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March 2016

Book Review - "Overwatch" by Matthew Betley

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.

9781476799216_p0_v4_s192x300Overwatch by Matthew Betley has an action plot with non-stop shootouts, exploding bombs, home invasions, drug cartels, and terrorists.  Having served in Iraq Betley uses his experiences to create a gripping plot.

He commented to blackfive.net, “As a Marine junior officer I commanded a scout sniper platoon.  Although I had a lot of tactical training my deployments were in a staff support function. Unfortunately, mortars and rockets don’t care about what capacity someone is in.  When I was in Iraq US forces took the most missile fire during the war. The locations, settings, military units, and certain narrative components are all very real, but the overall story is completely my own. I decided to write this story because I read some bestsellers that bored me.  I wanted to write something I would personally want to read, an action packed thriller.  I created a modern day action hero who had some issues going back to the origins set in Iraq.”

The story begins when former Marine Recon Commander Logan West attempts to get his life back on track and reconnect with his wife before the divorce is finalized.  As a relapsing alcoholic and someone suffering from PTSD he must deal with his demons. West has nightmares about the ambush that his Force Recon unit suffered in Iraq during an insurgent attack on a compound in Fallujah in 2004.  But that is all put on hold when someone tries to kill him and his wife.  After answering the dead killer’s phone West begins to connect the dots, realizing that a terrorist attack is imminent.  The key appears to be an Iraqi flag that is currently owned by his friend and fellow Marine, John Quick.  The FBI hires both ex-Marines as consultants to help thwart the attack that will draw the US into a war with Iran.  It becomes clear they must battle ex-US military, now hired as mercenaries, by Calin Frost, a private security consultant out for revenge. 

Readers might be a bit skeptical how West can conduct himself while still having re-occurring blackouts and alcoholic binges.  West’s withdrawal symptoms could have created problems even if he seems to have a superhuman ability to lock into the mission.

Because Betley is a recovering alcoholic, sober for seven years, he told blackfive.net, he made those scenes very realistic.  He noted, “I was a highly functioning weekend alcoholic.  I would get hammered on the weekends.  I thought about what would happen if I were in a bender.  I basically would not stop drinking until I was hammered.”

Overwatch has the action taking place all over the globe, from Mexico, to America, specifically the Alamo, to the war torn Iraq Al-Anbar province.  This debut novel has non-stop action that has readers feeling the realities of combat.


Book Review - "Hard Cold Winter" by Glen Erik Hamilton

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.

9780062344588_p0_v2_s192x300Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton combines a mysterious plot with very powerful characters. Featured is Van Shaw, a former Army Ranger who must come to grips with making the transition from military to civilian life.

The major theme is trust. Hamilton explores how someone needs to depend on their friends and have confidence in their own choices. The plot begins with Van helping one of his late grandfather’s associates search for his high school acquaintance, Elana Call, in Seattle’s Olympic Mountains. What he finds instead is a brutal murder scene, including a victim from one of Seattle’s most influential families. He is caught in the middle of a confrontation between a billionaire and a drug cartel. On a mission to find the truth behind Elana’s disappearance, Van must trust his instincts to find a resolution.

Van’s life is a number of transitions, including trying to avoid joining the criminal world of his grandfather, and becoming a civilian after his Afghanistan deployments. He also wrestles with his own reemerging symptoms of PTSD caused during his combat days. A new character also suffers, former Army Ranger Leo Pak. The author explores the issue through the camaraderie they face, with each expressing their feelings, experiences, symptoms, and therapy.

The plot skillfully handles the real impact PTSD has on some veterans. Hamilton commented, “I did my homework. In addition to a lot of reading on the subject, including David Finkel’s excellent Thank You For Your Service, I talked to Army vets and former Rangers about their own tours, how they thought about combat stress while active, and how that has changed since they’ve become civilians. Some of those soldiers were very open and honest about their issues and frustrations, and I owe them a great deal. There are no pat answers. As I mention in the book, there may be dozens of options for medical or psychological help, but navigating the system can be overwhelming. Some make it through and find what they need. Others don’t, or can’t.”

While there are similarities between Van and Leo, Hamilton contrasts Van and his girlfriend Luce Boylan. Both came from criminal families, but Luce chose the straight and narrow path, practically raising herself. On the other hand, Van relied on the military to keep him focused, but always seems to be drawn in with the criminal element.

Hamilton told blackfive.net, “Van is working on the transition between the life he wants and the life he now has. The next book will continue this storyline. He is trying to figure out his life without the military structure. He does not think of himself as a ‘war junkie’ but realizes he is not the type to sit at a desk forty hours a week. In the next book he tries to reconcile a balance between the criminal life of his past and his moral center.”

In Hard Cold Winter readers will learn more about what makes Van tick through an interesting backstory. This plot has likeable characters, a good mystery, and is informative about what combat veterans must face.