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May 2018

Book Review: They Grey Ghost

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.


The Gray Ghost by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell takes readers on a thrilling car ride as they race to find a valuable antique car before the bad guys find it.  Amateur sleuths Sam and Remi Fargo, smart and philanthropic self-made multimillionaires, find adventure at every turn.

Burcell describes the two characters, “People have referred to them as a modern Nick and Nora Charles from the “Thin Man Series.”  For me, I think they are more like the couple that was in the “Hart to Hart” TV shows.  I think the Fargos are the vehicle for the plot.  They are able to be sleuths because of their background.  Sam is a CIA type who knows hand-to-hand combat, while Remi is a linguist and an expert marksman.  Together they are a forced to be reckoned with.”

The authors brilliantly explain the backstory through a journal, that becomes almost a secondary character.  The back and forth between 1906 and the current time makes the story even more riveting.  A distant relative of theirs seeks their help in finding a rare 1906 Rolls Royce prototype, The Gray Ghost to clear his uncle’s name.  In the course of their investigation they find that it might contain a rare treasure of money stolen in a train robbery more than a century ago. Much to their detriment they find others are also looking for the car, and are willing to do whatever it takes to recover the car and the treasure. The body count mounts up as Sam and Remi search for the auto, while trying to avoid getting killed.

Because Clive Cussler is such a fan of antique cars Burcell told of how the story came about, “He actually has a museum in Colorado full of his collector cars.  I saw him bid on two different cars including the Ahrens-Fox fire-engine, the one written about in this story. While watching him bidding on it I thought it would be cool if we wrote it into the plot. As I was doing the research the idea of writing a plot around something that has been lost was formulated.  We decided on having the artifact a prototype to the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.  This story takes real history, tweeks it, and has a ‘what if’ aspect: what if it is about a car that never made it to the car show.”

Clive Cussler fans have fun spotting him in the story.  It should remind people of what Alfred Hitchcock did in his movies.  He will come in and help the protagonist with the investigation.  In this book there are two references, one where his name is mentioned outright and one with a cameo appearance where readers have to figure out by the description. 

This is a fun story.  Besides the banter between the characters readers learn some interesting facts about cars.  What the authors have done is maintain a balance between what is interesting with what is necessary for the story, creating an exciting mystery.

Book Review: Coffin Corner Boys

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.


Coffin Corner Boysby Carole Avriett is a compelling read about a B-17 crew that escaped from Nazi-occupied France after their plane was shot down.  This book is a reminder of the Greatest Generation’s spirit, bravery, and patriotism. 

Those flying the B-17 suffered numerous casualties. Readers learn the harrowing dangers the crewmen faced from the time they jumped out of their burning plane to attempting to survive and avoid being captured.  They were assigned the vulnerable position of the mission’s configuration called the Coffin Corner.  Having to fly low squadron, low group, flying #6 in the bomber box formation they were exposed to hostile fire.

Avriett recounts how “on March 16th, 1944 the ten-member crew had to bail out of their plane after it was shot down. It was not a done deal that they would even land safely.  Think about it.  They were not trained to parachute out of planes, and never practiced it.  They had to jump out of it while it flew in excess of 250 mph into subzero temperatures.  One of the guys had his back cracked when the force of the chute shot upward after being opened.  The pilot, Captain George W. Starks, landed so hard his foot broke.  Then there were the German fighter pilots that tried to shoot them in mid-sky or maneuvered close so the parachute’s air would be sucked out, leaving the airman to plummet to his death.”

Each crewmember had to endure the severe cold, wetness, hunger, and exhaustion.  Irv Baum and Ted Badder had the misfortune of landing by two Frenchmen who turned them into the Nazis for two thousand francs.  Baum who was Jewish tried denying that he was “A Hebrew. I was told ‘you’re lying,’ and at the same moment was backhanded across the face hard enough to break open the corner of my left eye.  We were sent to a processing camp near Frankfurt where they questioned us about the names of our crew.  I kept saying it was a crew I didn’t usually fly with, so I didn’t know any of them.  About midnight, about five of us were taken outside.  Then six or seven guards came out with rifles, lined us up and the officer yelled ‘Ready. Aim. Fire.’ But nothing happened.  They put us back into our cells and I spent a sleepless night.”

Many people know of the Japanese Bataan Death March of Filipinos and American POWS, but the Germans also had one, the Black Death March. In February 1945 crew member Dick Morse told how the Germans starved the 6000 POWS and marched them in the cold winter weather.  Those lagging behind would be ‘gun-butted’ by the guards and sometimes a German would drop back and take one of them into the bushes or woods.  “We would hear a shot-then the guard would return alone.”  They were provided very little food and had to drink from streams that gave them dysentery. They suffered pneumonia, diphtheria, typhus, trench foot, tuberculosis, blisters, abscesses, and frostbite.  They were marched for three months, traveling six hundred miles until rescued on May 2nd, 1945 with only 20% surviving.  

Thankfully for some of the other crew members, they were never captured.  Many of the French civilians risked everything to help them.  Captain Starks told of how he was given “a share of whatever meager food they had. Anyone who helped me did so at terrible risk to themselves.  Any French civilian caught helping a downed Allied airman was summarily taken out of his house by the Germans and shot: man, woman, child, it made no difference.”

There were even some humanitarians among the German soldiers.  While Baum was being processed as a POW in March 1944 he had to fill out a form that included his religion.  A young German enlisted soldier took the pencil away from Baum and wrote “Protestant” on the form. 

This is an inspirational book that recounts how these men went on an adventure of bravery and courage and were able to come home thanks to their grit and the willingness of others to help.  As Avriett noted, “We are losing our WWII veterans every day.  These stories need to be told, heard, and preserved for prosperity.” 


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.



Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman Deluxe Edition shows the evolution of the character created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. They sold Superman to Detective Comics, the future DC Comics, in 1938. This book shows why Superman has maintained his appeal from generation to generation.

The book features over 19 stories and essays including a forward by Paul Levitz, an introduction by Laura Siegel Larson (Jerry Siegel’s daughter) and other pieces by Jules Feiffer, Tom DeHaven, Marv Wolfman, David Hajdu, Larry Tye and Gene Luen Yang. There is also a section with cover highlights and full biographies at the end.

The comic stories include the first comic, “The Mystery of The Freight Train Robberies” to “The Super-Duel In Space,” and ending with “The Game” written in April 2018. There are also stories that explore the relationship between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman as well as some cameo appearances by some famous figures including President John F. Kennedy. Readers are treated to comics that explore the origins of Supergirl, Brainiac, the Fortress of Solitude, as well as a previously unpublished 1940s Superman tale believed to be written by Jerry Siegel with art by the Joe Shuster studio, salvaged fifty years ago and hidden away. Along with this book, people can also purchase the 1000thedition, making Superman the first comic book to reach that highlight.

Below is an interview with Larry Tye who wrote the essay in the book, Endurance.He is a journalist and author of many biographies including Bobby Kennedy, Satchel Paige, and the Man of Steel, entitled The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.

Elise Cooper: How has Superman changed over the years regarding his appearance and the enemies he has faced, which includes politicians?

Larry Tye: Superman has evolved more than the fruit fly. In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the forties, he defended the home front while brave GIs battled overseas. Early in the Cold War he stood up taller than ever for his adopted country, while in its waning days he tried singlehandedly to eliminate nuclear stockpiles. For each era, he zeroed in on the threats that scared us most, using powers that grew or diminished depending on the need. So did his spectacles, hair style, even his job title. Each generation had the Superman it needed and deserved. Each change offered a Rorschach test of the pulse of that time and its dreams. Superman, always a beacon of light, was a work in progress.

EC:  What influences has Superman been on comics, movies, and TV shows?

LT: Over the years comics have been transformed – from childhood entertainment to art form to mythology – and Superman helped drive that transformation. The comic book and its leading man could only have taken root in America. What could be more U.S.A. than an orphaned outsider who arrives in this land of immigrants, reinvents himself, and reminds us that we can reach for the sky?Yet today this flying Uncle Sam is both global and multi-media in his reach, having written himself into the national folklore from Beirut to Buenos Aires. It is that constancy and purity – knowing that he is not merely the oldest of our superheroes, but the most transcendent – that has reeled back aging devotees like me and drawn in new ones like my daughter. It is what makes the Man of Tomorrow timeless as well as ageless.

EC: Do you think the aviation's golden age influenced having Superman fly?

LT: I think it has less to do with what was happening in the real world of aviation than in the heads of his creators. Superman was a man of the world, perennially on call and needing to dash to wherever Lois Lane and others required his help. Flying would have made that easier and would become his trademark, but it did not happen overnight in the comic books or strips. The most he could manage in 1938 was leaping an eighth of a mile and outracing an express train. Two years later, after what must have been intense training, he could vault into and beyond the stratosphere, outrace an airplane, and run a mile in a scant second. By 1942 he could run at the speed of light and outpace an electric current. But still no take-off. There were hints it was coming in a single frame of a story in May 1943, when his jump looked like he might be taking flight, and he did, finally and irrefutably, that October in Action Comics’ “Million-Dollar Marathon” story. “Let’s see ya fly!” adoring boys at Children’s Hospital yelled to Superman, and so he did, telling them, “I’ll be back for a real visit pretty soon! Up – up – and away!”

EC:  I noticed in the first Superman issue there was a comment, "You're not fighting a woman," and in the comic “Superman and The Teen Titans,” Wonder Girl says to him, "Nowadays us liberated ladies don't take much to being called inferior by a man." Do you think women's issues also played a role?  

LT: Yes, and that was especially apparent with the launch of a comic that let women and girls see a Superman-like character created in their own image. The fellow Kryptonian who gave Superman the greatest joy, and the most sleepless nights, was his cousin Kara Zor-El, known on Earth as Supergirl. It took until 1959 to launch her as a character, when we quickly got the full story. The Maid of Steel, who would get her own comic book, gave Superman a blood relative and fellow outsider with whom he could let down his defenses. If youths of all stripes embraced Superboy, now girls had a heroine made in their own special image. And if H.G. Wells’s War of the Worldshad given aliens a bad name, Supergirl and Superman polished the image of the interplanetary interloper.

EC:  Can you summarize Supergirl’s story?

LT:  She and all of Argo City had been hurled into the cosmos when the rest of Krypton exploded. Later, when the orbiting Argo itself was threatened, Kara’s father launched the child in a space ship headed for Earth. Save for gender, her story mirrored her famous cousin’s: she assumed the secret identity of the pigtailed Linda Lee, she had adoptive parents named Fred and Edna Danvers, she shunned her male admirers, and she had superpowers that she used to help humankind.

EC:  What about Lois Lane as a role model? 

LT: Lois Lane was a fixture from the very start, although at first, she was mainly a foil for Superman to rescue and Clark to pine over. Action 1 set the pattern: kidnapped by three thugs, Lois was quickly whisked to safety by Superman then laughed at by her editor who, hearing her recount her unlikely adventure, inquired, “Are you sure it wasn’t pink elephants you saw?” Over time she became a role model for millions of women of all ages, and especially the thousands of young women attracted to the no-nonsense world of journalism by the no-nonsense reporter Lois, who always beat Clark to the story, even if she never quite got his quick-change alter ego.

EC: What do you think was Superman’s ethnicity?

LT: With his perfect pug nose, electric blue eyes, and a boyish spit curl that suggested Anglo as well as Saxon. No hint in his sleek movie-star name, Clark Kent, which could belong only to a gentile and probably one with a lifelong membership at the country club. His social circle didn’t give it away either: Lois Lane, George Taylor, and even Lex Luthor were, like him, more Midwest mainstream than East Coast ethnic.

EC:  Do you think Superman represented the immigrant population of the time?

LT: Superman had even stronger cultural ties to the faith of his founders. He was the ultimate foreigner, escaping to America from his intergalactic shtetl (a small Jewish town or village in eastern Europe)and shedding his Jewish name for Clark Kent, a pseudonym as transparently WASPish as the ones Jerry had chosen for himself. Clark and Jerry had something else in common: both were classic nebbishes. Clark and Superman lived life the way most newly-arrived Jews did, torn between their Old and New World identities and their mild exteriors and rock-solid cores. That split personality was the only way he could survive, yet it gave him perpetual angst. Jules Feiffer, an authority on cartoons and Jews, said the Last Son of Krypton was born not on Krypton but on “the planet Poland, from Lodz maybe, possibly Crakow, maybe Vilna.” The alien superhero was, more than anything, “the striving Jewish boy’s goyishe American dream.”

EC:  Interesting that JFK appeared to be a part of a Superman comic-why do you think that happened?

LT: By the 1960s, as the age of peaceniks and flower children gained steam, Superman’s influence had risen to the point where even the White House was laying out the red carpet. The Kennedy administration wanted the hero’s help spreading the word about its campaign to close the “muscle gap.” Superman creative director Mort Weisinger put two of his best writers on the story, which he called “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.” The Champion of Democracy flew across America pushing young runners to run harder, hurdlers to jump higher, and flabby journalists at the Daily Planet to do fifteen minutes a day of calisthenics. When the New York Times got wind of the preparations it scooped the comic book with an article headlined, “Superman Meets Kennedy on Vigor.”  The comic story, all set to run, was pulled back when the president was assassinated in November of 1963. Shortly afterwards, Weisinger got a call from President Lyndon Johnson saying, “We’re waiting for the story. When’s it coming out?” Mort explained his worry that running it might be in bad taste, at which point, as he recalled the tale, Johnson interrupted: “Horsefeathers. You can run it with a posthumous foreword, explaining that Iordered it!” Mort did.

EC:  Was Kennedy in any other comics?

LT: This was not the first time President Kennedy had teamed up with Superman. In 1962, when Superman was ready to introduce his cousin Supergirl to the world he brought her to the White House to meet the President. High drama, indeed: the Camelot President on the same stage with the Sir Lancelot of comic-book heroes. Two years later Superman took Kennedy into his confidence, sharing his dual identity as Clark Kent. “If I can’t trust the President of the United States,” Superman asked, “who can I trust?” There was one other time when the name Jack Kennedy had turned up in Superman’s comic books. It was in the very first of the Superman series, in July 1939. A character named Kennedy was murdered and the newly minted Man of Steel saved a wrongly-accused man from being executed.



Book Review: The Lost Pilots

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.

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The Lost Pilots by Corey Mead combines an adventure story, a tragic love story, and a crime story into one narrative.  It has it all: a fascinating look back into the early days of aviation, a love triangle, bringing back to prominence Jessie Keith-Miller, a female pioneer pilot, and a murder trial.

The story begins in 1927, when World War I pilot, Captain William Lancaster and Jessie Keith-Miller take off from London, aspiring to complete a record-breaking flight to Australia, the first in a light plane. Although they were basically strangers, they bonded over their desire for adventure, fame, and escape from unhappy marriages. There are many scenes that underscore the dangers of flying during those early days.  Having crashed numerous times it became obvious that weather was a character, an enemy with its slashing rain and battering crosswinds, sleet, and fog that could easily bring down these light planes.

After successfully completing the flight, they found they were international celebrities, but also deeply in love.  The spotlight takes them from Australia to New York to Hollywood. Their celebrity status is exploited, yet as lovers they must fall under the radar since both are still married.  Making matters worse the crash of 1929 causes them financial problems. 

Their lives were influenced by the era, having lived through World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the Great Depression. Mead believes the effect of “WWI taught that generation how to cheat death.  They became free-spirits, wanting to escape the Victorian upbringing.  I also wanted to show how there was huge bias against female flyers.  Jessie was probably a better pilot than Lancaster. But living in the Roaring Twenties also helped her because it was a time where women became more independent and started to enter the male-dominated world.”

Since the depression dried up any commercial flying possibilities, Jessie participates in the Women’s Air Derby, rooming with Amelia Earhart, while Lancaster seeks other flying adventures. Still in need of money Jessie decides to write her autobiography with Haden Clark as her ghostwriter.  Having been granted a divorce she accepts Clark’s marriage proposal.  After returning to Miami where Jessie and Clark lived, Lancaster became devastated when told of the couple’s plans. That night Clark is found dead of a gunshot wound. Was it murder or suicide?  A riveting and scandalous trial ensues that ultimately costs Jessie her fame as she stands by Lancaster. 

Mead noted, “The entire court room case was presented verbatim in the Miami newspapers.  It covered not only the trial but also Jessie’s and Lancaster’s background. I was able to draw a pretty complete picture of their lives from the newspapers at the time, their diaries/writings, and talking with his great nephew. What I discovered was that it was similar to today’s sensational court cases where tragedy and misfortune are exploited for entertainment as the public’s hunger is fed.”

This book combines the daring days of the early aviators with a passionate love story.  A true story of adventure, forbidden love, fame, fortune, tragedy, scandal, and loyalty.

Book Review: Gale Force

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.


Gale Forceby Owen Laukkanen is a realistic story where readers take the journey with the characters as they board the ship, and feel the splash of the waves. It is an attest to the author’s writing style he is able to make an intense adventure story of a maritime salvage operation.

The author based the story on “The wreck at the center of the tale is based on the real-life saga of the Cougar Ace, which did in fact capsize near the Aleutian Islands. You’re so isolated on the water, and at the mercy of very powerful forces of nature. The potential for conflict and action is always there. It’s just such a different environment from anything any of us is really used to, in particular in really remote places like the Aleutian Islands or the Arctic Ocean.”

The plot has McKenna Rhodes inheriting the Gale Force, a salvage boat, after her father died in violent weather on the open seas. Hearing about a salvage operation, she and the crew decide to attempt a rescue of a freighter, the Pacific Lion, which has turned over on its side during a horrific storm. A stowaway who has stolen fifty million in bonds from a Japanese gangster hampers them along with other salvage tugs.  After finally getting a contract from the insurance company McKenna and crew can earn $30 million for saving the ship and its property. 

She is smart, brave, beautiful, and wants to prove that she is able to navigate this male-dominated world. He describes her, “I wanted to write a character that is daunted by the magnitude and responsibility of being a captain.  I based her insecurities on a lot of people I met that worked on the water and are aware that if a mistake is made people’s lives are at stake; thus, constant worriers. Also, when I was on a train going from Seattle to Los Angeles I met this single mother from Idaho.  In order to feed her four children, she started a trucking company.  I thought she would make a good character for a story since trucking like tugboats is a male dominated boys club.  She told me how she struggled with men who tried breaking contracts because they objected to a woman trying to make inroads.  I wanted to show how McKenna also struggles with this. Both were seen as a small fish in a big pond.”

Another character in the book is the ocean the alternates between playing an antagonist and a protagonist. “I wanted to write it as an ever-present threat. Every second the crew spends on the ship they must realize that the ocean could suddenly turn on them.  The main characters love the ocean and feel at home around it.  They are attracted to it; yet, at any moment it could destroy them.  One day the ocean is beautiful and calm, while the next day a storm can pick up, showing the ocean’s anger, basically eating someone alive. The environment is as unpredictable as any human character in the book.” 

The first in a new series starts out with a splash, not a drizzle.  It is a riveting and intense action-filled story with very well-developed characters.


Book Review: Alex and Eliza, Love & War

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.


Alex and Elizahas taken the world by storm.  Whether the play by Lin-Manuel Miranda or the novels by Melissa De La Cruz, people are craving for more information about the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza Schuyler. The first in the series, Alex and Eliza, and its sequel,Love & War,emphasize the romance more than the historical, as the author brings to life the love story of these two Revolutionary figures. 

Melissa wants to emphasize, “Alex is a creation based on an historical figure.  I consider him someone I made up from the real person. These are characters. They may be historical figures, but they are also characters of my imagination. I think that Alexander Hamilton never went by the name ‘Alex.’ There is no way Eliza would call him ‘Alex’, and more likely called him Mr. Hamilton till the day he died.” 

In the first book, Alex and Eliza,the plot spans the years from when they first met in 1777 to their marriage in 1780.  Because there is not much information about Eliza, the author had to take liberties to construct a story that was somewhat accurate, weaving together fact and fiction.

Hamilton is seen as a smitten dashing knight who sweeps the princess, Eliza, off her feet. But it is also a Prince and the Pauper story since Hamilton was an orphan who did not have a name or financial means. The bright, ambitious, but penniless Hamilton is drawn to practical Eliza, falling deeply in love.  His prestige comes from being the aide-de-camp to General George Washington.

Eliza is seen as a strong-willed, sharp-tongued, sarcastic, and intelligent woman. She wants to marry for love, not prestige and wealth, but will not go against her parent’s wishes. A book quote shows how powerless women were during those times, “It is a cliff, a drop into some unfathomably deep and foggy abyss… a shipwreck.”  Yet, in the end, love wins out, and her parents accept Hamilton as a suitable husband. 

She wanted to write it as a perfect American fairy tale.  "Elizabeth (Eliza) was the princess coming from one of the most prestigious and richest New York families.  Then there was Alexander Hamilton, a handsome, brilliant, brave, and charming war hero who had no name and no money.  I thought about how someone like him could marry someone like her.” 

Readers will get a glimpse of the time period: how they dress, eat, and live are described in great detail.  For example, a scene in the book has Eliza helping to inoculate Washington’s troops with a smallpox vaccine. Fiction, Eliza did not have a hand in it, while, the truth is that the soldiers were inoculated.  Another factual scene has a description of Eliza’s dress, with “skirt, underskirt, petticoat, slip, and ankle-length, form-fitting pantaloons.”

Melissa, “I am fascinated with the time period including the architecture, dress, and what they ate. What I wanted to do is find the facts and then incorporate them into scenes of the books. I myself tried to understand who they were, how they lived, and how they partied.  I enjoyed finding the details that helps to bring this story to life.”

The second book in the series, Love & War, by Melissa De La Cruz has the Revolutionary War still prominent, although it is coming to an end.  This story shows the struggles of early married life as Alexander Hamilton is trying to make a name for himself to prove himself worthy, while Eliza is trying to make her way into high society. 

The story delves into the same problem many young couples face, even today, how Alexander Hamilton has a burning ambition, and Eliza is trying to find her place in this world.  At first, he was off to war, leaving his newly wed bride with her family, and then at the war’s conclusion he starts up his law practice, spending long hours, and basically neglecting his wife. 

Unlike the first book, this one does have more of a balance between romance and history. It delves into the topics of unemployment, financial crises, and the political divide. As a lawyer, he took on many loyalist clients, arguing for reconciliation and challenged the laws that penalized them. The story touches on the three views of political thought for this young nation:  Hamilton believes in a strong central government; Jefferson’s belief is a middle ground of limited government except for national security, and those like Governor George Clinton who wants each state to have absolute control.  With a quote that is relevant today, the author shows the divide among Americans, “We will only stand if we learn to accept and even embrace each other’s differences rather than allow them to divide us.”

The case he argues is based on many similar cases.  "I found out he became known after the Revolution as someone who defended those loyal to the Crown.  After the War, many wanted to take the Loyalists’ property and position.  He had the foresight to know that to be the United States of America everyone had to be a part of this country.”

Readers get a glimpse into the real personality of Eliza.  How Hamilton is growing to depend on her as his psychological anchor, where she views his enemies as hers.  There is a fictional scene in the book where she calls out Governor Clinton as she defends her husband, “This man whose hand I hold and whose ring I share put his life on the line for this country over and over…” This is a very similar tone to what actually happened when she told former President James Monroe, “If you come to tell me you repent, that you are sorry, very sorry, for the misrepresentations and the slanders and the stories you circulated against my dear husband…”

The dialogue in this novel creates an atmosphere that fluctuates between joy and anger whether between husband and wife, or between the three Schuyler sisters.  It delves into how each must face their trials and tribulations.

Because the play implies an attraction between the oldest sister Angelica and Hamilton, “I wanted to write my own vision. I have a sister and thought ‘no way would she like him in a romantic way.’  They were sisters who loved one another.  Angelica adored Eliza.  In this story, I do not have Angelica and Hamilton attracted to each other in that way.  I remember telling people that Lin-Manuel is not a girl with a sister or he would know it just would not happen.  I do not think Angelica would ever do that because she took the role of older sister seriously. Of course, he was close to the sisters, but in a brotherly sort of way.”

These books are charming and interesting.  The two characters have a voice and a personality that are engaging.  Hopefully, people will be drawn to find out more about the early history of this great nation.

Someone you should know: five men earned the Medal of Honor on May 8

On this date in 1942, Lt. John J. Powers tells his fellow dive bombers as they prepare to climb into their planes to attack the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea, “Remember, the folks back home are counting on us. I am going to get a hit if I have to lay it on their flight deck.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt will tell the nation during one of his fireside chats in September that Powers flew “through a wall of bursting anti-aircraft shells and swarms of enemy planes. He dived almost to the very deck of the enemy carrier, and did not release his bomb until he was sure of a direct hit.”

“He was last seen attempting recovery from his dive at the extremely low altitude of two hundred feet,” said the president, “amid a terrific barrage of shell and bomb fragments, and smoke and flame and debris from the stricken vessel. His own plane was destroyed by the explosion of his own bomb. But he had made good his promise to ‘lay it on the flight deck.'”

SBD Dauntless scout pilot Lt. (junior grade) William E. Hall attacks and destroys three enemy warplanes during the Battle of the Coral Sea and is wounded during the dogfight. The previous day, Hall assisted in the sinking of the Japanese carrier Shoho.

Meanwhile aboard USS Yorktown (CV-5), Lt. Milton E. Ricketts (who graduated alongside Lt. Jones from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1935) is leading a damage control party while Japanese pilots target the aircraft carrier. An enemy bomb falls right next to Ricketts and his men, exploding one deck below them. The blast kills and wounds several of Ricketts’ team and although mortally wounded himself, Ricketts charges a fire fighting hose and works to extinguish the blaze until he perishes.

On this date in 1945, acting squad leader Private First Class Anthony L. Krotiak and his soldiers are engaged in a firefight on Luzon Island’s Balete Pass. When Krotiak spots an enemy grenade thrown into their trench, he knocks his squad mates out of the way, jams the grenade into the ground with the butt of his rifle, then shields them from the blast with his body. Krotiak will die within moments.

When Lance Corporal Miguel Keith‘s outnumbered platoon was engaged in South Vietnam’s Quang Ngai Province during an early morning attack in 1970, the already-wounded Marine charged into heavy fire, raining down fire that downed three and chased off the remaining two enemy soldiers in their failed attempt to rush the American command post. An enemy grenade wounds him again, but he ignores his serious wounds and charges once more at a force of 25 men, killing several more with his machine gun and breaking off the attack. Keith is hit again after his second charge, this time fatally.

Book Review: The Agency

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.


The Agency by Australian author James Phelan is making a big splash here in the United States. Anyone who likes the action continuing at a harrowing pace will enjoy this story. There is also enough fun dialogue between the characters to put a smile on readers’ faces. This prequel introduces Jed Walker, a former Lt. Colonel in the Air Force who has decided to join the CIA. 

The reason for a prequel, “I wanted to challenge myself since this is the first prequel I have ever written.  I think it is more of a suspense novel than a thriller.  I hope to show how Jed is personally driven, wanting to hunt down the bad targets. This gave me the opportunity to explain why Jed decided to move from the military to the CIA. All the Jed Walker books written to date will be released this year. They were tied up for awhile with my previous publishers who had first right of refusal. They dragged their feet and held things up for a couple of years.  Now we have the rights back. Although it is the fifth book in the series, Americans will be able to read them in order.I am working on the sixth book currently.”

Set in 2005, after completing his rigorous training with the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Virginia, Walker’s assigned mission is to exchange code phrases with a male contact.  But just as the meeting is to occur, a British intelligence agent, Steph Mensch warns him of a set-up.  After neutralizing the threat, he and Steph join forces to find a secret weapon that the Russians are looking to buy for hundreds of millions of dollars from a Blackwater-like private security firm.  They must go off mission, operating in New Orleans, instead of overseas. Besides all the bad guys to contend with they must also deal with the hurricane that is barreling down. 

Interestingly, Steph is introduced in the prequel, but does not appear in the other four books.  “I will definitely have her back in another book. I think she is intelligent, funny, and very persuasive.  I based her on an actress in the British series, Luther.  She has red hair and this is how I picture Steph.  The other person I based her on is Stella Rimington, the first female director of MI5, the British FBI who is also a thriller writer.  She worked her way up as an officer.  I used my friend Stella as a model for Steph’s career.  The book out in 2019 takes place about ten years from when this one took place. I am thinking of having Steph and Jed team up again if not this book, maybe the next one.  It might be interesting to have them back together since the last of the five books already written, Dark Heart, has Jed back with his wife Eve, a family man living on a Texas ranch with a baby on the way.”

The hurricane plays a strong role because it made such an impression on Phelan.  “I have family in the US where we have visited since 1980.  I remember when we had a family trip in 1989 across the US. We were chased by Hurricane Hugo. I have vivid memories of how we drove in the car and couldn’t see out of the windshield, even with the wipers on at full whack.  As we drove, we saw how the rivers swelled over.” 

An intense story where the action never stops. Readers are able to get a good grip on what makes Jed Walker tick by reading all five books in order.

May 2 in military history: Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR, Stonewall Jackson shot, and Marines land on Alcatraz

1863: During day two of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is shot by a Confederate sentry while performing a leaders-reconnaissance mission. Following the amputation of Jackson’s shattered arm, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lament, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm.”

The revered Jackson will die in eight days of pneumonia.

1945: Soldiers with the 82d Airborne and the 8th Infantry Division liberate the Wöbbelin concentration camp in northern Germany. The Nazis allowed many of the 5,000 inmates to starve, and U.S. soldiers found 1,000 dead upon arrival.

The soldiers force nearby German townspeople to visit the camp and bury the dead. Conditions were so extreme at Wöbbelin that some of the inmates had resorted to cannibalism, and hundreds more would die after the camp's liberation.

That same day, Gen. Heinrich von Vietinghoff surrenders all Wehrmacht forces in Italy and the Red Army flies the Soviet flag over the Reichstag building. Berlin has fallen.

1946: When prisoners at Alcatraz riot - breaking into the prison armory and taking hostages - Marines from Treasure Island Naval Base assist in suppressing the riot. Prior to becoming a federal prison, Alcatraz was a military fort and detention facility, housing Confederate prisoners during the Civil War and conscientious objectors during World War I.

Read the rest of the post at Unto the Breach