« October 2015 | Main | December 2015 »

November 2015

Amazon Smile: Not Just For The Holidays


Amazon has grown to become a major part of our lives, to the tune of more than $88 billion in revenue in 2014.  Think about that number a minute, and then think about the Amazon Smiles program.  This is a program from Amazon that, if you enter Amazon through an Amazon Smile account link, a small percentage of your purchase will go to that charity.  Yes, it is a small percentage, but look at that total revenue and think what half a percent of that would be.  

Right now, small charities -- and I suspect military charities even more so -- are struggling for donations.  Shopping Amazon via an Amazon Smile link costs you nothing, but it can provide much needed funds to the charity you find worthy.  The more who use it, and especially if you use it all year, the more that charity will get.  

While I hope you will consider using the Mission: VALOR Amazon Smile link, I ask you to pick the charity of your choice and use that link now, and all year long.  It's a small way to make a difference, and a potentially large difference at that without you having to fork out a dime.  

Exclusive Interview with Frederick Forsyth - Author of "The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue"

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

9780399176074_p0_v2_s192x300The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth is a memoir and not an autobiography. It is series of recollections and not a chronological narration. Although this book reads more like a thriller, readers get a glimpse of those events and personalities Forsyth has come in contact with that he based some of the stories upon. Unfortunately, this will be his last book because he has decided to put his pen out to pasture.

Elise Cooper:  Why did you decide to write a memoir at this time?

Frederick Forsyth:  I had nothing to do so I decided to write a collection of anecdotes. 

EC:  You are proud of your journalistic career.  What did you see as your style?

FF:  I consider myself a journalistic writer, keeping to the facts and making sure they are accurate.  I do not write much emotional stuff or fancy language.  My books were all contemporary current affairs based on what I had seen. Hell, I made mistakes and have done so many things I chose to write about them, or maybe not.

EC: Why do you think a journalist needs the qualities of detachment, curiosity, and skepticism?

FF:  A journalist should never join the Establishment, no matter how tempting the blandishments.  It is our job to hold power to account, not join it.  In a world that increasingly obsesses over the gods of power, money, and fame, a journalist and a writer must remain detached, like a bird on a rail, watching, noting, probing, commenting, but never joining.  In short, an outsider. I believe a journalist’s job is to check out something and write about it, but not get at all involved.  We live in an age where they want to be a part of the Establishment, running with the herd, and a member of the Brotherhood.  Instead, they should hold those they are covering to the account. They should never interject their opinions.

EC: You covered the actual assassination attempts of France’s President Charles de Gaulle.  Is the story the Day of the Jackal factual?

FF:  Yes, except for the actual character, the Jackal.  I included all the police methods and the French security service operations. It is a twin hunt story where the Jackal is hunting the President and the police are searching for him. But there is no similarity between my affair and the Jackal’s.  I had an affair with the East German defense minister’s mistress.  She was a cougar, about twenty years my senior.  I remember her singing this song to me and one day I found out she was a Nazi singing one of their songs.  I thought it amusing that she was doing it with me, a part of the race that conquered her.

EC:  You also included humor in the book.  What was one of the most humorous?

FF: I wanted to interview Ezer Weizman, the first commander of the Israeli Air Force.  I thought he was going to take us in a limo to Tel Aviv, but he actually meant to fly us there.  As he was describing to me the first dogfight he was in during the War for Independence he took his hands off the controls, which I grabbed.  I got a history lesson and a flying lesson all at once.

EC:  Who is one of the people you interviewed you most admired?

FF: David Ben-Gurion. I consider him the founding father of Israel and one of the greatest men I have ever met.  I was allotted twenty minutes, but we actually spoke for three hours.  He described the creation of Israel in a step-by-step manner.  As we talked I thought how he was a walking history lesson.  I could have filled ten notebooks, but I just sat and listened to someone who had seen it all.

EC:  What will you do in retirment?

FF:  This was the last book.  I consider it a postscript.  I hope I am going out on top.  For now I will enjoy my life by walking the dog, playing with the grandkids, and having, in the evening, a glass of wine by the fireplace.



Photo - Sonar Swim

151105-D-HV319-082U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Ainley, left, supervises the use of the DNS-300 underwater sonar system to South Korean navy forces during Exercise Clear Horizon 2015 on Commander Fleet Activities Chinhae, South Korea, Nov. 5, 2015. Ainley is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to Mobile Unit 1. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Rolston

Book Review - "The Promise" by Robert Crais

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

9780425298756_p0_v1_s192x300The Promise by Robert Crais is a thrilling mystery.  Fans will enjoy the pairing of the well-written characters he has brought to the page including Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, Scott James, Maggie the German Shepherd, and Jon Stone. The storyline is realistic and action packed, making for an enjoyable novel.

The author stated to blackfive.net, “I saw potential for all three to come together as a group, although Elvis is the featured character. I consider myself their daddy and its all a big playground for me.  I wanted to find a really good believable reason for them to cross paths and did not want it to appear contrived.  Once the notion of explosives found in Echo Park came to me I knew I could bring everything together.  Remember Maggie was an explosive detection dog in the Marines.  After that it was having fun with the scenes.” 

The format of the book has each chapter told from the perspective of a different character.  This allows readers to get into the minds and thoughts of the various personalities.  For those Americans frustrated with the current policies of political correctness and at times having the terrorists appear as sympathetic figures the plot is a welcome alternative.  Its main focus is a grieving mother, Amy Breslyn, who searches for retribution after losing her son, a journalist, in a suicide bomber attack in Nigeria.  Being a chemical engineer allows her the capability to get revenge on the terrorists. Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find her, but his investigation leads to more questions than answers.  He stumbles into a police raid of a house where someone is murdered and a huge amount of explosives have been found.  Being at the wrong place at the wrong time he becomes a person of interest.  Meanwhile the killer targets LAPD dog handler Scott James and his dog Maggie because they are the only ones who can identify him. 

Crais stated, “When I started writing in the late 1980s the subject matter of The Promise was not even on the drawing board.  The impact of terrorism on all of us from ISIS to Al Qaeda has us dealing with certified crazy people.  Through my character Amy Breslyn I can release my anger.  Here is this woman who loses her son, a non-combatant, by a lunatic, a suicide bomber. We all carry Amy’s anger and frustration about what is happening. I hope readers can share and feel what Amy has gone through.”

But more than anything this is a story of commitment, loyalty, and partner devotion.  There are multiple teams at play.  The plot becomes increasingly interesting as the teams cross over and intermingle appearing at times to be an army unit.  But the partners of Scott and Maggie will pull at reader’s heartstrings since they are comrades in arms.  Both have lost their partners, had traumatic injuries, and have nightmares about their experiences.  They also have PTSD and are helping each other heal.  There is a strong bond between them. 

Maggie, the German Shepherd K-9, stole the show by often showing more sense and intuition than her human counterparts. What any dog owner will enjoy is the fact that Robert Crais narrated parts of this story through Maggie's eyes, presenting a humanistic interpretation of her words and thoughts. Crais also writes believable scenes between Maggie and her handler Scott.  It becomes obvious he has done his homework, allowing readers to understand that handlers need to trust their partner’s instincts and not to influence them through some subconscious changes in body language, tone, and movement.

The Promise has compelling characters that enhance the plot.  Anyone wanting an action packed story that is embedded in realism should read this book.  But a word of warning, have the time because readers will not want to put it down.

Book Review - "The Guilty" by David Baldacci

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

9781455586424_p0_v1_s192x300The Guilty by David Baldacci sees the return of Will Robie and his partner Jessica Reel. Baldacci is able to create realistic plots, allows the reader to understand the essence of a CIA operative/sniper, and has characters that are sympathetic as well as admirable. In this latest installment Robie’s backstory is explored and is brilliantly intertwined within an action-packed plot.

The plot begins, as Robie, a black ops CIA sniper, is unable to complete his assignment and pull the trigger. Given an opportunity to straighten his head he must confront his painful past that includes a strained relationship with his father. Having left just after high school Will has not returned for over twenty years.  He has regrets about his relationship with his father and having left behind the girl he wanted to marry. As he tries to understand his current feelings, Will must come to grips with his emotional reaction to hearing his father has been arrested for murder in the Gulf Coast town of Cantrell, Mississippi.  The setting fits in perfectly, creating an atmosphere of a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. After returning he and Jessica Reel are confronted by a serial killer who does not want him to get answers regarding his father’s murder charge. 

Unlike Frederick Forsyth’s famous assassin, The Jackal, Baldacci’s assassins, Robie and Reel, are caring and have a conscious.  But throughout the first part of the book it becomes obvious that there are times when snipers must kill for the common good.  Powerful quotes illustrates this point, “Like Hitler before him, he had the extraordinary ability to whip his followers into a frenzy of such devotion that they would commit any atrocity he ordered… But ‘to kill’ was different that ‘to murder.’”

Baldacci noted to blackfive.net, “Since I made Will’s profession as an assassin it became quite a challenge to have people root for him and not against him.  Will has humanity and does not just act as a robot.  He does not kill purely for pay, but believes in what he is doing.  He takes a life for the greater good and to protect society. We should appreciate that it is necessary for these professionals to work in anonymity.  It means no one ever hears about what was done unless something goes bad. I did a lot of research, spending some time with the Rangers in Fort Benning, Ga.  While on the sniper range I fired just about every weapon out there.  I saw that optics is their whole world.  At one point my target was 1800 meters away.  At that range weather, wind, topography, patience, and fatigue become factors.” 

Yet, the most potent parts of the book involve relationships.  Robie and Reel have professional and personal trust between them that includes respect.  This becomes evident when she tells Will, “You’ve got me, Robie.  And I’ve got you.  And while we might fall sometimes, together, well, together we are unbeatable.” This is the complete opposite of his relationship with his father.  Their interactions are tense, defiant, and full of anger.  Will is accused by his dad of forsaking his past and family, which is why Will’s father treats him as an outsider.

The author hopes readers get out of the book that “challenges from the past, which are never confronted and resolved, will affect your present life.  Most of us have that going on in our lives.  An issue can come back to haunt you at a future time.  I like writing characters that have an emotional or physical challenge that can either make them stronger or weaker.” 

The author also gave a heads up about his next few books.  Out in April will be a sequel to Memory Man, featuring Amos Decker. The plot involves the world of football, where Amos tackles a case about a man falsely imprisoned for life.  In the fall he will bring back John Puller, the military CID investigator. 

The Guilty explores how decisions made in the past can impact someone’s present life.  Through an action packed plot that has many twists and turns readers are able to understand the dynamics of relationships and the realities of what a CIA operative/sniper must go through professionally and emotionally.

Photo - Parachutes Over Spain

151104-A-DP764-019U.S. paratroopers parachute from C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for a joint forcible entry operation as part of military demonstration during Operation Trident Juncture near San Gregorio, Spain, Nov. 4, 2015. The paratroopers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull