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Book Review - Brad Taylor's "No Fortunate Son"

Book Review and Exclusive Interview - W.E.B. Griffin's "The Assassination Option"

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

W.E.B. Griffin’s latest book, The Assassination Option, has a riveting plot.  Being a Veteran himself, having served in Germany right after World War II and during the Korean War, he is very supportive of all veterans.  He writes a number of series of books with his son, William Butterworth IV. Although the authors consider themselves storytellers their books are much more as they weave historical information throughout their stories, involving both the military and clandestine services.

9780399171246_p0_v2_s260x420Being a part of “the greatest generation” Griffin, whose given name is William Edward Butterworth III, is able to incorporate his own experiences into his thrilling plots.  This latest novel is the second adventure in the new “Clandestine Operations series” about the origins of the CIA and the Cold War. Griffin’s admiration for those in the armed services and intelligence community can be summed up within the dedication of The Assassination Option: besides listing those who served, it ends with “Our nation owes these patriots a debt beyond repayment.”

Enlisting in the army in October 1946 Griffin became what he refers to as “General Bill White Jr.’s errand boy.” The books reflect his experience of serving with men, such as General Patton, General White, William E. Colby, and Max Taylor. Considering himself privileged to be around all those interesting and brilliant people he was able to be “a fly on the wall for the commanding general of allied land forces in Europe. I heard a lot.  I was just lucky to be around the command center as it was getting off the ground. I knew a lot of people involved in the military and clandestine service and admired them all.  As an Army Sergeant I was given top secret clearance since part of my duties was to read all memos before General White, and to determine what was important, what was not, as well as to decide what he should see first and last.”

Griffin emphasizes the point by describing how he was present when Bobby Williams, General White’s aviation officer, drew up a plan for the army to get its own air force.  Explaining that he had typed the communications, Griffin saw “that part of the army take off. Like most kids I was curious as hell and fascinated with what I was hearing.  It was an exciting and fun time that I try to convey within the plots in my books.”

The plot of his current book, The Assassination Option, includes some of Griffin’s learned lessons.  His son noted to, “The book characters are based on compilations of actual people my dad knew.  This series shadows history and shows how it repeats itself. Look how the Russians are once again on the march and Putin is attempting to re-create the Russian empire.  He is smart, dangerous, and has the mentality of the old KGB.”

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are the scenes that show how America’s allies are not really allies, and its enemies have become friends of sorts. During the early years of the CIA many of those officials were former Nazis who were considered useful because of the information they provided against the newfound enemy, Russia.  Griffin told he hopes readers will understand how “the Nazis were nasty people and after they lost the war no one ever admitted to being one.  They were all guilty; yet, denied it.  However, we needed these guys who had information and ways of getting it that we did not have.  For example, they knew who the Russians spies were in the atomic program before we did. The point of the book is to show how we needed to watch out for both the Germans and the Russians.  Both were as dangerous as hell.  It became clear that the day WWII ended the Cold War began and that we had to be wary of the Russians. The prologue goes into the back history because it is my belief that to better understand the story and the characters there is a need to understand the political situation.”

The most fascinating characters of the book are James Cronley, Friedrich Hessinger, and Claudette Colbert.  Because Cronley’s first mission for the new Central Intelligence Directorate was so successful he is promoted to captain and given more responsibility, the Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top-secret spy operation.

Readers will probably be able to connect the dots between the character Freddy Hessinger and Henry Kissinger; although, Griffin refuses to comment. The similarities: their names, both were in Munich after the War, both Jewish, both worked for the counter-intelligence corps, and both wore the officers’ pink and green uniform with the officer’s triangle emblem.  

The character Claudette Colbert was not based on the actress, but, according to Griffin, “on the women I knew who worked in the intelligence organization.  I knew a Betty Grable, not the actress.  She was a master sergeant. I gave my character the same duties as the military Grable, just changed her name to Colbert.  She was more than a secretary, but a spook working for the intelligence agency.”

The authors also gave a heads up about the next book in the series, The Curtain of Death, the title playing off the “Iron Curtain” speech by Churchill.  It is based on the dangers of Russia but also on the desire to shut down Operation Odessa, which moved Nazis to safety in South America. 

The Assassination Option is a classic Griffin book that combines history with fiction, creating a superb, suspenseful, gripping, and informative novel.  Griffin chose to start this series because of his respect for the OSS/CIA between 1946 and 1950, when the intelligence agency in Europe was very successful even though they had little to work with.  The cast of characters are remarkable, a new breed of warrior that found themselves on the front lines of a covert war.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a military thriller will not want to pass this book up.