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June 2017

June 23 in U.S. military history

[Originally published at OpsLens.com]

1812: Immediately after war is declared, a squadron of American ships led by Commodore John Rodgers sails to intercept a British convoy sailing from Jamaica. When the frigate HMS Belvidera is spotted, Rodgers personally aims and fires the first shot of the War of 1812 - the cannonball striking the British ship's rudder and penetrating the gun room.

1865: Confederate Brig. Gen. - and Cherokee chief - Stand Watie surrenders his First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi to Union forces in Oklahoma Territory, becoming the last general to surrender in the Civil War.

1923: Over the skies of San Diego, an Army Air Service DH-4 biplane flown by Capt. Lowell Smith tops off its fuel tanks from a hose attached to another DH-4, marking the world's first mid-air refueling operation.

1944: During one of the largest bombing missions of the war, 761 bombers of the 15th Air Force attack the oil fields at Ploesti, Romania.

When one of the B-17s on the raid is damaged by flak and has to drop out of formation, bombardier 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley drops his bombs and goes to the back of the aircraft to administer first aid to the wounded tail gunner. When another gunner is wounded by enemy aircraft, Kingsley attends to him as well. When the pilot orders the crew to abandon the plane before it explodes, Kingsley gives one of the wounded gunners his own parachute, sacrificing his life. His body is later discovered in the burned wreckage of the plane, and Kingsley is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

1945: As the Sixth Army drives north to encircle the remaining Japanese forces on northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division perform their last combat jump of the war and cut off Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita's Shobu Group's retreat.

1969: The Special Forces Camp at Ben Het in Vietnam's Central Highlands, eight miles east of the border with Laos and Cambodia, is cut off and besieged by North Vietnamese Army. Over the next several days B-52s fly 100 strikes while fighter-bombers, artillery, and helicopter gunships hammer the NVA until the Americans are relieved on July 2nd.

Book Review: MatchUP

The following 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.

MatchUp edited by Lee Child is the sequel to the first anthology, FaceOff, published three years ago. In both cases twenty-two bestselling authors collaborated to write eleven riveting tales. All are members of the International Thriller Writers who donated their stories and time with all the proceeds from the books going to support the dues of the ITW membership.

In this latest edition, the stories flowed and the characters worked seamlessly together to solve the case, in part because each author read at least one of the other’s novels. Below is an interview with the authors, and the order is the same as presented in MatchUp. For fans and new readers alike there is also a shout out about the authors’ most recent books.

Steve Berry is the managing editor, but he also worked with Diana Gabladon to write the short story chapter, Past Prologue. He explained, “Lee Child, the editor, and myself looked for unique pairs, either people who would not naturally write together, or characters that would not naturally be in the same setting. Basically characters that live in different worlds but come together for the short story. Because FaceOff was so successful, a bestseller, Lee and I wanted to stay with the same formula. We took that idea and adjusted it to have a male/female team. Each writer picked the character they wanted to include, an iconic one, not a supporting one. The setting could range from a neutral place to a world of one of the characters.”

Sandra Brown and C. J. Box are two top western writers paired together. In Honor & … Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett joined forces to defeat a white supremacist group.   What worked best for these authors was to have C. J. write the first draft because Sandra had not previously written a short story. Since Brown’s book Lethal ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the setting was a no-brainer.

Kathy Reichs and Lee Child wrote Faking a Murder, bringing together the famous characters Jack Reacher and Temperance Brennan. She was a consultant on the cause of death of an Air Force colonel; did he commit suicide or was murdered. Fast forward to today where a journalist supposedly uncovered evidence that questions her findings. After he is found dead she is a person of interest in his murder, accused of planning it to save her reputation. In enters Reacher who knows the facts and uses his street smart to help clear her name.

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell write stand-alones whose realistic characters make readers yearn for more, but alas these featured characters very rarely reappear. Rambo On Their Minds brings back Liz Sansborough, Simon Childs, and the spirit of Rambo. These original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers put their minds together to come up with a story mixing in Lynds espionage and Morrell’s action when Liz, a former CIA operative is captured by the Russian Mafia and Simon, an MI6 agent, temporarily assigned to the FBI, must rescue her. Because Rambo was killed in the novel First Blood, Rambo’s essence had to be used without having him physically appear.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta paired together to write Short Story. It takes place in the 1990s since Karin’s character Jeffrey Tolliver was killed in a one of her previous novels. Someone steals a 1968 Mustang and ends up getting murdered, with Tolliver a person of interest. Eventually he teams up with DEA agents Joe Pritchard and Lincoln Perry to find the real killer.

Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross both told of how hard it was to find a story that could involve their main characters Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Being different as day and night, Harper locates dead bodies, while Ty is a gritty detective. Together they have to find Stephanie Winters who disappeared.

Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille, two legendary thriller authors, combined action, mystery, and humor in the Getaway. Spearheaded by the loss of a dog, Max, John Corey and Bennie Rosato end up meeting in the wilderness where they find a possible terrorist cell operation.

J. A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader combined in Taking The Veil. This was a true collaboration since the characters, Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw, were placed in Jance’s setting in Arizona, and the plotline was his, a medieval type of story with religious connotations.

MatchUp is the perfect anthology for thriller fans allowing them to match wits with the bestselling authors as they try to solve the cases. The stories were entertaining and brilliantly written. Anyone enjoying thrillers will relish these stories. 510f0zRFMvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Over at Laughing Wolf, I remember my Dad.  I also share my thoughts on the political violence in the USA and make a plea.  

I also remember and share the latest on the murder of Libby and Abby.  Someone, somewhere, knows who this sack of something is, and needs to turn him in.  Take a moment, look at the photo, and listen to the voice.  If you recoginze either, turn it in.  


For the latest in the investigation, go here.  

Arthur J. Jackson - someone you should know

Today we honor the memory of recently departed Medal of Honor recipient Arthur J. Jackson. On Sept. 18, 1944 on Pelelieu, Private First Class Jackson charged towards a large enemy pillbox containing 35 Japanese soldiers. Facing an intensive barrage, he suppressed the enemy with automatic weapons fire and then destroyed the fortification with grenades and explosives, killing all of the occupants. Despite incoming fire from all sides, Jackson single-handedly moved on another 11 positions, killing 15 more of the enemy.

For his incredible one-man assault, Jackson is awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation can be viewed here.

Jackson was wounded on Pelelieu and again at Okinawa, where he served as a platoon sergeant. He received a commission from the Marine Corps in August, 1945 and would serve in the Army during the Korean War. He returned to the Marines in 1952 and while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jackson killed an alleged Cuban spy that attacked him. Fearing an international incident, the military silently discharged Jackson after the event. He entered the Army Reserves and ultimately reached the rank of Captain in 1954.

Jackson, one of the few surviving recipients of the Medal of Honor from World War II, passed away on June 14, 2017.

Book Review: The Switch

The following 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.

Joseph Finder is the king of the conspirator authors. In The Switch he explores the issues of national security and privacy, where they overlap, and how they affect each other. This plot comes straight out of the headlines, but unlike real life it comes to conclusions and solutions. One bad decision has a consequence on future events, as in a domino effect.

Finder noted, “While I was writing this book, all this information was being discussed about Hillary Clinton. I made my senator reminiscent of her, and decided to have a stash of top-secret documents downloaded on the computer, a mishandling of classified information. It always seems that the cover-up is worse than the crime. But beyond that I wanted the story to be about a regular businessman. I am fascinated by entrepreneurship because as a writer I consider myself one. Authors’ income is generated exclusively from their writing. In a sense every writer is running a small business.”

The story begins with Michael Tanner picking up a wrong laptop at the airport. Unfortunately for both parties involved neither notices it till they get home. Having curiosity get the better of him Tanner opens the computer and finagles with the password until he finds the correct one. It is then that he realizes the computer belongs to Senator Susan Robbins, which has classified information on it. If this sounds familiar it should, reminding readers of what Hillary Clinton did while Secretary of State.

Knowing she broke the law and not wanting it to ruin her future political career she enlists her Chief of Staff, Will Abbott, to recover the computer. But unfortunately, Tanner decides he will not give it up and believes the American public has a right to know what is in the classified files. This is when the action ratchets up with the NSA, the unscrupulous thugs hired by Will, and the FBI all going after Tanner. The only ones he is able to solicit help from are a few friends and his wife who has separated from him.

Readers will waffle in their feelings for Will and Michael, sometimes feeling sorry, while other times feeling they are not someone to befriend. Both have only themselves to blame, because of their own actions. How many people would search through someone else’s computer as Michael had done? Yet, when he becomes the object of an intensive manhunt he becomes a sympathetic character. He is viewed as an ordinary person who became involved in extraordinary events, all because he made an unknowing mistake of picking up the wrong laptop. He starts out as a mild-mannered businessman, but as the story progresses becomes more aggressive in his actions both in business and with those chasing after him. Will also begins the book as a likeable character with his backstory as a devoted father and husband. But he too becomes more aggressive as his loyalty to his boss turns him ruthless.

A quote in the book hammers the point home about privacy, “No such thing anymore. Fitbit knows how much you exercise and how long you sleep, and Netflix knows when you stopped watching.” Finder commented, “There are so many examples I could have drawn from. How many times have you bought something on Amazon and then you see ads for that item? I wanted to show how there is very little privacy today. If only government officials would be honest, Americans might accept policy more. They should just come clean then we might understand their motivations. As a reader I just don’t want cotton candy and fluff. I want to be entertained, but also be made to think along the way, which is what I hope my books are about.”

This plot is extremely suspenseful with many twists and turns. Finder engages readers with issues that are relevant today. This book feeds right into people’s views of government where it appears public servants are more concerned about themselves than the country. 51k8OYQ3gUL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Point Of Contact

The following 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.

Tom Clancy’s Point of Contact by Mike Maden brings back the return of Jack Ryan Jr. He has taken over the writings for the Clancy estate, replacing Grant Blackwood. Maden has put his own imprint on Jack Ryan Jr. by making him a solo main character instead of one of many secondary characters.

Maden noted, “I received a call from my editor, Tom Colgan, of my paperback Drone series who is also the Tom Clancy editor. Although it was a thrilling day it was also the most terrifying day. I was asked to write the summer book and Marc Cameron will write the fall series. Tom is the one conducting the symphony story making sure there are no conflicts between the plots and that the whole series is on a certain guide path.”

He also wants Tom Clancy fans to understand, “I would never think of imitating Clancy who I consider a complete original. I consider him the one who practically invented the genre. I hope to honor his spirit, memory, and imagination by keeping alive the characters and universe. I feel it is a great responsibility to be a part of the tradition in which Clancy emphasizes America is good and the people who serve this country deserve both honor and respect.”

This plot has US Senator Weston Rhodes hiring Hendley Associates to view the books of Dalfan Technologies. It is a Singapore company that will be taken over by a large conglomerate. Hendley Associates is one of the best financial analysis firms in the country and the cover for The Campus, a top-secret American intelligence agency.  Rhodes asks for two specific analysts, Jack Ryan Jr., and Paul Brown, a mild-mannered forensic accountant. The Senator wants someone to crunch the numbers to make sure there are no surprises that will turn up down the road. What starts out as a routine audit soon turns into something far more dangerous when Ryan uncovers a potential sinister motive behind the merger, with the help of Brown. Ryan and Brown race to escape a team of trained assassins to prevent a global catastrophe, even at the cost of their own lives.

Because the rest of the Campus team was basically missing in action, Jack Jr. was completely on his own, needing to use resources and grit. He needs to prove that although there is admiration for his dad, President Jack Ryan Sr., he is his own man. This story shows how Junior goes on a journey, a test to prove he can be self-reliant.

Those who have read Maden in the past know he is immune to political correctness. In this book it is no different. He has a few scenes that involve knife fighting, describing how it “will slice through skin, muscle, tendons, cartilage, and even bone…. Second, the knife extends your reach.”   When asked, Maden noted, “I wanted the knife to be the weapon of choice in this book. I put in the quote how it is not the knife or gun that kills, but the person having the weapon. If someone does not have access to a gun they find a knife. If they don’t have access to those they get a van to kill people. So are we going to ban vans next?”

Throughout the book readers realize the clear distinction between the good guys and bad guys. The antagonists are described as “cold-blooded fanatics who butchered innocent civilians. They lost the right to be treated with respect, either in life or in death.” Maden hoped to show “you cannot negotiate with evil. We are in an era where we are waking up to the fact it must be destroyed.”

No stranger to thrillers Maden has previous experience as the writer of the Drone series featuring Troy Pearce. He uses new technology, incorporated it into a plot, which emphasizes how the global economic situation could threaten world peace 51LBcWSFDLL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Defectors

The following 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.

One of the greatest crimes against a country is treason, spying for the enemy. A recent brilliantly written espionage book, Defectors, by Joseph Kanon, is both fast paced and realistic. This Cold War thriller shows the moves and plays as if the characters are in a chess game. Beyond that it emphasizes the human side, what it is like for family members of a traitor, as well as the motivations of someone who is willing to betray and lie to everyone.

He noted, “I read about Kim Philby, a high-ranking member of British intelligence who was a Soviet agent. He defected in 1963 after working for the KGB. I had the book take place before his defection because later he became disillusioned and I did not want him to be a factor. Although I made the main character Frank’s apartment right around the corner from where Philby lived. I wanted the defectors I wrote to be ideological, those that converted to Communism in the 1930s as an act of faith. They thought they were changing the world for the better, now in the frontal lobe, Moscow. This was the high summer for the Soviet experiment, before the admittance that it was a big mistake. Soviet prestige was at an all time high with Sputnik and the consumer level improving along with the US embarrassments of Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot captured, and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.”

Taking place in 1961 Moscow, during the height of the Cold War, readers learn about the history within a fascinating plot. It becomes obvious very early on that within Russian society is a community of western defectors. While having privileges they are never trusted, living a life sentence in protective custody. Scenes are very authentic, giving a glimpse of Russian society, showing how the KGB has a city within a city including its own apartment complex and hospital.

It is also the story of two brothers, Frank and Simon Weeks. In the late 1940s Frank was exposed as a Soviet Union spy while working for the OSS, the predecessor to the CIA. This notorious high-profile American defector escaped to Russia, now working for the KGB. Fast-forward twelve years where he has decided to write a memoir approved by the Soviet Spy agency. He has sold the rights to M. Keating & Sons, a prominent publishing company currently run by his brother Simon. In order to edit the manuscript he decides to visit Frank and his sister-in-law, Joanna, a former flame. After an awkward reunion the three settle into reliving old times until Frank delivers a bombshell, he wants to defect back to the US, using his wife as bait. The suspense ratchets up and never stops as both brothers play a cat and mouse game. Nothing is, as it appears to be on the surface. Kanon does a great job of having the tension come through in the thoughts, motives, and minds of Frank and Simon, leaving the reader to wonder who can and cannot be trusted.

Frank is still the charmer who makes those around him relaxed and comfortable. He appears to be the protective older brother Simon had lost twelve years earlier after the defection. But he is also seen as the leopard who has not changed his spots and still capable of treachery. Simon begins to wonder if Frank is betraying him again, only this time the stakes could be higher.

Kanon did not “want to make Frank a sympathetic character. He was someone perfectly willing to betray his country and family. He is a narcissist. I wrote him as someone having a loyalty to Communism and the KGB. He totally has bought into the myth that they are efficient, knowledgeable, successful, and a superior elite group. Yet, he loves his brother Simon and vice versa. Simon adored his older brother Frank even though he always seemed to involve him in schemes and persuaded him to do things against Simon’s better interest. This is why their parents sent Simon to a different school, to get away from Frank’s influence. It appears to be about the good brother versus the bad brother. Simon had a conscience, while Frank appears to be amoral.”

This gripping story tells of a family divided over Cold War loyalties. Kanon weaves a masterful theme of betrayal, treachery, and lies. With Russia once again in the headlines it is the perfect book to understand the motivations of the different players, including a KGB that nurtured Putin. 51D-AMnJZGL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_

Book Review: Target Omega

The following 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.

Target Omega by Peter Kirsanow fills in the gap left behind by the late Vince Flynn regarding stories of political correctness. As with Mitch Rapp, this latest character, Mike Garin leaves no prisoners behind. This action packed tale will be enjoyable for those who want America to win and not succumb to caring about the bad guys feelings.

The author wrote the book out of frustration, wanting to return to the days when leaders put America first, “which will also favor the world. Many American politicians believe today that they were elected by the world. We need to be more concerned about keeping our children safe than for concern about radical elements. I wrote the quote in the book to reflect this, ‘How many terrorists he’s killed, captured, or defeated. Legal subpoenas could be deadly, but not to the terrorists.’ I wish our politicians had the sensibilities of the Israelis. Israel has actually kept the world safe when it destroyed the Iraq and Syria reactors. In the past America has its hands over its ears and hopes things work out.”

This first in a series opens in Pakistan where a quick reaction force is sent in to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. The sole purpose of Omega, an elite force, is to interdict, recover, or eliminate rogue weapons that can abolish mankind. But, after they return home someone is methodically finding and executing team members, including an attempt on Garin. He seeks to find out who is murdering his team and why, enlisting the help of his former business partner, a retired SEAL, Dan Dwyer, and an assistant to the National Security Advisor, Olivia Perry. This plot might remind readers of Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game where a Libyan terrorist also killed members of a team that bombed Muammar Gaddafis’ palace.

Readers learn that Garin was a sickly child, born with a heart defect that he eventually overcame to become a Special Forces living legend for his heroic missions. He can best be described as a 1950s western cowboy who believes in right over wrong, and will stop at nothing to win on behalf of justice. His determination and skills are put to the test when he finds that two of America’s adversaries, Russia and Iran, are part of a horrific plot. Realizing he must destroy these conspirators before they murder him and millions of Americans, Garin leaves a path of bodies in his wake, landing him on the FBI’s radar and pursued by multiple countries, local law enforcement, and one of the world’s most elite snipers, Congo Knox.

Kirsanow noted, “I wanted this book to be a warning of sorts, for Americans to understand we never left the Cold War. Putin thinks it was a catastrophe that the Soviet Union collapsed and he now wants a greater Russia with most of the Soviet satellites. The Russian President in the book and Putin’s outlooks are identical. This is why I put in the quote, ‘Not everything wrong in the world is America’s fault. There are some real bad guys out there and we can’t pretend they don’t exist.’” Although this plot is foiled the wide-open ending will be the beginning of the next book where Garin must match wits with his Russian counterpart, Taras Bor.

For a debut thriller, Kirsanow delivers a very suspenseful story with hard-hitting action and larger-than-life characters. The ending and twist will leave readers wishing the next book would come out sooner than later. 51r2O2DyyTL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_