazing-kick-ass-best-sauce-you-ever-had BBQ. When Malone House was under construction and a new patio was added in 2010, Bob fed the construction workers, along with the families there.  Just because.

Once when I was in DC and Bob couldn’t meet me due to a work conflict, he sent BBQ sauce in mason jars to my hotel room.  Just because.

Recently, one of our friends shared a story about Bob running a veteran support event in a park, and then feeding homeless people there, saying, “No one goes hungry around me!”

No one ever did.

Big. Damn. Hero.

Bob teamed up with the boys from BlackFive on many ambitious endeavors.  I became acquainted with United Conservatives, folks from the Free Republic (FReepers), Vets for Freedom, Protest Warrior, The Gathering of Eagles, etc.  Early on, I began to understand that Concrete Bob was not just a follower but a nexus connecting many of his friends.  While Bob would never admit that he was a leader, he led by example.  He showed great humility at times.  And, others, it was the Concrete Bob Show.  You all know what I mean.

Bob championed, I mean CHAMPIONED, veteran causes.  His work on behalf of veterans raised tons of money, awareness and gave vets and their families hope.  Of all people, Concrete Bob brought a sense of normalcy to people whose lives had changed dramatically.  Bob would hear of someone in need and immediately reach out to his network to find a way to help.  He saved lives.  Because that’s what Concrete Bob does.

Big. Damn. Hero.

Bob wasn’t a blogger when we first met.  He became one soon after meeting Smash and Jimbo and I.

One of his first posts was about his critics posting comments:

To the asshats who wrote the dumb posts, you should Thank God you live in a country that allows you to be as stupid as you want to be, and no one can bitch slap you for it.

That, my friends, was the essence of Concrete Bob – humor, pride in his country, ire at those who oppose us, and a point to be made in one single sentence.  He would never be deterred from saying what he thought needed to be said.

Big. Damn. Hero.


What I haven’t said before is that Bob was one of my biggest supporters, one of the first, and a huge fan of BlackFive.  He sent encouraging emails to me week after week after week…He handed out our cards, our shirts, everything.  Bob was all in.  Hell, BlackFive would have been so much less without Concrete Bob in our corner.

He sent me this a few years ago.  I hadn’t heard from him in a while.

Thanks for taking an interest, Matt. Great to hear from you as well.
You keep amazing me with your posts. Don’t stop.

But I did stop. I burned out.

Bob saw it coming at me and wouldn’t quit. While I wish I had his unbreakable spirit, I am so very grateful to have been propelled by it over the years.  I am in his debt.


Bob would be happy and completely embarrassed to be in the Someone You Should Know category (as he sent us many candidates for the posts).  We all know that he belongs with that group.

Bob died on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 after a long fight with cancer.  He leaves behind a wife, children, and grandchildren along with an outstanding legacy that I only began to touch upon.

A memorial service will be held 10:30 a.m. Saturday, December 16, 2017, at Hunton Baptist Church, 11660 Greenwood Rd., Glen Allen, Va. 23060.

There’s an old saying that you die twice.  Once when your heart stops beating.  The second time when no one remembers you.  No one who met him can ever forget Concrete Bob Miller.


Bob is now free.  A great man with a generous heart, he had faith in many of us, despite our own doubts, and that energy carried us through many storms.  He gave us many, many laughs, great food, and his enduring loyalty and friendship…even when we didn’t deserve it. 

Semper Fidelis, indeed.

Bob loved and was loved imperfectly, honestly, fiercely, and he gave away love, respect, and kick ass BBQ, all with a great sense of humor. After all, that is what life is all about - Bob gave away everything that he received.

Bob believed in us. He never stopped. I pray that he knows the effect that he had on each of us.

Bob would frequently close his correspondence with, “you can count on me” and “I love you all.”

We love you, too, Bob.

Book Review: The Demon Crown

The following 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.

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The Demon Crown by James Rollins, a Sigma Force novel, blends action, adventure, science and history. Per usual, he takes a unique idea based on some truth and builds a narrative around it. Readers, in typical Rollins style, learn something, while being entertained at the same time.

In this latest novel, the characters see creatures flying through the air wondering if it is a bird, a plane, and then realize they are gigantic wasps. It begins in 1903 when Alexander Graham Bell flies to Italy to retrieve the bones of James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian Institute. Within the grave is something that unleashes the “hordes of Hell.” The enemy organization, the Guild, releases a massive infestation of giant killer wasps, hoping to bring the world to its knees. On a beach in Hawaii, these indestructible wasps that reproduce at staggering rates attack Sigma operatives, Grayson Pierce and Seichan, who are there enjoying some R and R.   Now he and the rest of Sigma Force must race to eradicate these massive insects to save not only the world, but also his true love.

Rollins commented, “I grew up watching the B movie version of some biological horror. I wanted to capture this, put it into a story, and add a scientific spin. I try to find an event where I can connect history with science. This story came about after I read an article about homeland security concerns with invasive species. We already have these type of species accidentally introduced in the US whether it’s the Pythons in the Everglades or the various plants in other places. The national security concern is that some type of hostile power can weaponize the invasive species by making it toxic and difficult to get rid of. Once an insect is released in the environment they become hard to control like the Killer Bees or Fire Ants. I had this in my idea box for a number of years.”

In this novel, more than in the other books, the author emphasizes the relationship between Seichen and Gray. As Seichen is put through the ringer in this story, having to endure wasp stings, a major blast, and lethal powder thrown at her, Commander Grayson Pierce will be forced to make an impossible choice. He is fighting to eradicate the invasive insects, and fighting against time to help Seichen. He must protect not only the world, but Seichen and his unborn child.

Part of the realism comes from the similarities with those in the military. Both feel a responsibility to their families and to making the world safe. Rollins is “Supporting a new enterprise called Veterans Publications. US 4 Warriors and I want them to immortalize their stories and experiences regarding what they did on the battlefield and after it.”

Another personal aspect of the story is Gray’s guilt over killing his father with an overdose of morphine. Rollins noted, “My mom and dad died of it. Watching them suffer and seeing they had no quality of life was very hard. Commander Gray Pierce also saw his dad suffering with no quality of life so I had him end the suffering. But it is never an easy decision and he is still plagued and haunted by his choice. He just knew that his dad would not want to live this way and felt enough is enough.”

The Demon Crown blends technology, science, and history, the signature of Rollins. This might be the most disturbing and creepy book he has ever written.   Readers will find these bugs can be deadly to one’s health and their mental state as they read the story.