Book Review: 42 Faith

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.

April 15th is known as tax day, but it is also an important day in baseball history if not American history. Seventy years ago this day Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball. In the latest book about Jackie Robinson, 42 Faith, Ed Henry recounts the struggles of someone who just wanted to play baseball. But it also shows how faith helped Robinson overcome many hardships.

Many might know the name, since Ed Henry has a hybrid role at Fox News as the chief national correspondent and a freelance anchor on various Fox programs. Within his busy schedule he decided to write this book because this is “the rest of the Jackie Robinson story. It came about ten years ago at a dinner party at the Belgium ambassador’s house. After having a bad time, I sat there thinking about the three-strike rule in baseball where you are out. I was about to leave to watch the World Series when the woman beside me shared the story of her late father-in-law. She starts telling this tale how, in 1945, a man shows up at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, who needed to see a minister right away. Reverend L. Wendell Fifield received the man, who paced, prayed and silently stewed for about 45 minutes before telling Fifield, ‘I’ve decided to sign Jackie Robinson to his first baseball contract. It’s the hardest decision of my life. I need to be in your presence, in God’s presence, to know it’s the right thing to do.’ Fifield kept his conversation with the man confidential, but he eventually told his wife. And long after her husband’s death, June Fifield wrote in her Church Bulletin a 5-page essay about her husband’s encounter with Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Being a reporter I researched this fascinating story and decided to write the book.”

Both Rickey and Robinson were to face many adversities with their craftiness and cunning, guts and grits, brains and brawn, as well as an overwhelming belief in G-d. It was almost that there was divine intervention on why the color barrier was broken. Carl Erskine, a teammate of Robinson, told Henry, “Athletic ability and determination could take Robinson only so far. Hidden is how pivotal faith turned out to be.” It helped give Robinson the confidence he needed to rise above not only the taunts and death threats he faced from outsiders, but also the insults he faced from some of his white teammates.

Furthermore, Henry believes, “Rickey had a ‘dark fire’ within him to right the wrongs of racism, which set him on a mission to bring profound change to America. Rickey was looking for someone who had the skills but his scouting report showed he was also looking for someone that had a support network, was married, and a strong sense of faith.”

Unlike politics, sports has a way for teammates to come together. There is a powerful story in the book that was recounted by another colleague of Robinson, Ralph Branca. While sitting down with five other white teammates who were from the Deep South he reminded them that all had worked in gas stations with African Americans. They responded that the blacks pumped gas, while the whites fixed cars, claiming, “We weren’t equal.” Branca retorted, “Well, you won’t be equal on the ball field either. Jackie’s better than you.”

Rickey knew this experiment had to succeed and that many on other teams would show their racial resentment through slurs and attempting to do physical harm. To emphasize how faith played such an important role, Henry told how Rickey quoted to Robinson from the Bible, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil. But whosoever shall smite thee on thee right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ He then said, “Above all you cannot fight back. That’s the only way this experiment will succeed, and others will follow in your footsteps.”

According to Henry, “Robinson instinctively got that reference from the Bible. He responded by saying, ‘Mr. Rickey, I’ve got two cheeks. I have another cheek.’ I think they both felt G-d was with them, and they connected through the Biblical references. In fact, in 1949 in a speech on Capitol Hill, Robinson himself stated, ‘I am a religious man. Therefore I cherish America where I am free to worship as I please.’”

Life Magazine’s headline said it all, “Negroes Are Americans: Jackie Robinson Proves It in Words and on the Ball Field.” Of course it did not hurt that he was leading the National League in runs and RBI’s while topping both leagues in hits, stolen bases, and batting average.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” He and Branch Rickey through their belief in G-d were able to change America and sports forever. Today, most people are color blind to the athletes on the field and that is thanks to these two courageous Americans. 41oZVEzi7OL._SX331_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: The Devil's Feast

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 Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter plays off Anthony Bourdain’s quote, “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk… food has always been an adventure.” 

61ggBP1zXtL._SX311_BO1 204 203 200_Carter had the idea for the story because of “an illness I had for the past few years that has to do with my digestion. I could not eat so I became very interested in reading about food. I was feeling sorry for myself because of all these foods I could not eat. In the course of my research I encountered Alexis Soyer, the famous chef. I decided to write a story around him and what better way to have someone die than with poison.”

 And so it is with this story that involves England’s first celebrity chef and a mysterious death, poisoned at the renowned Reform Club. The plot has Captain William Avery invited to dine at the private table of the famous chef, Alexis Soyer. After one of the guests at the table dies he is asked to investigate. As the suspects pile up, everyone involving food appears to be a person of interest from meat suppliers to waiters.

Finding parallels with today’s world, Carter told of incorporating “the idea of the celebrity chef who had tantrums when he did not get his way. I also think the past should not be a foreign country so I included the idea of people dying by being poisoned. In the 1840’s arsenic was everywhere, on cake decorations and even the dye on children’s dresses.”

Readers will find out about Soyer’s life and it becomes obvious the author spent a lot of time researching the food entries, maybe a bit too much. There is a lot of detail about the inner workings of the kitchen run by celebrity Alexis Soyer who is not only an incredible chef, but the inventor of many innovations. Having come to prominence in the 1840s, Soyer is nicknamed the “Napoleon of food,” a culinary genius who loves to self-promote, a la today’s chef, Gordon Ramsey.

This first celebrity chef fascinated the author. “He was the first to use gas ovens, thermometers, accurate clocks, and clever kitchen gadgets. Determined to improve the country’s diet and alleviate the sufferings of the poor, he devised menus for London hospitals and workhouses, reinventing the soup kitchen. For me, he was a gift since he was sometimes a ridiculous figure, manically energetic, crazily ambitious, and dreadfully pretentious. Everything I wrote about him in this book is what he did in real life, including the way he dressed in lavender-colored velvet suits. After becoming chef de cuisine at London’s Reform Club it turned into, not a political association, but a place where males went to hide from their wives, have a fancy dinner, and have conversations.”

This series has two protagonists that usually work together. However, in this novel Avery is mainly on his own, struggling to solve the case, while thinking for himself. His partner, Jeremiah Blake chafes at being considered a hired hand and refuses a new assignment from Theophilus Collinson, a very influential person. Claiming that Blake was already paid for work not performed, Collinson has the stubborn detective arrested and imprisoned for debt. This leaves Avery to solve the case of why diners are dying at the prestigious Reform Club.

If readers think of the comparison with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, the author says not so, “I did not get my inspiration from the famous investigative duo. Patrick O’ Brian’s sea stories is what influenced me. He writes such great relationships between his characters, Aubrey and Maturin. At least consciously I never thought of Holmes and Watson.”

At the heart of this novel is Soyer whose personality dominates the other characters. Readers will be taken on a tour, able to taste the dinner dishes as they attempt to solve the murder mystery.

Book Review: The Darkness Of Evil

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 Darkness Of Evil by Alan Jacobson brings back FBI profiler Karen Vail in a unique story. He clicks into the curiosity of many who question how does a serial killer’s family not know, and what is it like to be related to one?

The plot begins when Jasmine Marcks, the daughter of a serial killer, writes a book about her life experiences. After receiving a threatening letter from her father, she must cancel her book tour. Her testimony about some bloody duct tape and other items helped to put her father in prison with a life sentence and no chance of parole. Vail goes to visit Marks there to evaluate how much of a threat he is to Jasmine. Shortly thereafter, the murderer, Roscoe Lee Marcks, escapes from prison to seek revenge on his daughter. Vail, the local police, and the US Marshals, must all work together to find him before he achieves his target.

Jacobson noted, “I always do a lot of research, speaking with my go to experts, FBI Supervisory Special Agents and retired senior FBI profilers, Mark Safarik and Mary Ellen O’Toole. I also talked with some US Marshals about the escapes of convicts. They happen more often than not, but we only hear about the ones that succeed. When you talk to the different agencies; you find how they compete with other law enforcement organizations in terms of budget. They always complain how the FBI is viewed as the favorite child. Pretty much what was written in the book is true, about the rivalry and competition. As they begin to work together on a case there is some friction, but in the course of working it they bridge relationships and find a way to work together.”

Interestingly, in almost all of his books, people learn about facts of the different agencies. In this novel Jacobson uses realistic scenarios to make the plot believable. The escape of Roscoe will remind readers of the ex prison worker, Joyce Mitchell, who aided two killers in escaping in upstate New York. The author also shows how Vail, a tough and seasoned profiler, must re-examine the case she inherited as a rookie, putting forth a different set of eyes.

This book has a riveting story with many twists and turns. It explores a subject matter from a different angle that allows the reader to have an original storyline. 51swLxapmFL._SX326_BO1 204 203 200_

"No Survivors" - The Eagle Flight Anniversary

"They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq.

Today, is the 23rd anniversary of a dark day in our military history...while the inquiry results were weak, this was one incident in which many lessons were learned that later saved American and allied lives (true IFF came from this), and continued the long trek to freedom for one of the most deserving groups of human beings on this planet.

Let's start at what isn't quite the beginning but as good as any place to start this story...

In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort.  On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees.  Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states.

From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine):

...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction."

The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-­20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference.

The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multi­national relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Way­stations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute...

As the video below shows, it was really about saving the families and the children:

The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds.


A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17).

To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone.

Iraq_no_fly_zones Photo from CIA Factbook

The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS).

General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had this to say about the hard work of the Provide Comfort Soldiers and Airmen:

For over 1,000 days, the pilots and crews assigned to Operation Provide Comfort flew mission after mission, totalling over 50,000 hours...

The mission continued for 3 years until the first Commander was due to reliquish command...

On April 14th, 1994, two Blackhawk helicopters were ready for take-off from Diyarbakir, Turkey. COL Jerry Thompson - one of the most respected officers and commanders in Special Forces - was changing command (or co-command as "command" of Provide Comfort was shared with Turkey). He decided to show his replacement, COL Mulhern, the lay of the land. At 0730, COL Thompson assembled 26 people that comprised important (command group) roles for the mission. He included French, British, and Turkish commanders and liaisons, and also brought along Kurdish para-military personnel and linguists.

The two Blackhawks were designated Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. Their first destination was Irbil, Iraq, but they would have to make a stop in Zakhu, Iraq (where the military part of Provide Comfort operated). There were plans to visit several other areas as well.

At 8:22AM, Eagle Flight departed Diyarbakir. They were headed East-Southeast for a "gate" into the No-Fly Zone. Per Standard Operating Procedure, the command group was split between Eagle-1 and Eagle-2 to ensure continuity of command if one helicopter went down.

At 9:21AM, Eagle Flight called the AWACS (callsign "Cougar"). They requested and were granted permission to enter the "gate" into the the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:24AM, Eagle Flight lands at Zakhu, Iraq.

At 9:35AM, two USAF F-15 fighters launched from Incirlik, Turkey. They were designated Tiger-1 and Tiger-2. Tiger-1 was the lead fighter with Tiger-2 as the wingman. Tiger Flight was headed to patrol the No-Fly Zone.

At 9:54AM, Eagle Flight calls the AWACS to report departure from Zakhu, Iraq, with a destination of Irbil, Iraq.

At 10:12AM, Eagle Flight enters mountainous terrain. It's Identification Friend or Foe system (IFF) failed.

At 10:20AM Tiger Flight passes through "gate" into No-Fly Zone.

At 10:22AM Tiger Flight picks up radar contact at forty nautical miles. No IFF reading occurs. Tiger-1 reports, "Cougar, picked up helicopter tracking northwest bound." AWACS says the area should be "clean".

At 10:25 AWACS responds that there are "hits there" in the No-Fly Zone - confirming Tiger Flight's radar contact.

Tiger Flight makes visual contact with Eagle Flight at five nautical miles.

At 10:28 Tiger-1 conducts a visual identification (VID) pass of the helicopters. "Cougar, tally 2 HINDS."

HINDS are Soviet Helicopters used by the Iraqi Armed Forces.

AWACS replied, "Copy two HINDS".

Tiger-1 then instructed Tiger-2 to make a VID pass.

Thirty seconds later Tiger-2 confirms, "Tally 2."

Tiger-1 to Tiger-2, "Arm hot."

At 10:30AM on April 14, 1994, Tiger-1 fired an AIM 120 (medium range air-to-air missle) at Eagle-2. Tiger-2 fired an AIM 9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missle) at Eagle-1.

The missles hit Eagle Flight with deadly accuracy. Tiger-1 confirmed the hits to AWACS, "Splash two HINDS."

Of the 26 team members of Eagle Flight, there were no survivors...

In memoriam:

US Military:
SSG Paul Barclay (SF Commo NCO)
SPC Cornelius A. Bass (Eagle-1 Door Gunner)
SPC Jeffrey C. Colbert (Eagle-1 Crew Chief)
SPC Mark A. Ellner (Eagle-2 Door Gunner)
CW2 John W. Garrett, Jr. (Eagle-1 Pilot)
CW2 Michael A. Hall (Eagle-2 Pilot Command)
SFC Benjamin T. Hodge (Linguist)
CPT Patrick M. McKenna (Eagle-1 Pilot Command)
WO1 Erik S. Mounsey (Eagle-2 Pilot)
COL Richard A. Mulhern (Incoming Co-Commander)
1LT Laurie A. Piper (USAF, Intel Officer)
SGT Michael S. Robinson (Eagle-2 Crew Chief)
SSG Ricky L. Robinson (SF Medic)
Ms. Barbara L. Schell (State Dept. Political Advisor)
COL Jerald L. Thompson (Outgoing Co-Commander)

British Military:
MAJ Harry Shapland (Security/Intel Duty Officer)
LTC Jonathan C. Swann (Senior UK Officer)

French Military:
LTC Guy Demetz (Senior French Officer)

Turkish Army:
COL Hikmet Alp (Co-Commander)
LT Ceyhun Civas (Laison Officer)
LT Barlas Gultepe (Liason Officer)

Kurdish Partisans:
Abdulsatur Arab
Ghandi Hussein
Bader Mikho
Ahmad Mohammed
Salid Said (Linguist)


USAF Photo: U.S. Military personnel inspect the wreckage of a Black Hawk helicopter (Eagle 2) in the Northern Iraq No Fly Zone during Operation Provide Comfort, April 16, 1994.



DoD photo MSGT MICHAEL J. HAGGERTY: The remains of 26 people were flown in for transportation to the U.S. Army Mortuary Center, Frankfurt, Germany. The 26 were killed in an accidental downing of two U.S. Army UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopters by U.S. AIr Force F-15C fighters in the northern Iraq "no fly zone". Standing in review was the Rhein-Main-Air Base color guard, they displayed the flags of the countries that mourn the loss of their citizens, the United States, Britain, France and Turkey.



I took this photo while visiting the Colonel (his story is an interesting one).  He's near Mary Todd Lincoln's tomb on a slight rise over looking a beautiful part of Arlington...You can visit him and Barclay, Hodge and Bass at Arlington.

Continue reading ""No Survivors" - The Eagle Flight Anniversary" »

Book Review The Burial Hour

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 Burial Hour by Jeffrey Deaver incorporates his usual writing style with misdirection and plot twists. The subject matter is timely and relevant, taking into account the many concerns of the Western world.

Although the plot begins in New York the main setting is in Italy, where the classics play an important role, intertwining Greek G-ds with legendary musical compositions of “The Blue Danube,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Danse Macabre.” The plot begins with the abduction of a business executive in Manhattan by someone known as “The Composer.” Left behind at the scene is a small hangman’s noose. Lincoln Rhymes, the notable Forensics investigator and his fiancé police detective Amelia Sachs get word that a similar kidnapping occurred in Naples, Italy. They decide to fly there and join forces with the Italian investigating team led by prosecutor Dante Spiro and a legal liaison in the State Department. As the dots get connected it appears all the victims are refugees. The team must battle their worst enemy, time, trying to find “The Composer” before he succeeds in killing one of the people snatched, apparently for no better reason than to record the sounds they make as they are choked to death.

Deaver noted, “The bad guy, Stefan, is obsessed with sound. I enjoy writing an eerie depth to my villains so they have substance. Stefan ponders how music speaks to someone including what history would have sounded like, the words of Judas or Abraham Lincoln. I think as a society we are not as attuned to sound as we used to be because of the overload. Robert Frost once said that ‘you can induce meaning from sound, independent of words.’ I wanted to show the emotional sides of sound in this book. Stefan is moved by the combination of notes and timing. There is something about the ¾ tempo of a waltz I find pretty engrossing, which is why I used those musical classics.”

This book has Lincoln traveling to Italy. With the new setting also comes a new direction for his profession. Since he is a formidable forensics investigator he uses his skills to get more involved with other types of crimes.

Deaver did not see as a problem having Lincoln, a quadriplegic, move around the world. “Even in New York he sits in a room while Amelia does most of the legwork. I chose Italy because it cannot escape the classics. Also, this story had to move more slowly because life in Southern Italy does move slowly. The story is tied to the Italian law enforcement system that is more leisurely and takes a holistic approach to justice. To make the plot move faster I had to extract elements of crimes.”

The Burial Hour has many turns. It is interesting to see how Deaver took his character out of his safe zone. Incorporating sound and music is a twist that readers will find interesting. 51Uo38nVdVL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review The Night The Lights Went Out

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 Night The Lights Went Out by Karen White is a play on the song since the title continues “In Georgia.” This novel takes place in the suburbs of Atlanta. As with all her books readers get a glimpse of the Southern culture where friendship is a major theme within a mystery.

The strength of the novel is the bond that forms between Sugar Prescott and Merilee Talbot Dunlop, both with formative secrets. Sugar, a woman in her nineties, is very crusty and represents how society used to be. This is contrasted with the modern day perspective that depends on technology for communication. White is one of those authors that write such gripping characters readers become embedded with. It is fun to see the generational differences between Merilee and Sugar. Heather is another character, representing the southern suburb housewife who plays tennis, drives a SUV, and has her children in a private school, with secrets of her own. Besides these characters the blog writings are character-like with its southern words of wisdom that provide levity and frankness.

She does make fun of social media, noting, “I do make digs at Facebook and social media in my stories. I have to force myself to go on Facebook. I enjoy my fan page because I can talk about my dogs and books. Unfortunately, you cannot have a fan page without a personal page. I cannot believe the things people post; they over share. I think we need to communicate directly to people. If you have something to tell me that is short then text, but anything bigger than five words call me. What really upsets me is when I leave a voice mail and then someone calls me without listening to it, forcing me to repeat myself.”

The mystery comes into play when Dan, the husband of Heather and a friend of Merilee’s, is found lying face down in the lake. She becomes a person of interest since her past also includes other victims of drowning. The other sub-plot mystery is when a bloodstained jacket is found in a locker located in the basement of Merilee’s rented cottage.

The author noted, “All my books are about a woman’s journey, finding her place in the world, and moving beyond a setback that many times includes a mystery. The heart of my stories is following the main character to see if she gets out of some predicament. In this book they have the kind of friendship that does not come with Facebook or texting. It comes from spending time with each other and getting to know one another.”

This story has friendship, family, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and hope. Readers will laugh with the characters, while at other times will be on the edge of their seats. White is great at combining all these elements to make a gripping story with fascinating characters. 51YJuKhAG7L._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_

Casey Sheehan - A Palm Sunday Someone You Should Know

This is an annual repost honoring Casey Sheehan who gave his life in a fight to save his brothers...

Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home.  He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.

When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.

He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old.  He decided to be a mechanic.  He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training.  He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.

Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.

Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.

On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million).  They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight.  Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy.  And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics.  His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.

American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.

On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash.  Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city.  They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.

A battle raged across Sadr City.  Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets.  Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying.  While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help.  A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.

Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers.  Sheehan had just returned from Mass.  After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission.  According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."

The QRF was launched.  Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles.  The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.

Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.

Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.

A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first.  Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.

Seven men died with Casey Sheehan on Sunday, April 4th, 2004. 

They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.

It was Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph.  Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.

In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".

Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.

Palm fronds for the most honored.

[Click here for the Someone You Should Know index.]

Book Review: The Forgotten Girls

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 Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen is an action driven story. As with his other books, readers should be aware that this author does not shy away from ghastly issues, fictionalizing them for even more suspense. It is apparent that Laukkanen’s go to subject is the mistreatment of women.

The author noted, “I always find it fascinating to write stories about the alpha male, some who are angry men that feel women owe them something. This anger can turn to violence. But my next book is something completely different. It will be a high seas adventure story. I had a crisis of confidence after I finished this book so I decided to work on other plot lines. Since I paid for my college education by working on fishing boats I decided to use that experience to write a ship story. It is based on the true facts of salvaging ships, and the tugboat teams attempting to get a percentage of the value of the merchandise saved. I am also working on for fun a fictionalized version of my dog Lucy who looks like a lab/pit bull mix. In the story she is a rescue dog who is placed with a former Marine that has PTSD. But I also want to make it clear I am definitely not done with the characters Stevens and Windermere.”

He also told how the idea for this story came to him, “In the Vancouver neighborhood I live in there was this serial killer that preyed on women until 2006. He killed as many as 49 over the course of two decades. The local police were not very sympathetic and did nothing for about twenty years. In walking my dog Lucy we pass a memorial stone for these women and I was inspired to write this story. Since I am really into trains I added that aspect to the plot. This is how I spent quality time with my dad, walking by the trains. I knew a lot of people who tried to jump on trains and lost limbs, so I took it one step farther and had a killer stalking these train surfers.”

In this book readers learn, “you don’t ever surf the trains on the Highline.” Rumor has it that a ghost rider preys on women who will not be missed. Native American girls, prostitutes, runaways, and those forgotten have been going missing on the High Line cross country train for years. Yet, the local police did nothing, many times ignoring the victims. After Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice. They soon find that it is a serial killer, a ghost that seems to disappear into thin air leaving no clues behind, until his big mistake when one victim lives.

Readers should see this book as a two-parter. The first is a “who done it,” while the second piece is the chase. Stevens and Windermere investigate each clue, only to be frustrated that the murderer seems to be one step ahead of them. While on the trail of the killer they also realize that they must find a young girl, Mila, out to avenge the death of her best friend, Ash, one of the victims.

What adds to the intensity of the plot is the weather and forbidden geography. Anyone reading this will feel the cold and isolation. The dead of winter with freezing temperatures and multiple blizzards in the vast wilderness provide obstacles for the protagonists. They are trapped by circumstances that limit them, while the killer chooses another victim.

Laukkanen does see winter as a character. “I started to do a lot of hiking since I live quite close to Montana and Idaho. I am taken by the remoteness. During a period of winter Vancouver was completely cut off because every highway was closed due to snow. I thought how the terrible weather and unforgiving geography would make the plot even more intense.”

The Forgotten Girls is extremely suspenseful. Having multiple narrators adds to the tension as chapters alternate between the heroes and villain’s point of view. Readers will take a ride on these trains as they feel they are also homeless, traveling in the vast territory without any support. The story is fast-paced and action 41OgLshvgvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review After The Dark

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.

After The Dark by Cynthia Eden is a psychological thriller intermingled with some romance. This is the first book of the “Killer Instinct” series. The premise of these novels is very unique in that they involve someone in law enforcement knowing a serial killer.

The author takes the realistic studies of law enforcement to a step beyond. Research has shown that FBI profilers actually speak with serial killers to understand their motives in an attempt to quickly capture future perpetrators. The protagonists in this book, through their special relationship, are able to see the killer in a way others cannot. Through the characters readers are drawn into the dark minds of these psychopathic people.

Eden noted, “Research is my favorite part of writing. Over the years I have talked with FBI agents and psychologists. My go to book is the MindHunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas. I think Netflix is doing a TV series on it. This is by the guy who started the behavioral analysis unit. Each chapter talks about the mindset of a different killer the FBI went after. It details the body language and the psychology of these infamous killers, the many faces. I have the book on my desk constantly. This is why I had Samantha try to think like a killer, to get into their mind.”

The plot is “Colomboesqe” in that readers learn early on who is the serial killer. Yet, this does not prevent them from being on the edge of their seats. The twists have the hunter turning into the hunted as the killers play a cat and mouse game with law enforcement, becoming a game of wits.

The story begins with FBI profiler, Samantha Dark able to get into the killers head and to understand their motives. She left the FBI after being thrown under the bus by her boss for failing to find the serial killer. Accused of letting him get away because the murderer was a former lover, Samantha moves back to her hometown in Alabama. After a tape surfaces her ex-partner Blake Gamble pleads with her to help him find this sadistic assassin. When it becomes obvious she is the ultimate trophy victim Blake uses his ex-military skills to protect her. Together they try to outwit these evil and sadistic people, and find them before they continue their killing spree.

The author commented about the main characters. “Samantha is smart; yet, has trust issues and because of that keeps secrets. She is a conflicted heroine because justice matters most to her and she does not always see the world as black and white. I explored with her how it is truly hard to know someone, especially those who do not fully open up. We only know what people show us, basically what is on the surface. After losing her job she lost her self-worth and had a hard time keeping that image she wanted to present to the world. Regarding Blake, he is very different from Samantha in personality. He is all about law and order. What you see is what you get.”

The two antagonists were written as psychopaths. “I wanted to make sure they did very bad things. Dr. Cameron Latham is Samantha’s former friend who she had an intimate relationship with. I think he cared about Sam, and knew she was the one person in the world he could relate to, his anchor. He was never impulsive and always had a plan. Unlike Cameron, his apprentice Jason Burke was driven by emotion, and was unable to control himself.”

Eden also thinks the setting played an important role in the book. “Fairhope, Alabama is the place where I grew up. My editor tried to get me to revise some of what I wrote about this place, thinking it was unrealistic. But everything I wrote is real. In this town more people have boats than cars. I love the water and do own a boat. It is a ‘boatcentric’ area. I wrote in the book about air boat rides because it is one of my favorite things to do.”

The intensity of the plot is not only with the mystery, but it also comes into play with the chemistry between Blake and Samantha. The passionate love scenes leave little for readers’ imagination. But this is also true of the gruesome descriptions of the crime scenes where the perps kill for sport and experimentation, to find how people react when they know they are about to die. They enjoy dishing out pain, making the victims suffer as they lose hope, and play G-d, deciding who shall live and who shall die.

Because she enjoys writing books with romantic suspense and taking readers on a thrill ride she has her stories with a darker plot. Her next book comes out in May, part of her “lost series.” Eden gave a heads up about her next projects, “Lost stands for Last Option Search Team. These civilians’ job is to find missing people after the case has gone cold. This will be the last book in this series, because I wrap up one before another one begins. My next book in the ‘Killer Instinct” series will have Samantha and Blake as supporting characters. She is the supervisor of a new assembled team who recruits only those who have a connection with serial killers. This book comes out in July and will feature FBI Agent Tucker Frost whose brother is a serial killer. I think it is really fun to explore this theme.”

After The Dark gets readers hooked from page one. Eden does a wonderful job with the character development as she allows readers to get into the minds of the antagonists and protagonists. The tense atmosphere created with the brutality of the murders makes the plot very suspenseful.

Book Review The Devils Triangle

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 Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is very reminiscent of a James Bond story. With all the adventure and action readers might have to suspend belief as they take the journey with the characters. This story moves from the ancient time to modern day and includes Moses’ staff, the Arc of the Covenant, Tesla’s experiments on weather, and the mysterious Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle.

Ellison commented, “The idea for the story came from a dream of Catherine where a motorcycle bursts out of an underground tunnel, flies into the air, and lands in a lake. To determine how to write something around it we tossed ideas back and forth. We thought of Tesla and his manipulation of the weather. The story taps into how science merges with the power of G-d, creating and changing the weather.”

FBI Special Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine head the FBI’s Covert Eyes Team that tackles unusual cases, both internationally and domestically. In this story Kitsune, the international thief, returns from her exploits in a previous book, The Final Cut. Also, returning, now a full fledge member of the team is Adam, the hacker who Nicholas mentored and was first introduced in The End Game. All the team’s skills are needed to battle evil twins who are trying to find the Ark of the Covenant and wield its power. They use the knowledge given to their grandfather by Nikola Tesla on how to manipulate the weather. To bring the world to its knees they are literally creating storms, first a sandstorm in Bejing, and then a hurricane to hit Washington DC. The FBI team with the help of the master thief Kitsune must race against time, and nature herself, to stop an obsessed family from devastating cities and controlling the world.

Knowing they wanted to bring back Kitsune, Ellison noted, “Both of us love her character. We knew from the beginning she was to be the center of the storyline, the focus. The next book will not have her back, and she will not be a consultant for the FBI because it is more enjoyable to have her step into something.”

This novel can best be described as a science fiction thriller. It is a fun read where readers will be highly entertained. 51QdOVBzS3L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_