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March 2016

Book Review - "Clawback" by J.A. Jance

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.

9781501140952_p0_v1_s192x300Clawback by bestselling author J. A. Jance brings back the heroine Ali Reynolds.  The story brings to mind issues revealed in the movie The Big Short and the news events surrounding Bernie Madoff.  Where Jance is at her best is describing complicated issues and breaking them down into understandable terms within a gripping mystery. 

In this latest, Ali Reynolds must solve the murder of someone caught up in a Ponzi scheme that bankrupted hundreds of people.  Among those are her parents who lost their life retirement savings.  Because her dad wants answers he decides to confront his long time friend and financial advisor, only to find he and his wife dead.  In an effort to clear her father, seek justice for those who lost their savings, and find the hidden money she teams up with her husband B. Simpson, the executive of High Noon. 

Jance noted to blackfive.net that this story was highly personal. “My husband and I had our own Ponzi guy in Seattle.  He relieved us of $500,000 of our retirement funds.  That is why I put in the dedication, ‘For all the people who gave me 500,000 reasons for writing this book.  Whoever you are; you know who you are.’ Because it was in a retirement account we could not even claim the loss on our taxes.  We will never see any of that money again. It is sad to think that people who are in their 70’s, had retired, and planned on having this money for their golden years are all back at work.  My advice, ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.’”

Furthermore, Jance wants readers to understand that she and her husband did their due diligence.  “We spoke with investment advisors from big management firms.  We even checked the audits.  What evidently happened is that whenever there was going to be an audit someone from that company would call and warn the Ponzi guy. This allowed him to move the money around and show everything was honkey dory.”

Although the story is very entertaining readers can also learn something.  Clawback refers to a law that assesses penalties on victims of Ponzi schemes by having the bankruptcy courts confiscating previous distributions.  The book quote explains, “So my parents get hit twice, first by the Ponzi scheme itself and then by the bankruptcy trustees-insult to injury.” Jance explains, “Proceeds from an investment that is found to be fraudulent are confiscated and then redistributed to all investors on a proportional basis. Since we had not started taking any funds out, Clawback did not affect us.  But since none of the money has been found, the characters in my book had a happier ending than those who were schemed along with me.  I wish I could have hired High Noon to trace the money since the government is not interested in helping find the money hidden by the bad guys.”

Jance also appears to be tech savvy.  She talks of “presence technology,” in which employees and their families of High Noon have all their electronic devices equipped with the latest technology.  Basically allowing the company to know where an individual is and follow their movements in real time.

One of the most interesting characters is Cami Lee, an employee of High Noon.  Coming from a world of accomplished parents, she was an over achiever who was shy, a bookworm, highly technical, and an expert in martial arts.  Jance commented that she based this character on “my two granddaughters who came from orphanages in China.  Both are very talented gymnasts. Those girls are no bigger than a minute but are surprisingly strong as can be.”

Clawback is a must read for anyone who wants to understand a complicated issue that can possibly have a personal effect.  With a rich cast of characters and a compelling story that is believable this is a must read.  

Book Review - "The Watcher in the Wall" by Owen Laukkanen

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

9780399174544_p0_v1_s192x300The Watcher In The Wall by Owen Laukkanen is a novel with a very dark subject matter.  Known for his powerful and suspenseful stories Laukkanen continues this pattern with his latest book.  He has dealt with Internet targeted killings that prey on young veteran’s emotions, human trafficking of teenage girls, and now this, a predator that encourages teenagers to commit suicide on a web-cam.

Early in the book readers understand that a stalker of sorts attempts to find teenagers who are depressed and want to end their life. In fact, the book cover and title play into this scenario. Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere, partners in a joint BCA-FBI violent crimes task force stumble on this person.  Stevens’ daughter is devastated when a classmate commits suicide. She asks them to investigate this voice of death and doom.  What they find is an online suicide club of unhappy teenagers, presided over by an anonymous presence that seems to be encouraging them. Stevens and Windermere are driven to find this person and prevent him from convincing others to act on their feelings. 

Laukkanen based the book on “the real-life case of online predator William Melchert-Dinkel.  He is a Minnesota man who has counseled someone online and encouraged them to commit suicide.  He is suspected of entering into fake suicide pacts with at least five other victims.  All killed themselves at his instruction.  At the time I started to write this story the case was working its way through the courts.  I was stunned and frustrated with the justice system in that it appeared he would get away with it so I wrote this book about a similar predator. On appeal it was found that he could be retried for actively assisting in a victim’s suicide.  Ultimately he was convicted last fall and served just 360 days in jail.  Writing this story was therapeutic for me because I was so upset with the sentence of this real-life guy, so I decided to administer my own justice, which was more fitting.”

What makes the story more relatable are the backstories on Windermere and the Internet killer.  After being brutally abused by his alcoholic stepfather as a young man he decides to turn the tables on his stepsister, giving her constant emotional abuse.  She decides to take her life, and as she hangs herself she notices him watching her.  Unfortunately he gets a high from this and decides to set up a website where he can encourage others to die at their own hands as he watches.

Windermere also has dealt with suicide from bullying. As a teenager, she watched as someone she knew was taunted and bullied until they took their life. She did nothing to intervene and this has haunted her. This is probably one of the most potent parts of the book: the description of how so many students laugh along with the bullies, not because they want to be mean to the victim, but to fit in themselves, or out of a desire to not become a target of the bully themselves.

The author noted to blackfive.net, “We need to pay attention to what our friends/students/family members are feeling, whom they are talking to online, and what is bothering them. Parents need to play a role on monitoring what their children do on the Internet.  This story was very personal to me. I hope the story brought some awareness.  I was always someone who was an outsider.  There were times where I felt the whole world is against me.  Depression does things to you mentally that could be really paralyzing. While writing this book I was dealing with some mental health issues, mainly depression and suicidal thoughts of my own. When depressed you feel so alone. I channeled this by writing the book.  It became a release for me.  The mixture of talking to professionals, friends, and family as well as finding the right medication helped me.” 

The book is also very informative in that it describes the debate between calling coercion a crime versus freedom of speech. A quote from the story explains, “State law says it’s a felony to coerce or counsel someone into committing suicide,” but there is no federal law because of “his right to free speech to do what he’s doing.” Readers might be shocked to learn that predators like this fictional character may not even be breaking the law. 

The Watcher In The Wall is an informative mystery.  This chilling story is gut wrenching.  A word of warning make sure you have the time to read it because you will not want to put it down.

Author Interview - Jennifer Robson

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

Meet Jennifer Robson.  She is a historian, novelist, and a kindred spirit with those in the military.  All of her books are character driven with strong female and male heroes that are somewhat independent. They begin in a place of relative powerlessness while ending in a place of relative strength. Robson spoke with blackfive.net about the challenges, her writings, and influences. 

Her latest project was a chapter in the anthology Fall Of Poppies, entitled, All For The Love Of You. Through a heart warming plot she describes what an American Captain, Daniel Mancuso, had to endure when his cheekbones were shattered and right eye lost.  He was able to have a mask fitted by the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait Masks, a civilian based organization that allowed wounded warriors to get fulfillment, flickers of hope, and protection from those who might react negatively to the deformities. But it is also a love story, which emphasizes the importance of a person’s inner beauty, rather than their physical appearance.

Released early this year, Moonlight Over Paris is the last book in the World War I series. It is a follow up to After The War Is Over, and the first in the series, Somewhere in France. This latest emphasizes Paris during the 1920s, where the characters experience a new world after World War I. Just as the fictional characters come into contact with the “Lost Generation,” and its circle of American expatriates, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, so does the reader. It is a story of friendship, change, and choices. 

She commented to blackfive.net, “I hope readers are touched by what my heroes, Sam and Daniel, have suffered, and then make the connection to what our soldiers are going through today.  I have had heroes endure PTSD, being maimed, and have experienced terrible things.  Yet, they made a decision that it would not define their life. I do think the average person today does not have a connection to someone in the military; yet, should understand the implications of what it is like to serve, be injured, or lose a life.  It seems it is very easy to spend money to support wars, but very difficult to spend money to support the veterans afterward. When I served as a guide in France in 1989 at the National War Memorial I will never forget how I had a chance to thank those who fought in the Great World War, shake their hands, and listen to what they had to say.  It was an honor for me.  It was something that influenced me as I decided to write this series.”

Having been influenced by her family members and friends who have served she commented, “I worry about the generations dying out.  Will my children understand the sacrifices made by those who served?  My great grandfather was a soldier in WWI and my grandfather was an aviator in WWII.  I hope in a small way my novels capture the people, memories, and thoughts of veterans.  I want the periods to come alive as a way to honor the memory of those who fought.”

The chapter in the anthology insightfully shows how facial prosthetics gave wounded warriors confidence to venture outside without being thought of as oddities. She explained, “Facial deformities is something the human eye has difficulty processing.  In doing research I looked at a lot of pictures and was taken in by those people’s suffering.  I wrote this chapter to show what happens to soldiers when they survive with major injuries that can affect their lives.  My character made the point that a soldier could still live even after having a horrendous injury that maimed them.”

Besides feeling a bond with her characters, readers are also able to understand that those who worked in the studio for portrait masks took up the challenge of healing the emotional wounds as the doctors and nurses healed the physical wounds.  Robson stated, “No one who worked there made much money and it was not done for profit.  Through my research I read some of the letters written to Anna Coleman Ladd, a renowned American sculptor, who set up the studio.  The letters expressed such gratitude of being able to get even a part of their lives back.  They said how they were able to go home and not see disgust on the faces of their loved ones.  An interesting point I found out is that there are very few masks in existence today.  The superstition of most historians is that the masks were probably buried with the men.”

In reading these books people will feel they are actually a part of the story.  The best historical fiction novels allow people to understand what is happening and get swept up in the story.  They are able to see the world through the character’s eyes and hopefully relate it to today’s issues.  With Robson’s writings, readers can gain an understanding of the war, its aftermath, and how those on the front lines are able to connect in the new world.

Ian Malone - Irish Guard in Life, Uniter in Death

Sandstorms settled in the south
of that sour place,
and terror-men opened wide a mouth
etched in a hate-filled face.

The rifle-spit struck down Malone
and he in a moment gave
a life well-lived, alone,
to set men free of the grave.

In later days men drew down
statues from on high;
they struck Iraqi ground
so dust and cheer could fly.

What, one Irish fighting man
to free millions from cold chains?
Not noble words, not gracious plan
could make real such gains.

Or--Is our time so coy,
so wild and free a thing?
Not Harvey nor Kelly, boy
of Killarn, not the Brian King

Freedom bought at such a cost,
where glory's priced so steep:
Where the name of each good man lost
Can memory's Herald keep.
-Poem by Grim, April 10th, 2003, in honor of Ian Malone

LancecplianmaloneThis is an annual Someone You Should Know (St. Patrick's Day Edition) post to celebrate an Irish soldier's sacrifice.  Below is the story of Ian Malone - a young Irishman who bridged the divide between Ireland and England in life and death.

Ian died during the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003 doing what he wanted to do - Soldiering for his country.  Below is his story, told expertly by Philip Watson of the Telegraph:

Ian's death brought people together
By Philip Watson

Lance Corporal Ian Malone died in an ambush on the streets of Basra in April last year. Throughout a long, hot Sunday, he and his armoured brigade had been pushing through the southern suburbs of Iraq's second city, flushing out enemy soldiers. While most of the regular Iraqi Army had fled, the streets and houses contained pockets of determined Fedayeen fighters, paramilitaries who remained loyal to Saddam Hussein.

Having reached the edge of the old city and achieved their objective of securing a university campus, Ian Malone and his colleagues had left their Warrior armoured personnel carrier, and were regrouping. They had scoured the area and, in the dusty shade of dusk, all seemed safe.

In an instant, however, two Fedayeen in civilian clothes broke cover and sprayed the crew with automatic fire. Four soldiers were hit. Ian Malone took two bullets - one through the neck, the other in the head - and died instantly, becoming one of 55 British soldiers killed in Iraq in the past year.

What made the 28-year-old Lance Corporal remarkable, though, apart from the peerless qualities that all who knew him instantly recognised - he was a thinker and philosopher; courteous and religious; a talented chess player and musician; an exceptional soldier; and, as his school chaplain said at his funeral, not macho but manly - was that Ian Malone was an Irishman fighting for the British Army.

Many have found in Ian Malone's life and death something profoundly symbolic: the notion that he represents the continuing spirit of progress and reconciliation between Britain and Ireland...

Continue reading "Ian Malone - Irish Guard in Life, Uniter in Death" »

Book Review - "No One Knows" by JT Ellison

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 in the right side bar.

9781501118470_p0_v4_s192x300No One Knows by J. T. Ellison is part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part cautionary tale.  It is one of those stories that show fairy tales do not always come true.  The themes of trust, betrayal, and treachery are explored through the lives of the main character.   

Ellison noted, “People might compare it to Gone Girl, but I wrote it before that book ever came out, back in 2011.  It was based on a dream I had when my husband and I went to a wedding at the Opryland Hotel in Tennessee.  After sending me a drink he disappeared.  I was looking for him and as I rushed into the parking lot I saw the author Harlan Coben, who wanted to give me career advice.  Unfortunately I never got it because I woke up. I did not have it published then because Catherine Coulter popped up in 2012.  She wanted me to start writing with her so I shelved this book.  Of course Gone Girl came out a few months later. But now after numerous revisions I have published my first stand alone.” 

As the story unfolds readers will wonder which character they can truly trust and believe.  The main character, Aubrey Trenton Hamilton, thinks she has met her savior, a knight in shining armor who will love her unconditionally. She and Josh live in marital bliss until his disappearance.  Ellison breaks the storyline down into time periods based on Aubrey’s relationship with Josh, having spent the first seven years of her life not knowing him, the next 17 years of her life side by side with Josh as childhood sweethearts, and 5 years mourning his unexpected disappearance and possible death. In those five years she has known nothing but emptiness, solitude, and loneliness. With alternating past and present chapters, readers get a feeling of knowing the characters inside and out.

Aubrey is an unreliable narrator, a complex character who is put into an extraordinary circumstance.  She has had a harsh life, losing both her biological and adoptive parents.  This frail person just wants to be loved.  This becomes evident with not only Josh but someone she meets, Chase Boden. He has an uncanny resemblance to Josh, from his mannerisms to the way he walks, Readers go on the same journey as Aubrey wondering if she will ever be able to forge a life beyond Josh. 

The reason Ellison has the setting at the Opryland Hotel is for its monstrous landscape.  She explained, “It is so easy to get lost in.  I thought it a great setting to start off the book.  It is a metaphor for this story because anyone who visits there can get turned around and see different things at different times.”

Even after her husband, Josh, is declared legally dead Aubrey has a hard time moving on.  She is still obsessed with finding the answers behind his disappearance.  People will understand how someone can almost lose their sanity wanting answers.  It is a reminder how missing persons can sometimes be worse than knowing someone is dead, considering there is no closure. 

Although the plot is not based on this, Ellison tells of her own experience with a missing person. “I had a friend who went missing and never has been found.  In 1992 in South Carolina after a U2 Concert she just disappeared, and was never heard from again.  I know she didn’t run away to create a new world for herself.  It is horrifying to me to think what her family has to go through even to this day.”

No One Knows will have inevitable comparisons to Gone Girl, but this is a more realistic storyline. It will have readers guessing who can be believed and what are their ulterior motives.  Ellison messes with the character’s head as well as the readers with her many twists and turns.

Book Review - "Off the Grid" by CJ Box

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.

9780399176609_p0_v1_s192x300Off The Grid by C. J. Box brings back Nate Romanowski, the beloved rugged individualist.  This book delves into a number of themes, some of which Box has become known for: getting the Federal government to acquiesce to the States, a contemporary Western, a solid description of the western landscape, and the issues facing western states.  But, beyond that he explores the possibility of how terrorists can use technology to harm Americans, the vulnerability of the US communication systems, and the overzealous government surveillance.  It might seem that a lot of issues are covered in the novel, but Box has a knack for brilliantly intertwining everything.

The plot begins with Nate and his girlfriend, Liv, living in obscurity on a remote Wyoming ranch, enjoying hunting and his falcons. Some rogue Federal organization finds Nate, because Liv decides to telephone her ill mother.  A deal is made to destroy Nate’s criminal record for his help in locating a terror cell in Wyoming’s Red Desert.  Nate's master falconer skills are needed to give him an "in" with the Muslim, Ibby, who is also a master falconer. Meanwhile, game warden Joe Pickett is asked by the Wyoming Governor to stop the tracking of a grizzly bear and instead track down his friend Nate. Coincidentally the bear, Nate, and Joe converge at the Red Desert. Also there is Joe’s daughter Sheridan who has decided to go on a weekend camping trip.  All unite in an attempt to thwart the terrorists before they can destroy the US electrical infrastructure. 

The title, Off The Grid, is very apropos since it represents two plot lines. Literally, the terrorists are attempting to destroy the electrical grid that would incapacitate the US, and figuratively as Nate attempts to become a hermit, to be left alone in peace. He has been living “off the grid,” having no electronics, credit records, bank records, or tax records. Nate is content to live deep in the wild, flying his falcons and avoiding contact.

The idea for the story came to Box after hearing the FBI Director John Comey say there are terrorists being tracked in all fifty states.  Box stated,“After a homeland terrorist attack, national security comes to the forefront, but as time passes we put it on the back burner.  I think that a terrorist plot happening in far-flung Wyoming is not as crazy as it sounds.  I started to think about Wyoming, what could potentially happen here, and what would be the target.  Nobody in the US should feel immune. Attacks will not always happen in New York or Washington. I put a lot of the information in the book on how every electronic device can be killed by an EMP, if in the vicinity of the pulse. It would be a devastating attack.”

Anyone wishing for the return of Sheriff Matt Dillon will enjoy this storyline.  The gunfights with the terrorists are taken right out of any Western battle.  Even the weapon used is an “Apache” Helicopter.  One scene in the book has Nate shooting out the trucks, which represent horses being shot out from the villains.  Readers can vividly picture the gun battle as the shoot out occurs behind covered rocks.  Even Joe’s “cowboy” hat is affected by this gunfight, being ridden with bullets. 

As with all his novels Box is informative about western culture.  In this case he gives insight into the western setting, grizzly bears, and falcons.  His vivid descriptions of the harsh and remote, but beautiful environment, allow the reader to feel as if they are there.

Box noted to blackfive.net, “Nate was based on someone I grew up with.  This guy was a Falconer who went into a Special Forces Unit of our military. I made Nate part falcon because his qualities are similar to those birds.  He is definitely the ultimate Falconer.  He is described as a libertarian homicidal folk hero.  Based on his moral code, he will murder first and ask questions later.  In all of my books with Nate I put something about falcons.  In this one I had in the book how “Nate had the ability to go as still as one of his hooded falcons.” I also compared in the book how falcons identify, attack, and kill their target, to what Nate did with the terrorists.”

He also commented, “There is a theory that the more the grizzly is studied and thus, comes into contact with people, the more likely they will lose their fear of humans.  The number of grizzly bear attacks has grown.  I read about this one bear that traveled 1000s of miles and even slept in an elementary school playground.  I decided to put it in the book.  Also true, is that grizzlies have been known to actually track hunters.  Sometimes it appears the researchers tracking the bear seem more worried about the health and welfare of the bear than the hunter being tracked.”

Off The Grid is a warning of sorts in that it shows how US national security is vulnerable to a terrorist attack.  It is not only informative, but challenges peoples’ minds as they learn about western culture.  To date this might just be one of Box’s best. 

Book Review - "What Remains of Me" by Alison Gaylin

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.

9780062369857_p0_v1_s192x300 (1)What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin is a captivating story.  The bestselling author Jeffery Deaver once said, “A thriller asks what is going to happen and a mystery asks what happened.”  In this spellbinding story, Gaylin does both through her character Kelly Lund, portraying her as a teenager and a woman in her forties.  There are multiple themes explored including the effect of secrets, how money and power corrupt, as well as how the media frenzy attempts to put a persona on a celebrity. These are all wonderfully intertwined throughout this story about the world of Hollywood.

The plot alternates between two murders, with the suspect being the same person, Kelly Lund.  In 1980, as a seventeen year old, she is found guilty of killing director John McFadden. Released after twenty-five years, she attempts to maintain a low profile until five years later when she is again suspected of murdering her father-in-law, a legendary actor, Sterling Marshall.

Readers are shown the circus surrounding the coverage of a famous murderer, and are reminded of the O.J. Simpson and Charles Manson cases. In this story, the media casts Kelly in a role that becomes reality to the outsiders. As one of the characters in the book says, "It's not what you've done that matters, it's what people think you've done." As the plot progresses people are able to understand the dark secrets, lies, and betrayals caused by power and money.

The power of the press is explored because Gaylin wants readers to understand, “The press can be as unreliable as anyone else.  It is impossible to get to know someone from an article.  A sense of that person is colored by the writer’s perception of that person.  Facts as they are presented are many times different than facts as they are.  This distortion is definitely true in high profile trials.  We can never truly know our public figures. Just look at Marcia Clark, the Simpson prosecutor.  She became well known in a murder case where a young actress was shot by an obsessed fan.  She helped establish the anti-stalking laws.  But after the O.J. case she became known as the lady with funny hair who botched the case. A lot of the Hollywood aspect is larger than life. BTW:  Clark is now a terrific mystery writer.  On the other side is Amanda Knox.  The press created a persona of her because she didn’t act according to some prescribed script. That story inspired me. If your exterior isn't viewed as likable, or if you don't seem as contrite as people think you ought to be, a narrative builds up around you, and you become a 'monster.'”

Even though all the characters are dysfunctional, Gaylin does a good job of showing the reasons behind their faults and personalities.  Kelly and her friend Bellamy Marshall become more likeable as the story progresses.  In many ways they both had rough lives, having faced some very bad knocks.  They attempt to hide their true feelings, and become almost compartmentalized with their emotions.  In understanding these two characters the fairy tale The Prince and The Pauper comes to mind.  Both Kelly and Bellamy envy what the other supposedly has. Kelly searches to replace her twin sister Catherine who died and Bellamy wants her to be the sibling sister she never had.  Each looked upon the other’s life and thought how that life could be better than their own.  

Regarding her character Kelly, Gaylin commented to blackfive.net, “Writing young and middle age Kelly was like writing two different characters.  I try to figure out how every character justifies their actions. She was affected by her twenty-five years in prison, and the loss of her twin sister.  I think it stunted her and hardened her.  I hope readers will develop some understanding of her.  She as well as the other characters went down the wrong path. I wanted to write a story about someone very young and somewhat naïve who was accused of committing a murder.  She was definitely convicted in the court of public opinion with people misconstruing what she said and how she acted.”

The only character that seems to have some semblance of being grounded is known as Rocky Three. He becomes Kelly’s confidant and someone she can believe in, a friend who offers tenderness, compassion, and truthfulness. The direct opposite of Rocky is the narcissist John McFadden, a truly evil person who uses his power to prey on young girls. This is brought home with the powerful quote, “You ever wish you were a little kid again…too little to understand how the world works?”  Readers begin to understand that many children in the Hollywood scene grow up way too fast, and begin to realize that the world is not always a nice place.

Anyone fascinated with Hollywood and true crimes needs to read What Remains Of Me. Gaylin uses her journalistic credentials to have the plot and the characters come alive.  This emotional, dark, and distinctive tale of revenge and betrayal, presumed guilt and innocence lost, will have the readers quickly turning the pages.

Book Review "Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror" and Interview with General (Ret) Michael Hayden, former Director of the N.S.A. and C.I.A.

The following book review and 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.

9781594206566_p0_v4_s192x300Playing To The Edge, written by former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, offers insight into many of the programs under his responsibility. He discusses NSA’s data collection, the enhanced interrogation program, relations with Congress and the media. It also delves into the political, legal, defense, technical and budget restrictions he faced during his tenure as a director of the NSA and CIA

Hayden told blackfive.net he wrote the book “to pull back the veil to give Americans a better understanding of what the intelligence community does for American security.  Despite its great importance, it is highly misunderstood.” The book highlights NSA data collection, and Hayden makes a very good point, that much of the fear is rooted in misunderstanding. He clearly explains how Stellarwind, the Metadata program, became an enormously useful way to track who foreign terrorists are talking to in the United States without sacrificing any significant measure of privacy. Readers will understand that those in the intelligence community and the Bush Administration were not focused on world domination, and had no interest in listening to a person’s phone calls, unless they were speaking with a terrorist.

It becomes evident after reading the book and talking with General Hayden that intelligence operates in a universal gray area, where there is a need to balance freedom and security.  He explained, “We put together with Stellarwind a massive file of the history of American phone calls.  But the files were accessed only with strict and limited circumstances.  For example, if you pick up a phone never seen before, associated with terrorism, you can ask the database if the phone’s history has ever been in contact with anyone in the US.  The database is accessed by an intelligence professional that thinks they have a reasonable suspicion that a particular phone number is connected with terrorism.  In order for John Doe to be triggered he would have to be in touch with either, directly or indirectly, a phone number overseas that is believed to be terrorist related.”

Hayden basically agrees with John Brennan, the current CIA Director, who said in an interview, “individuals are liberally giving up their privacy, you know, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly as they give information to companies or to sales reps. Or they go out on Facebook or the various social media. They don't realize though that they are then making themselves vulnerable to exploitation.”

But more importantly what Hayden wants to focus upon is that America should be “capturing terrorists and detaining them for interrogation.  How we get to that point is to elect another president.  This President grabs someone only if he can put them in an article III court, instead of treating them as enemy combatants.”

Congress and this administration have shown a betrayal of trust where the CIA is concerned; yet, has done nothing regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails.  Hayden noted, “I have not seen the emails.  But, once you set up a private server it can’t go to a happy place because it is unprotected.  As a former Director of the NSA if a potential adversary of the US had done this I would have moved heaven and earth to see the information.  It was imprudent and I cannot understand why the folks at the State Department did not say to her she could not do it.  The explanation she gives is incoherent for anyone who was in government.”

The book further explains the Hayden Doctrine. When asked about it, he directly commented to blackfive.net, “Balancing openness with the need for secrecy is a condition to be managed, not a problem to be solved.  We should lean forward as far as possible in telling our story.  If we do not do this other people will, without being as accurate or as favorable.  We need to communicate to the broader society what we do and the reasons behind it.  Because too much information is classified this breeds carelessness in protecting what is really secret. But we have to be open internally as well.  I created a program, ‘Email The Director.’  Something seemed to be working because by 2008 we were only in the press because of Congress.”

In Playing To The Edge Michael Hayden shows how important intelligence is to America’s security.  People might not always agree with him, but one thing is for certain he believes in the Constitution, is a patriot, and his only agenda is to protect his fellow citizens. Americans should thank him for his service and consider him a true American hero who stepped up to the plate to defend the homeland.

Book Review - "The Steel Kiss" by Jeffery Deaver

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 in the right side bar.

9781455536344_p0_v2_s192x300The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver is a gripping Lincoln Rhyme’s thriller.  The plot feeds right into people’s fears.  Although technology today plays a large role in everyday life, after reading this, readers will never look on devices the same way. If his goal is to scare the heck out of readers he succeeded beyond comprehension with this novel. 

The plot begins with New York City detective Amelia Sachs chasing a suspect through a busy mall.  As she is about to apprehend him an escalator malfunctions with horrendous consequences, someone is mangled to death. It becomes evident that a person is hacking into consumer products to kill people, and appears to enjoy watching the suffering, either physically or emotionally. Amelia enlists the help of her boyfriend, famous forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme to assist in solving the crime. They must race against the clock to catch the perpetrator before he hacks into more appliances and the victim count becomes greater.

The author commented, “I do like to create a world where the killers appear somewhat sympathetic and are complicated characters that have interesting elements; yet are despicable.  I chose to show the terror of these consumer products, such as microwaves, baby monitors, and escalators.  Who is at fault, the consumer or manufacturer? For example, if someone misuses a car there are consequences. That is different from someone hacking into the control system of a car to cause an accident.  I thought about all this and realized how wonderful and what a great way to terrify readers.”

There are many sub-plots in this book.  Fans of this series will wonder where the Sachs/Rhyme relationship is headed.  Her ex-boyfriend, Nick Carelli has been released from prison and he asks Amelia for help in clearing his name. Another sub-plot involves Officer Ron Pulaski who goes undercover in an attempt to prove Lincoln was not responsible for someone’s murder.  This allows Deaver to present readers with a new fascinating character, Juliette Archer, an intern, who is also a quadriplegic.  She is vibrant and uses her knowledge of riddles to lighten the mood while everyone attempts to solve the crime.  An example of one of her riddles, “Two sons and two fathers go fishing.  Each one catches a fish.  They return from the trip with only three fish.  How can that be?”

Deaver told blackfive.net, “I put in the riddles to give Juliette some quirkiness.  I decided to give Lincoln someone he can help and mentor.  She is quite charming, interesting, and self-confident. The reason I made Lincoln a quadriplegic is to have a character that only has their intellect as a weapon, having Sherlock Holmes skills.  This became the book the Bone Collector.  Lincoln had to use his mind and intuitive skills, because as a quadriplegic he had no other resources.  I had no idea he would be so popular.  At first, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down, but after some surgeries he regained certain movements of his right arm and fingers.”