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July 2013

Book Review: Killer Ambition by Marcia Clark

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 far right side bar.

9780316220941_p0_v2_s260x420Marcia Clark’s latest book, Killer Ambition, is an informative novel about the duties of a Los Angeles prosecutor, specifically one that works in the Special Trials Unit.  This book intertwines investigative work with courtroom drama.  Clark seems to know something about high profile crimes and trials since people should remember her as the lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case.

The plot takes off from the very beginning when the daughter of a Hollywood director is found murdered.  At first it appears to be a kidnapping gone wrong but through riveting investigative work prosecutor Rachel Knight and Detective Bailey Keller find that a powerful Hollywood player was at the center of the killing.  The Hollywood media machine declares an all out war to discredit Knight and her case, through trying the case outside the courtroom, and publicizing facts about her private life, mainly by implying she is a fame-seeker. 

Clark told blackfive.net, “In all my books I try to show the world of the prosecutor, whether it’s in the courtroom or out in the field.  In my case the connection between my books and my life experience is obvious.  I was a deputy district attorney for fourteen years, spending ten of them in the Special Trials Unit.  I wanted to show how the prosecutor and the detective work very closely together.  In Killer Ambition, I decided to take the reader through the entire process of a high profile trial, from the first report, to the investigation, to the arrest, and then the trial.”

The book is very informative in that it allows the reader to be a hidden bystander.  They are able to get into the minds, personalities, and strategies of everyone involved in a trial murder case.  In fact, this book allows the reader to follow Rachel Knight to get a glimpse of what it is like in the day of the life of a special prosecutor. 

Because of her previous experience, Clark told blackfive.net, she is able to draw upon “some kernel of truth and then weave from there.  For example, I knew of a case in which a woman was charged with having hired someone to kill her husband.  Though the prosecution did a good job, she was acquitted.  I got to wonder what her life would be like after having been accused of murder.  That led me to my second novel, Guilt by Degrees, which featured a female villain.”

Yet, as a prosecutor she also knows what it is like to try high profile cases.  In Killer Ambition she shows how the press can be too influential.  Clark noted, “Judges and lawyers behave differently when there’s a camera in the courtroom. It is all about the spotlight, including for some witnesses.”

There are also numerous scenes that show trial tactics and how during a trial the lawyers must, at times, think quickly on their feet, almost like a chess match where each move has a consequence.  Clark skillfully shows how trial work requires quick thinking and “the ability to roll with the punches.  You have to do your best to anticipate what might go wrong and what the other side will do.  Trials are roller coaster rides.”

Although Killer Ambition was more plot driven than character driven, there are still scenes that show the interaction between characters. Rachel Knight and her supporting cast, Robbery Homicide Detective Bailey Keller, a fellow prosecutor, Toni LaCollette, Lieutenant Graden Hales, and newcomer Declan Shackner are shown to be connected through work; yet, have a camaraderie and friendship that include many humorous and sarcastic communications. As Clark states, “I personally like to see and read stories that involve buddies who work and play together.”

Personally, Clark has another job which none of her characters have as yet, that of being a working single mother, first as a prosecutor and now as a writer. She noted, ‘There is enormous joy in having children and there is great satisfaction in doing a job you love.  The hard part is finding the balance.  There are often days when you feel as though you run from one end to another to try and fit it all in.  It can never work out perfectly.  You just do the best you can.”

In the case of Killer Ambition she did her best.  Of the three novels, this is by far her finest.  It is an all too real portrayal of both the investigative and trial work of a Special Units prosecutor.  This is a must read for anyone who enjoys legal thrillers.


Photo: Cramped Quarters

Hires_130705-F-ZE564-901c
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Nate Hall conducts a post-flight inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 5, 2013. Hall, an aircraft maintainer assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects aircraft for leaks, cracks or anything that may jeopardize the integrity of the aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Saldukas

Facebook: Saying "Chiggers" Is Racist

UPDATE:  See below as they apologize, then double down on the burning stupid with a ban and removal of content -- the same content they had apologized for removing.  You really can't make this stuff up. 

BUMPING:  The self-parody and irony are thick on this one, see below.

UPDATE/CORRECTION:  Mad Mike did not create the new site, but he did have an itch to let me know about it.  I stand corrected. 

UPDATE:  Mad Mike has taken things to a new level by creating Chigger Nation.  Among other things, it will be a repository for his "I Stand Corrected" puns, er posts.  Also, for those of you who like his works, I am pleased to announce that there is a (very) limited one-time-only signed hardcover edition of Freehold out. 

*****

For all that I respect the right of a private business to do as it will according to its beliefs, I find the people behind Facebook to be rather idiotic and even more than a touch fascist in terms of both politics and actions.  That they lean far left is something of which they are proud, and if they owned it I could at least respect it.  However, they leave up pages calling for murder, rape, and lynching if it pushes the narrative and is good for the party, and cheerfully ignore their own TOS and rules to advance the cause.  That they are stupid (as in you can't fix it) is amply demonstrated by the following.

Most of you know Michael Z. ("Mad Mike)" Williamson, author, veteran, and incorrigible punster.  His Facebook profile has now been blocked twice in about 24 hours because he dared use the racist word "Chigger."  Nope, not a play on the N-word, but the insect that has been called many worse names by those who have suffered from them.  Was he making a point?  Yep.  Did the complete and utter overreaction by the drones at Facebook prove a point?  Yep. 

Below the fold to protect you sensitive souls (quit laughing), here's the two posts that got him booted for a total of 24 hours (12 each).

Continue reading "Facebook: Saying "Chiggers" Is Racist" »


"Mrs. Bronson, Your Husband Reporting For Duty."

A Soldier delighted his unsuspecting family when he emerged from the water behind them to see them for the first time since his return from Afghanistan.

Bethany Bronson and children headed to the beach to record video messages for Captain Hyrum Bronson, who was not expected to return from duty for another three weeks.  However to his family's surprise, Captain Bronson emerged from the water - still in his uniform - saying, "Mrs Bronson, your husband reporting for duty".

An overwhelmed Bethany Bronson exclaimed, "Are you freaking kidding me", before bursting into tears.
Clearly elated at their father's return, Captain Bronson's children are heard shouting "Daddy!" as they rush to hug him.

The soldier had to put on scuba gear so he could execute the plan without spoiling the surprise.

Editor note: Saw this on the Mommy Guide Facebook page. You can like it here.


Vote for American Hitmen tonight on America's Got Talent

UPDATE and REQUEST: So they made it past Vegas and play live tonight from Radio City Music Hall. You can vote for them at 9:55 eastern tonight. So DO IT! Seriously, or the terrorists and some freakin' cat juggler will win.

I don't watch a lot of TV and would not have been watching America's Got Talent, except for one thing, well one band actually, American Hitmen. If you saw them Tuesday night or the week before, you may have caught their tale and heard them rock. But if you are a long time BLACKFIVE reader, you heard about them five years ago.

In 2008 there was a National Heroes tour with some good friends of mine, like David Bellavia, Jeremiah Workman and Marcus Luttrell among others and I went along to make sure it got the coverage it should. The reason was to let America know why the Surge in Iraq could win the war, which it did. The tour kicked off in San Diego on the deck of the USS Midway. After a bunch of former SEALS skydived onto the deck at dusk, the Hitmen came on to rock. And they rocked hard.

They are former Marines, brothers in arms and actual brothers. Here is the bio from their site

The American Hitmen formed quite literally in the midst of battle in Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. Brothers Dan and Tim Cord began jamming for their fellow Marines in the smoke pit, after long days of missions, incoming mortars, and firefights, with acoustic guitars in hopes of uplifting everyone's spirits. Upon returning home to Camp Pendleton, CA, the Cord brothers brought bassist and fellow Marine, Dan Jarmon, into the band to play bass guitar.

Here is some video of their performance on the Midway. The song is "Born Again" and still my favorite.

They played Simple Man for their audition and then House of the Rising Sun in Vegas. I can't wait to see what they spring on the audience live at Radio City Music Hall. That is where you all come in. You don't have to watch, although you should, but you do have to vote. I will keep you informed and then we will all make the social media sing and the internets hum. It's these guys or some cat juggling act, that is no contest.


Book Review: Chimera by David Wellington

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 far right side bar.

9780062248770_p0_v1_s260x420David Wellington, known for his best-selling horror books, has transitioned to a new genre.  His latest book, Chimera, is a very captivating political thriller that is definitely a page-turner.  This novel is the first in a series of three about the exploits of Jim Chapel, a military intelligence officer who is also an amputee with a prosthetic arm.

Wellington decided to write this book out of respect for America’s soldiers.  He told blackfive.net, “The whole point of the books is that I was so struck by soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, some wounded horribly.  I am hoping my readers will think about the huge sacrifices that these soldiers and their families make. I am also hoping that readers will see through Chapel’s character that soldiers are real people and not just a serial number.”

The plot takes off from the first page where Jim Chapel is given a mission of finding and hunting down a small band of fugitives, men with superhuman skills of speed, strength, and vision. They are using a “kill list” of innocent civilians.  The pursuit takes Chapel and his supporting cast of characters throughout the US: New York, Colorado, Georgia, and Alaska.

Julia Taggart, a vet whose mother was the first on the list to be murdered and is now in danger becomes part of Chapel’s team along with Angel, a brilliant computer hacker who now works for the military. Wellington described his characters: “Chapel is determined, loyal, and moralistic. I chose to create a Special Forces veteran who now works for the military intelligence because I admire the silent warrior, the kind of man who could be trusted to keep his mouth shut.  The other two characters are my female leads: Julia is skeptical, brave, and testy, whereas Angel is innovative, serious, and flirty.”

The Chimeras can be described as mostly human, somewhat like a Marvel character physically and mentally like Darth Vader from Star Wars.  A great quote from the book, “When they get frustrated, or upset… even just confused, it make them angry-and when they’re angry, nobody is safe.”  Wellington feels “They represent the dark side since they are unable to control their emotions. This leads to their downfall. Although I would compare them more to Frankenstein whose inventor deserted him.”

The theme of the book involves the soldier’s motto of never wanting to quit, even when the task appears to be impossible.  Wellington told blackfive.net, “The fiction part of the book is how Jim gets injured multiple times, and is able to bounce back rather quickly.  The real part shows his perseverance, his mental strength, and his determination to overcome the obstacles with a willingness to die trying.”

A very interesting subplot of the book involves the fact that the main character is an amputee who must overcome thoughts of himself as a cripple and freak.  Wellington spoke with those who had lost limbs during the War on Terror and did extensive research.  He shows in Chimera the advances made to prosthetic arms and is hoping one day, as in his book, the arm will respond to someone’s subconscious.  “I wanted to show how those with prosthetic limbs could forget they have one.  I go into detail about how the brain is able to send a message through nerve fibers, which activates electrodes that were implanted in the shoulder and wired to the arm.  Since we are talking about technology I also want to make a disclaimer.  Even though I have done a lot of research about this, tactics, and weapons there might be some technical points wrong.  But, lets not forget this is a fictional book.”

It is worth someone’s while to get the two e-book short stories that introduce Jim Chapel, prequels to ChimeraMinotaur is an action packed thriller that has Chapel confronting a Russian defector that lives in the US, but who appears to be arming domestic terrorists.  Myrmidon is the sequel that has Chapel infiltrating separatist militia groups to stop their agenda.

He also gave a heads up about his next book, Hydra, a sequel to Chimera that starts up where this novel left off.  In this book Wellington will explore the personality of Jim Chapel.  He compares it to the Empire Strikes Back, “which was a darker story than Star Wars.  But my readers should not worry Hydra is action-packed as well.”

Chimera has shown that David Wellington can write exciting and suspenseful political thrillers.  His characters are very gripping and realistic.  The only problem with this book is that readers will have to wait another year for the sequel to come out.  Anyone looking for an author that is a combination of Nelson DeMille, Jim DeFelice, and Brad Meltzer will definitely want to read David Wellington’s latest book, Chimera.

Email from W.E.B. Griffin on the 60th Anniversary of the Ending of the Korean War

July 27th is a notable date, the ending of the Korean War.  It is hard to believe that sixty years have passed; yet, this conflict still makes the headlines with the despotic North Korean leaders constantly calling for genocide against the South Koreans and Americans. 

Best-selling military fiction author W.E.B. Griffin whose real name is William E. Butterworth III emailed a piece about his impressions, having served in Korea from 1952-1953 as a combat correspondent assigned to the 223rd Infantry Regiment, 40th Division and the 10th Corps Headquarters.

His article is noteworthy since it reflects on how the draft was able to incorporate all segments of America’s society, making the armed services accountable to all citizens, not just the ones who, today, put their lives on the line by stepping up to the plate and volunteering.

The article by W.E.B. Griffin is listed below:

The late General Donn W. Starry, universally recognized as both a distinguished warrior and one of the Army’s greatest intellectuals, began his address to the Corps of Cadets and several hundred of his fellow graduates on the 50th Anniversary of his West Point graduation with this comment: “I have many memories of my four years as an inmate of this institution, none of them favorable.”

Similarly, I have many memories of my service in Korea , few of which reflect favorably on our society today.

I remember, for example, standing at a cross-road in the Punchbowl behind Heartbreak Ridge in a freezing rain waiting for a jeep to pick me up. I had just come from seeing Captain George S. Patton, who commanded a company “Up On The Ridge”  of 140th Tank Battalion tanks named after his father. With me, also rain-soaked, un-shaven, shivering, hungry and miserable, waiting for a jeep to pick him up, was a young major. His name was Eisenhower, and his father was President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces.

I remember, too, a week or so later, being in a sandbagged bunker, command post of an infantry company of Colonel (later Major General) Curtis W. Herrick’s 223rd Infantry Regiment, quite literally on the front of the front line. In the bunker were the company commander, a captain;  his brother, a lieutenant assigned to the regiment on our left flank; and a GI correspondent―a PFC―of the Army newspaper Stars & Stripes.

As we tried without much success to warm ourselves with coffee heated on a small stove, we heard the grinding of gears on a truck, and moments later a first sergeant made his way into the bunker to announce ‘six replacements, Captain, one of whom insists he shouldn’t be here.”

A moment later, a nice looking young man appeared. He told the captain a mistake had been made. He didn’t belong in the infantry, he said, because he was a Harvard graduate.

“Wonderful,” the captain said. “You’ll be right at home here. I’m Harvard ’49. My brother here is ’51. And I’m surprised you don’t recognize PFC John Sack. He was famous around Harvard Square as the only man ever to be simultaneously editor of both the Lampoon and the Crimson. First Sergeant, take this splendidly educated rifleman to his platoon sergeant.”

At the time, I thought it was hilarious.

Sixty years later I’m saddened by the thought that exchange would not have occurred in Iraq or occur now in Afghanistan . With rare and notable exceptions―Vice President Joe Biden’s and Senator Jim Webb’s sons leap to mind―the sons of the politically powerful and the alumni of the Ivy League seem now to feel that picking up a rifle and going off to fight for the United States is something best left to the untermensch. 

W.E.B. Griffin
Late Sergeant/Combat Correspondent
X Corps, Korea


SYSK: Pararescueman, Staff Sgt. Zachary Kline, Receives the Silver Star

    "We were going to do everything in our power to get him back. If I had to clip in and hold him, I would have. There was no way he wasn't coming back." - USAF Staff Sergeant Zachary Kline, after holding a fighting position by a Fallen Angel for more than five hours.

130714-F-WZ808-008Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla pins a Silver Star on Staff Sgt. Zachary during a ceremony July 14, 2013, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Kline earned the medal while serving in Afghanistan April 23, 2011. Padilla is the deputy inspector general of the Air Force, and Kline is a 306th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christine Griffiths) 

Gallantry Earns Pararescueman Silver Star

by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/16/2013 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- An Airman assigned here earned the Silver Star medal for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan April 23, 2011. 

Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla awarded Staff Sgt. Zachary Kline the Silver Star in a ceremony here July 14, citing Kline's role is rescuing two U.S. Army pilots while under fire, defending a crash site and coordinating aerial counter-attacks. Kline, a pararescueman, is assigned to the 306th Rescue Squadron at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

"The Silver Star is way up on the continuum of honor," said Padilla, the deputy inspector general of the Air Force. "That means you voluntarily risked your life to save others, voluntarily risked your life to expose yourself to great danger in the service of your country. And that is exactly what Zach Kline did that day." 

Kline endured approximately six hours under enemy fire, while in the process of recovering two U.S. military members. 

"It's an honor being recognized for just doing my job," Kline said. "I worked with some awesome guys and was nice being a part of it."

According to the award citation, Kline was a part of a rescue team tasked to recover two U.S. Army pilots from an OH-58D Kiowa that had gone down. While on the ground, Kline fought enemy fire while coordinating with aircraft by radio to target threats located behind his position. 

During the engagement, an incoming round ignited fuel within the wreckage, which then erupted in flames. He continued to push through enemy fire to an alternate site while still guiding overhead aircraft to adversarial positions by radio. 

"He leaves us with an example of an Airman that bands together with other Airmen to get the job done and to save others so that they may live," Padilla said. "When Zach leaves our Air Force he's going to leave it just a little bit better because of his accomplishments while he was here."

The Silver Star is the third highest military decoration for valor and is given for gallantry in action against enemies of the United States.

Full story after the Jump.

Continue reading "SYSK: Pararescueman, Staff Sgt. Zachary Kline, Receives the Silver Star" »