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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 on the right side bar. Back Blast by Mark Greaney brings back the Gray Man, a former paramilitary officer with an agenda. Anyone looking for characters and plotlines in the fashion of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series should read this book. It discusses intelligence organizational politics, technology possibilities, and has a main character whose job it is to assassinate bad guys. The plot is spellbinding and riveting with non-stop action. The Gray Man, Court Gentry, has been away from the US for five years. He has returned to find out why his former agency, the CIA, has turned on him, putting a “kill on sight order.” Realizing he can trust no one he must stay one step ahead of those targeting him. As bodies pile up Court is blamed for all the deaths, even those he is not responsible for; yet, the Gray Man has the ability to outthink and outgun those hunting for him. The characters are captivating. Court Gentry morally does not wear the black or white hat. But readers root for him, knowing that all his missions were necessary to keep Americans safe. This book gives insight into the personality of Court. Layers of his past are revealed, which allows the readers to understand this very complex character. Over the years he has matured and has become wiser, less trusting, and more fatalistic. At times he is the hunter searching for his prey, but soon he becomes the hunted. What makes this character so fascinating is his ability to take the offense when he should be on the run. Contrast that with Denney Carmichael, the Director of the National Clandestine Service. His attitude learned, from his Vietnam days, is kill or be killed. Wanting to climb the ladder in the Agency, his ambitions dictated his desire to eliminate anything construed as negative, including Court. By creating this elaborate frame up of the Gray Man Carmichael is able to deflect criticism off of himself, and protect what he construes as national security. An interesting character brought in to make the story more realistic is the reporter Catherine King. Readers will be reminded of Sharyl Attkisson. Someone who searches for the truth while uncovering a story, that has no agenda other than finding the facts and the reasons behind why events unfold. These days there are not many reporters whom people can respect, but King fits into that mold. Back Blast is one of those books where readers will not want to put it down. Many of the details are very realistic and the thrilling action will keep people glued to the pages. Anyone interested in an espionage spy novel should read this book. Q/A with author below for blackfive.net: Elise Cooper: How did the Gray Man series come about? Mark Greaney: I submitted the plot to my agent who told me that the sub-plot should be what the book is about. He said it is much more interesting to have the hunter being chased. This cat and mouse chase turned into the Gray Man series. My agent also helped me with the name of the series, changing it from the Goon Squad to this series title. The Gray Man name came out of the Special Ops community, which is how they refer to maintaining a low profile. EC: Did you base Denny Carmichael on anyone? MG: I do hope readers’ dislike this character. It is less about the real world and more about the world the writer created. But readers can think of people like J. Edgar Hoover. Carmichael thought of himself as a good guy. He felt Court’s life was a small price to pay to get information that would help the US, that the end justifies the means. He saw it as a win-win. EC: Why the reporter Catherine King? MG: She was based on some real national security reporters. What the Gray Man had done all over the world is now happening in Washington DC. I thought it would be interesting to have reporters trying to figure out what is going on and how the press would deal with it. I think Catherine has a lot of integrity. My father was in TV news, head of the NBC affiliate in Tennessee. Because of his experience I felt a deep understanding of the media since I have been around it. EC: What about the firearms scenes? MG: I do own a lot of weapons the characters use in my books. In researching this book I did a lot of firearms training with the leading arms instructor for naval special warfare. I also trained with a bunch of SWAT guys who had me be a part of the opposition force. The SWAT team came into a dark house with their flashlights to shoot me with paint balls. I was sore for weeks. Friends of mine are tactical officers whose brains I picked for a free breakfast. EC: What about the drone used to help Court in one of his escapes? MG: It is based on Robert Fulton’s Skyhook that the CIA came up with in the 1950s, used to rescue people from behind enemy lines. This is a modern version I created. The technology is a million times better today so who knows if there could be something like this, but I do not think I would get a patent recognition. EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books? MG: I will be writing another Clancy book out in December and then another Gray Man will be out next February. The setting for that book will be Southeast Asia. I think this next Court book will be less of a spy novel and more of a big action piece. I want to bring in some new characters. In future books all... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at BlackFive
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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. Violent Crimes by Phillip Margolin brings back the “take no prisoner” defense attorney Amanda Jaffe. In this fifth book of the series she has two clients suspected of the same murder, one accused while the other confesses. Beyond that readers get an interesting glimpse into the court process given Margolin’s ability to use his experiences of being a former top-notch defense attorney. He talked about his style of writing, which is plot driven. “Everything starts with some idea. After that I try to figure out what characters would fit into the story. Take for example Ties That Bind, I had no intention of putting Amanda and Frank Jaffe in it, but after thinking about it, I knew these characters would fit perfectly. With Violent Crimes it was a combination of wanting to bring Amanda back, but making sure it did not seemed forced.” The plot begins when Amanda is asked to defend Tom Beatty, a former Special Forces Warrior, who has PTSD, and is accused of using excessive force in a bar fight. Although the charges were dismissed Tom’s troubles are only beginning after he is suspected of murdering his co-worker and dealing drugs. Shortly after getting him out on bail another lawyer, Dale Materson, is found dead, also beaten to death. While investigating the case Amanda finds that Materson’s business practices are suspect. The case gets more complicated when his son, Brandon, a radical activist determined to martyr himself for his cause, claims he killed his father. Amanda now has to defend two clients, trying to prove both innocent. The contrast between defendants makes for an interesting read. Tom is someone everyone will root for, while Brandon is as dislikeable as they come. Margolin explores how sometimes a person’s background can influence how he is regarded. Because Tom was a former Warrior and now has PTSD he is seen as dangerous, but Margolin does a wonderful job of showing him as loyal, bright, and caring. On the other hand, Brandon is seen as an obsessed eco-warrior who resents his father for representing the interests of oil and coal companies. Being Dale’s son it becomes evident that the apple does not fall far from the tree considering Brandon is an egomaniac and thoroughly unpleasant. Hopefully no one will ever be put into Tom’s position because Margolin points out in the book “Defending a murder case is expensive… two hundred and fifty thousand to start.” The plot explains how a death penalty case is unlike any other criminal case including a regular murder trial. In death cases the same jury decides not only the person’s guilt, but also a day or two later if they should receive the death sentence. Margolin commented to blackfive.net, “I have been involved with twelve death penalty cases. I might be the only legal thriller writer who has actually worked on death cases. What you see in my books are things I have actually done in real life. In every other criminal case there is about a month between the conviction and the sentencing, not with death cases. It becomes really complicated so a lawyer has to hire many experts and investigators.” Violent Crimes allows the readers to understand what defense lawyers are up against. Even seasoned pros like Amanda Jaffe must make hard ethical and moral decisions. Violent Crimes is a captivating legal thriller. Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at BlackFive
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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 on the right side bar. Youngblood by Matt Gallagher shows the daily life of a soldier fighting in Iraq just before the troop withdrawal in 2011. It is a fictional journal that depicts the complexities of war with very vivid descriptions. Gallagher follows up on his successful first book, the memoir Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War (2010), with this Iraq War novel that speaks to the perspective of a US soldier and the Iraqi people. The narrator of the book is Lieutenant Jack Porter, who is leading a platoon of men in the last stages of the war. America is nearing the end of its involvement in Iraq with the new Iraqi Army being trained to takeover. Porter’s war deals with the internal power struggles of the town surrounding his outpost, paying off local men and appeasing those whose lives have been affected by the ongoing violence in their country. It is his job to keep a lid on the fragile peace that has been etched out by those who have come before him, including his older brother. He is assisted by Sergeant Dan Chambers who is determined to get all his men home. Porter also has become obsessed with a Romeo and Juliet type of love affair between an American soldier and a local sheikh’s daughter, Rana. Gallagher commented to blackfive.net, “In many ways Jack and I are quite different. When in Iraq I was hot tempered and thought in the moment. Jack takes his time in making decisions. Chambers is the one who gets things done, an attribute I admire in people. He focuses on the task of accomplishing the mission, almost Machiavellian. I think I put pieces of myself in all my characters.” Porter is portrayed as a newly minted lieutenant struggling to accept the brutality around him while at the same time attempting to be sensitive to the Iraqi culture. Assigned to his company is Chambers, an aggressive soldier who wants to make sure the rules of engagement do not cost any of his men their lives. The scene involving the fight between a scorpion and a camel spider can best explain their attitudes. As the spider gnawed on the scorpion’s head the scorpion rammed its stinger right into the spider’s eye. As Chambers comments to the men, “That’s what happens when you hesitate… Don’t be that camel spider. Be the scorpion.” The author stated he wrote this scene to emphasize how Chambers had a “noble purpose to get his men home. They needed to stay aggressive and stop being lackadaisical. The stage is set for the rest of the novel where the attitude was to do what is necessary to stay alive within the moral code.” Youngblood allows the reader to feel they are in Iraq with the soldiers. They experience the deployment, the camaraderie, fear, exhaustion, and boredom. This is a story of men and women trying to do their jobs, survive, and to return home in one piece. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at BlackFive
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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. Casualties by Elizabeth Marro is a very powerful and heart wrenching novel. With war at the core of the theme it is a reminder how those serving and their families have sacrificed. There are also other themes of abandonment, prioritizing, loss, and recovery. Although this is her first book the well-developed story and characters make it appear that Marro is a seasoned author. Considering herself, just a “civilian,” she told blackfive.net, “I am one of 99% of Americans relying on 1% of my fellow citizens to defend this country. I felt my biggest responsibility is to portray Robbie, a Marine who commits suicide, accurately. I did a lot of research and was humbled by the stories of veterans and families who struggled and continue to struggle with the aftermath of our most recent wars. It mattered a great deal for me to try to understand all the emotional aspects.” Shortly after the book begins the main character, Ruth Nolan, experiences a terrible loss, a parent’s worse nightmare, having a child die. But the loss is even more impactful because her son commits suicide while she is handling an emergency at work. Trying to escape the guilt Ruth packs up his ashes and decides to leave her past demons behind. She is helped with facing up to her past choices by a former soldier, Casey MacInerney, whom she meets under dubious circumstances. They agree to go on a cross-country journey together, both figuratively and literally. Their emotional survival depends on trusting each other, helping each other soul search as they attempt to make amends. Marro noted, “I knew that Ruth needed someone to help her find her way, and it couldn’t be anyone from her past world. Casey arrived unexpectedly. They both examine what would happen if they altered just one of their decisions. If you go on that road and damage has been done, how do you pick up, get back on your feet, and keep on going. They both struggle to take responsibility for their actions. I wanted this story to be driven by the characters. If I know whom these people are I can figure out where the plot needs to go so it does not appear artificial. This is definitely a character driven plot.” In many ways Casey and Ruth are kindred spirits. Both are lonely, feel isolated, are affected by war, and must learn how to deal with grief. They let down those close to them and realize what their priorities should have been after the fact. The question of when does work come before family and how should both be balanced are themes throughout the book. Although Casualties is not a happily-ever-after story, it is very thought provoking. It examines such important societal issues as when to prioritize family over career, war veterans having suicidal thoughts, PTSD, and how to manage and overcome guilt to move on with one’s life. As the story progresses readers will sympathize and root with these realistic characters. Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. The First Order by Jeff Abbott is a very realistic thriller. This action packed fast paced story centers around an assassination plot. But the sub-plot is also very interesting as it explores the relationship between brothers. Abbott successfully uses the storylines of previous books and ties everything together in this fifth Sam Capra novel. The stage is set from the very first page with the quote by William Shakespeare, “There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar…security gives way to conspiracy.” The plot has an assassin becoming part of the Russian inner circle that is close to the President, Dmitri Morozov. As with Caesar’s assassination the killer wants to get up front and personal with the Russian President; yet, able to disappear, and live to enjoy his $20 million payday. Abbott commented to blackfive.net, “I love Shakespeare. I had put little nods to King Lear in my last book, Inside Man. For this plot I wanted to bring something new and refreshing to an assassination story. I decided this novel is not going to be about the lone wolf striking from a distance like in the magnificent novel, The Day Of The Jackal, which cannot be proved upon. In this book, the Russian President is surrounded by an inner circle that reminded me of Julius Caesar. I wanted the leader brought down in a place he feels safe, surrounded by people he thinks he can trust. I based it on the real Oligarchs in Russia who are very powerful and understand they can lose their power at the whim of the President. I like to joke they do not have an MBA but a KGB.” The other side of the story is a family affair. The first Capra novel, Adrenaline, has Sam altering his life after watching his brother Danny supposedly killed by terrorists in Afghanistan on a video. His brother’s death defined Sam who then decided to became a CIA agent and later an avenger of wrongdoers. But after Sam finds out that his brother could actually be alive and has become a contract killer, he recognizes his mission must be to stop Danny from assassinating the Russian President, or the global repercussions could change history. Not one to conform to the rules he knows that to find his brother he must depend on human intelligence, as well as Mila, his partner, who he respects and has an unbreakable bond. He realizes that just using digital intelligence, computer hacking, or satellite imagery will not be enough to accomplish this mission. Besides this riveting plot the characters are very well developed. One of the enjoyable features of Sam is that he is a flawed hero. Throughout the book he makes mistakes, which sets him back. Abbot described it as “winning the war and not each battle, because that is what life is about.” In many ways Sam is an unconventional hero, including his cover of owning multiple bars around the world. The bar idea was conceived by Abbott while doodling. He explained to blackfive.net, “I drew a globe and underneath that a martini glass. Then I thought how creating Sam as a bar owner would be fresh and different. This allows him to have a legitimate reason to go around the world. I know my readers really like this idea because they will suggest neighborhoods, cities, and bars where Sam could own one. For the Russian bar in this book I looked on Google maps, Tumblr, and read articles written about the nightlife. Usually I go to the setting in which I give Sam an adventure in, but for this book I did not. Even though it is fictionalized it is critical of the Russian power structure and I did not want to cause problems for anyone who would have helped me while I was there.” Abbott gave a heads up about his future book projects. His next book will be a stand-alone, a psychological suspense novel set in Austin. For the subsequent Sam book he has three possibilities, but all will include Mila, Sam’s sidekick and best friend. Abbott is even thinking about writing a book mostly from her viewpoint. The First Order brings changes in Sam and Mila’s life. It becomes evident that Abbott wanted to shake up the series and has opened new possibilities for both characters. This espionage series has compelling stories and characters that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2016 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. The ex, a novel by Alafair Burke is a legal thriller. This murder mystery delves into what would happen if circumstances bring together an estranged couple where one becomes dependent upon the other. Burke, a former prosecutor, details well the legal and trial background within the complexity of relationships. The plot has one of New York City's best criminal defense lawyers, Olivia Randall, representing her ex- fiancé, Jack Harris. He has been arrested for a triple homicide that includes a victim connected to his wife's murder three years earlier. Burke takes the reader on a journey with Randall as she goes from vehemently believing his innocence to questioning if he is indeed guilty. Part of the reason she agrees to represent Jack is to absolve herself of the guilt, feeling somewhat responsible for his state of mind. Her past regrets are based on the way she chose to end the relationship twenty years ago when she broke his heart in an unimaginable way. Burke commented to blackfive.net, “People who were in your past life, did you ever wonder about them? How did someone in Olivia’s former life turn out? She was never able to close the book with Jack. Then he suddenly appears in her life in a very shocking way. She remembers the relationship in a certain way, making herself to be the bad person. Feeling guilty about the way she ended it her memories are that she was bad and he was good. But as the book progresses you see not everything is black and white.” These characters are flawed and each has a dark side. Jack is seen as one of those people who act like a puppy dog in a relationship, always willing to acquiesce. In some ways he was very suffocating. Starting out as friends the relationship evolved because Jack was so dependent on Olivia. The book also explores “Catfishing,” where Internet predators scam their way into romantic relationships with unsuspecting victims that seek love online. By creating fake profiles on social networking sites, these predators trick people into thinking that they are someone else entirely. Anyone who has ever heard of the Brad Paisley song “Online” will understand that the fabricated life stories and photographs allow people to be “so much cooler online,” creating an unrealistic world that they wish were their own. Readers may remember how this happened to Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o. Burke noted, “The Room” is based on the “gothamist” website that is New York centrist. I also explore “Catfishing” where someone pretends to be a certain person. My friend is single and does online dating. Someone sent him a message and asked him if he was the person she was conversing with online, because she wanted to meet him in person. She thinks it was my friend because she Googled the image sent to her. Some guy had basically used my friend’s picture to give himself a different identity. The prosecutor in me was worried about the anonymity of the Internet. I told my friend to be very careful, trust but verify times ten.” With the backdrop of a murder case that can be considered a mass killing the ex explores the guilt and betrayal of people in relationships, past and present. Beyond that readers will also be exposed to the criminal justice system. These are reasons enough to enjoy this legal mystery. Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2016 at BlackFive
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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. 13 Hours is a riveting movie and book. What makes it special is the discussion by the six American heroes about the assault on September 11th, 2012. As with most incidents the names are forgotten, but with these accounts people are able to put a humanistic touch on the terrorist attack of Americans. Viewers and readers feel a part of the action, fighting alongside these operators who laid their lives on the line for one another, and for their country. As one of the men described, “Benghazi is essentially a 21st Century Alamo.” This is the story of an Islamic terrorist attack on the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012. Four Americans were killed: U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen “Bub” Doherty, and Tyrone “Rone” Woods. The five operators who provided the account were John “Tig” Tiegen, , Mark “Oz” Geist, (http://shadowwarriorsproject.org/index.html) Kris “Tanto” Paronto, and two others who are known by the pseudonyms Dave “D.B” Benton and Jack Silva. Both the book and the movie tell the story of true heroism in the face of unbeatable odds. Even knowing how it ends, people find themselves rooting for the heroes and holding out hope they all survive. The account seems incredible and reads like a Nelson DeMille or Vince Flynn novel with good guys, bad guys, incompetent guys, sleazy government officials, and action packed scenarios. Mitch Zuckoff, the author, describes the men as “John Wayne heroes. They did not seek aggrandizement or medals and threw themselves in harms way in order to save American lives. I hoped to show that this is a historical record of what happened, what they did, and what they saw during the Battle of Benghazi. After speaking with them I realized what genuine decent guys they are. I felt it was part of my responsibility to write this book.” The book and film are extremely informative and people will learn the truth about certain facts surrounding Benghazi. Questions were answered either subtly or directly regarding the attacks being pre-mediated versus spontaneous, if those in charge were unprepared, was a “stand down order” given, and what happened with reinforcements. A powerful quote emphasized “the abundance of weapons, the absence of a working Libyan government, and the lingering anti-Western sentiments” in addition of the Ambassador’s constant request for additional security. Zuckoff told blackfive.net, “There were a combination of motivations. Yes, they were highly paid but faced constant danger in their daily lives. Because the current military does not have enough personnel for all the missions around the world contractors needed to be hired. But these men were retired Special Forces/Marines so they had the experience. They repeatedly felt that this attack could have happened at any time. Jack had talked about this at some length, explaining that they always had to be prepared and that their job was to protect American lives.” To offer readers some context Zuckoff began the book with a history of Libya that included a terrorist attack of the Benghazi American outpost in 1967. He noted to blackfive.net, “I put that in so people will get a sense that history repeats itself. If you do not recognize history you are doomed to repeat it. I wanted to show people the world of these men.” The heroes and the author hope after reading the book and seeing the movie Americans will understand “it is about what happened in Benghazi where American lives were saved, lost, and changed, as bullets flew, buildings burned, and mortars fired.” People should read the book and see the movie because they will experience as the heroes did the intense, shocking, and horrific 13 Hours, and will be moved emotionally. Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at BlackFive
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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 on the right side bar. Duplicity, the newest novel by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Pete Earley, has a highly plausible plot that mixes domestic and global action. Readers will be reminded of the Benghazi-style attack on the US embassy along with political deception, radical Islamic terrorists, and ruthless DC staffers who scheme to manipulate the electorate during the Presidential election. Blackfive.net interviewed the former Speaker about how his book mirrors today’s events. Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story? Newt Gingrich: This worldwide phenomenon is much more purposeful and technologically advanced than we give it credit for. One of the key terrorists in our novel is an American who has rejected Western civilization in favor of the radical Islamist effort to impose an alternative system of belief by force and terror tactics. One of the reasons I agreed to do contemporary modern history is to show the gap between the elite denial of reality and what is happening in the worldwide war with Islamic supremacists. I used the genre of a novel because it is the most effective way to tell a story. EC: Why Somalia? NG: We could have done it in Yemen, Libya, or other places. We chose Somalia because there are 125,000 Somalis in Minnesota, an on going problem with Al-Shabah in that country, and it just seemed like the place for a perfect storm. Go to the Australian Foreign Ministry website and you will see they post that people should not go there because it is too dangerous. The focus of the terrorist group is on Westerners. There is a wonderful sense that this place is the Wild, Wild West. EC: Did you want to contrast Somalis who have assimilated and those who have gone to the dark side? NG: The number of Somalis in Minnesota who have gone to ISIS is about twenty. 80 to 90% of Minnesota Somalis have become true Americans. There are millions of American Muslims who embrace our values, are deeply patriotic, and loyal. One character in Duplicity is a Somali American who is running for Congress in Minneapolis while his brother is the No. 2 leader in Al Shabaab in Mogadishu. The tension between the two is like a civil war in a single family. We must be aware, as Paris and California reminds us, it does not take a large number of terrorists to cause a great amount of danger. EC: You write how incidents can manipulate elections. What did you want to get across? NG: How politicians are at their most difficult position sixty days before an election. In an election there is enormous pressure to survive because if you do not you die figuratively. The immediacy of the election puts enormous pressure on whoever is in the White House. As with the 2012 election there is the effort to try to break down an administration’s mythology that everything is working. EC: Your character running against the president is Governor Timothy Coolidge, who is an isolationist. Did you mirror him on the former President Calvin Coolidge? NG: No. I admire Calvin Coolidge since I consider him one of the most interesting guys in American history. In the 1920s isolationism did not mean the same thing as today. During that period Republicans were very engaged in foreign diplomacy. For example, they were involved in the German financial problem, in Latin America, and had US Marines in Nicaragua. They did not believe in entangling alliances because they did not trust anyone. Just because they were opposed to the League of Nations the Left summarized them as isolationists. EC: Gunter Conner, the CIA Station Chief in Somalia, represents someone who warns Americans not to be complacent with the Islamic terrorists. Agreed? NG: Yes. Throughout history there has been the existence of people willing to do evil to impose their values whether Adolf Hitler or ISIS. These people have to be stopped and cannot be talked with. Neville Chamberlain was not a traitor in appeasing Hitler, he was just wrong. I have written about the premise that some think the world is dangerous yet it is better to survive the danger than eliminate it. This it the attitude with gun free zones, which by definition is irrational. It says to the evil why come here we are defenseless. Yet, it ignores that in a world of evil, there is no way to block it just by putting up a yard sign. EC: What do you want the readers to get out of Duplicity? NG: The world is genuinely dangerous. This danger is coming here and we need to hold our public officials accountable. Just as in the book, world events will have an impact on the 2016 Presidential election in a way we cannot anticipate right now. EC: Can you give a heads up about the next book? NG: It will be called Treason. It is about what could happen in the US if there are very senior people who are secretly loyal to the Islamic supremacists. It is based on the book by Diana West, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character that accounts the massive Moscow-directed penetration of American society. West shows that the system of spies designed to denigrate the American way of life was deep and extensive during the 1940s. My book has a similar premise brought up to date: why couldn’t there be someone in support of radical Islam that is able to keep it secret as they rise in power. It will also have terrorism coming to the US. THANK YOU!! Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2016 at BlackFive
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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. Where It Hurts is the first book of a new series written by Reed Coleman, the contracted writer of the Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone books. He introduces the character, Gus Murphy, who becomes a grieving father after unexpectedly losing his son, while at the same time attempting to solve a murder mystery. The plot goes into great detail about how Gus’ world changes on the day his son dies from an unknown heart defect. He is a broken and wounded man, losing everything he loved in his life: his son dying, his wife having an affair with his partner, his job, while his daughter is arrested for a DUI and drugs. Ironically he is brought back to life after being approached by a small time criminal, Tommy Delcamino, who also lost a son without any warning. While Gus lost his son to a disease Tommy’s son is murdered. As Gus reluctantly agrees to pursue an investigation, he uncovers a major conspiracy to thwart the investigation. Plugging away to find the truth allows Gus to come out of his grieving world. Coleman takes the readers on a journey with Gus as he attempts to find the murderers as well as recover from his walking trance and bitterness. The most powerful theme in the book is how someone reacts to losing a loved one. Being a policeman forced Gus for over twenty years to have a distant view of life and death until it became very personal for him. Through Coleman’s descriptions and relatable dialogue, Readers will understand Gus’ pain and the nightmare he must face each and every day. It becomes obvious that grief is a very personal issue, as the author shows how someone encompassed with their own sorrow never realizes how others have also been affected. Gus and his family are consumed by their own anguish and in doing so have completely lost perspective of each other. Coleman told blackfive.net, “I wanted readers to understand how hard it is to put the emotional pain behind you, which is why I put the quote in the book, ‘To heal I suppose there has to be forgetting. There’s no healing if the scab is always peeled away.’ Gus is not sure who he is or where he is going. He knows what he no longer believes, but does not know what he actually believes anymore. I know one of the biggest clichés is ‘time heals all wounds.’ Gus will always remember, but eventually it will not be at the forefront of his thinking. It will not be as constant and painful. The character’s emotions are a reflection of my own as I tried to put myself in their situation. I hope those who had tragedy in their life contact me, and let me know their reaction.” The author gave a heads up about his next books. Out in the fall will be another Jesse Stone book, entitled, Death To Pay. Coleman said readers should expect changes in the Spenser and Stone universe after his ex-wife Jen and someone else from Jesse’s past reappears. Also preeminently featured will be former FBI Agent Diana Evens, first introduced in the book Blind Spot. Then a year from now, the next Gus Murphy book will be published, a continuation of his journey. The plot includes the exploration of good versus evil: what would happen if you really love somebody and find out they have done some horrible things? Regardless of which series he is writing, Coleman always has characters with flaws that eventually the reader will root for. Where It Hurts main focus is how a person handles grief within a mystery of police corruption, drug lords, and murder. Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2016 at BlackFive
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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. The Cyclops Initiative by David Wellington is a fast moving political thriller. It has a lot of the action of other thrillers but also emphasizes the dilemma of veterans returning home. This third book of the series is the best to date. The author commented to blackfive.net, “My contract is up. I am hoping the series will be renewed since I enjoy writing about these characters. They have a lot more stories to be told.” The plot has a Predator drone destroying a cargo ship carrying radioactive materials at an inspection station in the Port of New Orleans. After another take down of power grids in California, intelligence strategists suspect a hacker somehow managed to commandeer the drones to carry out the attacks. Jim Chapel, a military intelligence officer, once a Special Forces commando, disagrees with his bosses’ conclusion that the culprit is a brilliant hacker known as Angel, someone he has worked closely with on past missions. She is the one person he trusts more than anybody and will do anything to clear her name. With the help of Angel, his ex-girlfriend Julia, and some other veterans who also lost limbs in war, Chapel tries to find who is behind this conspiracy that threatens his life, his friends lives, and the security of the US. Intertwined in this action packed story is the contrast between characters. Readers of Wellington’s previous books might remember Angel as being confident, secure, with a take no prisoners personality whose shoulder Jim could lean on. Yet, now on the run and away from her computers she is portrayed as pitiful, someone who does not know how to handle herself publicly. Taken out of her element she is seen as a person with real flaws and problems. Wellington wants the readers to wonder, “Is she a healthy person who found her place in the world or someone who needs help?” Wellington also contrasts the two sides of a warrior with the newly introduced character of Brent Wilkes versus Jim Chapel. Wilkes has the philosophy of “find, fix, and finish,” where he never worries about killing, does not talk about it, and just does it. On the other hand, Chapel uses his wit instead of his sniper skills, only killing someone as the last option. There is also the intriguing contrast of past and present generations. Angel represents the new generation who enjoys interpersonal relationships while on the computer. A powerful quote explains her philosophy; “I was never alone after I got my computer. Any time, day or night, somebody was out there, wanting to talk or share files or whatever.” Yet, Julia, Jim’s girlfriend and Angel’s older friend, cannot understand Angel’s lack of live communication, and how she is satisfied in being a social hermit. The story also points out the hypocrisy of politicians. Wellington does a great job of creating an action packed story centered around a major political conspiracy. He noted that the plot incorporates his own feelings, “Many politicians don’t see their constituencies as human beings, but rather as numbers on a page. I think they have disdain for the American people. For career politicians, on both sides of the aisle, it’s about how much power they can gain and not about how to help people. Politicians seem to forget that they are supposed to represent the people.” The book has a shout out to all those in the armed forces who fought in the different wars and lost limbs, being kept alive because of medical technology advances. Wellington commented to blackfive.net, “I wanted to write about how those veterans who lost limbs still have a meaningful life. I hoped I showed how they cope differently, that their life will never be easy, and now it is much more complicated. For me, the struggle they are going through is just as heroic as anything they did on the battlefield. We as Americans should understand that war is so complicated, dangerous, and serious. It is not as depicted in the video games that turn it into a cartoon.” The Cyclops Initiative is a captivating political thriller that is a page-turner. It explores many different issues through a riveting plot. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2016 at BlackFive
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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. Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless, by Tilly Bagshawe, is a suspenseful thrilling novel. For the past six years Bagshawe, contracted by the estate, has carried on his well developed characters and writing style. This book brings back one of his most beloved heroines, Tracy Whitney, first introduced in the novel, If Tomorrow Comes. Bagshawe told blackfive.net, “I want to try my best to stay true to his writing. With that said, I am not him so it can’t be identical. There also must be considerations for the changes in the world. I want to strike a balance between his voice and mi Writing her character came easy, but I had to rewrite and rework the plotting. It was challenging to make the world she operates in believable, workable, and modern, since she came on the scene in 1985. I needed to find an interesting and real story for this great character as well as to have her grow. I feel incredibly lucky to write these books and to carry on these characters.: This plot begins with Tracy’s decision to give up everything, settle down in Colorado, and devote herself solely to raising her teenage son, Nick. But her world seems to end after she receives the tragic news of her son’s death. Tracy decides to package her guilt into finding who is responsible. At the same time she is asked by the FBI and CIA to help hunt down a notorious environmental terrorist who sent an encrypted message mentioning Tracy by name. She wonders if there is a connection and her thirst for revenge propels her to help the national security agencies bring these terrorists to justice. The multiple themes of revenge, greed, finding the truth, and grief drive the story in this novel. Anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to the powerful quotes in the book. Bagshawe has hit it head on for those who experienced and dealt with grief. “Human loss was not a team game. Each person dealt with tragedy differently…The need to be distracted… Don’t shut it out. That only gives it more power. But don’t let it consume you.” While the revenge portions have fast-paced, action scenes, the passages dealing with grief will tug at the reader’s heartstrings. The author drew on the experiences of her husband who “had huge losses in his life, losing both parents when he was young. As a result he was put into foster care. I am married to someone where grief is a part of his life. I have watched others who have experienced it try to cope and survive.” Fans of Tracy from the previous Sheldon book will not be disappointed in how she is portrayed in this plot. She is still beautiful, intelligent, and a survivor. Yet, she has a sadness to her after losing the love of her life, her hopes, and in some ways her freedom. Sheldon’s legion of fans should relish the return of Tracy Whitney. Yet, those who have never read a book featuring this character will enjoy this fascinating heroine. With the heart-stopping sub-plot and breathtaking action, Reckless is a book to be read by the fireside on a cold winter night. Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2015 at BlackFive
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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. Doomed To Succeed, by Dennis Ross, is an extraordinary book for anyone that wants to understand how US Presidents from Truman through Obama have reacted toward Israel, their policies, and the reasoning behind them. Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years, participating in two Republican and two Democratic administrations. This is not a history of Arab-Israeli peace efforts but rather a discussion of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations. In reading this book people will learn how the different Presidents have viewed the relationship with Israel. For example, JFK was the first President to sell arms and talk about the special relationship, Eisenhower and LBJ were preoccupied with other events such as the Cold War and Vietnam, and that the reason Nixon supplied Israel with arms on the eighth day of the Yom Kippur War was because no cease fire was accepted, the Russians were resupplying Egypt and Syria, and he did not want it to be seen in the context as Soviet arms defeating US arms. The chapter on Bill Clinton is also very insightful in that Ross views this President as the only one who “did not see Israel as a problem and refused to have public discourse with Israel.” One of the most important points to be made in the book is that Presidents, such as Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Bush 41, and Obama, were not successful when they chose to redefine the relationship with Israel in order to gain with the Arabs. Yet, those Presidents who cooperated with Israel did not have the expected negative fallout with the Arab countries. Ross emphasizes in the book, “As the scope of US strategic and military cooperation with Israel has grown to unprecedented levels, the US presence in a number of Arab Gulf states has also dramatically increased.” He directly noted to blackfive.net, that the recent Iran Deal is the perfect example. “What I say in the book is that the Arab leaders are focused on their regional rivals who see it as a direct threat to their security and survival: Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, Saddam and Gaddafi the 1970s and 1980s, and today with the Iranians. Specifically the sanction relief that will allow them more resources to cause trouble.” He also makes an interesting premise, that the Palestinian issue is not a priority for the Arab leaders Regarding the Palestinians, President Obama, according to Ross, “sees them as too weak to criticize and therefore reserves his criticism for Israel. The problem is when you give them a pass it becomes difficult for them to compromise because they also see themselves as the victim. If you always give them a pass and never hold them accountable why would they change their behavior? I remember commenting, if they are too weak to be criticized, to weak to be held accountable, then they are too weak to have a state. Those in this administration that feel that there must be a peace accord between the Palestinians and Israelis do not understand that nothing is going to change what is happening in Syria, or with ISIS.” He explained directly, the reason he entitled the book Doomed To Succeed, “Although we may have differences from time to time what binds us is so much stronger than what divides us. Our relationship is rooted in shared values of being governed by the rule of law, civil liberties, separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and respect for gay rights and women rights. There is no other country like Israel in the Middle East. It has retained its democratic character even with all the threats it faces.” Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders, Israel, and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light. This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the US-Israel relationship. Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2015 at BlackFive
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U.S. soldiers man an M1A2 Abrams tank concealed by a hull-down battle position during Exercise Peace Sentinel at Novo Selo Training Center, Bulgaria, Nov. 23, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2015 at BlackFive
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U.S. Navy sailors participate in a .50-caliber machine gun qualification course as part of deployment training in the 5th Fleet area of Operations, Nov.28, 2015. The sailors assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.11. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2015 at BlackFive
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Marines are being lifted to a height of over 350 feet in the air to avoid any possible obstacles before flying around the area during insertion and extraction rigging training on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 19, 2015. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Briauna Birl Marines land on the airfield after taking a ride during Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction rigging training on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 19, 2015. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Briauna Birl Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2015 at BlackFive
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A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces parachute team member descends toward Luzon drop zone during the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop on Camp Mackall, N.C., Dec. 7, 2015. Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest combined airborne operation during which service members help provide children in need with toys for the holidays. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2015 at BlackFive
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U.S. paratroopers sit inside a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft awaiting takeoff on Aviano Air Base, Italy, Dec. 2, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at BlackFive
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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. Bone Labyrinth, by James Rollins, is a thriller that tugs at the reader’s hearts. There are two plots, one historical and one scientific. This novel explores many important current topics including animal experimentation, the relationship between the guerilla and man, as well as the genetic make-up of a human’s brain. This 11th Sigma Force novel has Painter Crowe, the director, assigning Commander Gray Pierce, to investigate an attack on a group of scientists exploring a massive cave in the mountains of Croatia. One of the scientists, geneticist Lena Crandall, along with her twin sister, Maria, is attempting to find the origin of human intelligence. Maria’s research centers on her work with a three-year-old male lowland gorilla, Baako, who’s a hybrid of gorilla and Neanderthal genes. After Maria and Baako are kidnapped, the action-packed story begins. The story is told in alternating chapters involving two sets of protagonists. The first group is comprised of one of a pair of twins, an American scientist studying the evolution of human intelligence, a Catholic priest and some Sigma Force members assigned to rescue them after things go bad in a cave in Croatia. This piece is more of a historical quest. The other group, who wind up in a vast, underground science facility in China, is comprised of the second twin scientist, some other Sigma Force members, and Baako, the young gorilla who is the subject of the twins' research. Many readers will be drawn more to Baako and his story, turning every page as they wonder what will be his ultimate outcome. This sub-plot involves more of the science and genetics piece of the story as the Chinese scientists attempt to harvest some of the DNA of the animals to engineer a stronger solider. There is a powerful scene in the book where Sigma operatives Monk Kokhalis and Kimberly May are embedded in a Chinese zoo. Rollins commented to blackfive.net, “I spent a week in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. I joked with my editor after I finished the book I will never be allowed back in China. This scene is taken from my reaction. I was appalled, some of which, could not even put in the book. For example, I found out that fifteen years ago, at the zoo restaurant, they would serve animal body parts. I was shocked how the patrons of the zoo treated the animals, banging on their cages, throwing things at them, and as I describe in the book pouring a coke on top of a Mongolian bear.” Rollins noted he did extensive research from watching clips of the Lion, Christian, who was released into a reserve after having been a pet for years. When his human handler finds Christian in the wild the lion charges, hugs, and plays with him. He also read about a pet gorilla that was also released into the wild, was found, and brought the family over to meet the human handler. The reason Rollins chose to write about a gorilla instead of a chimp is explained in the book: from a genetic viewpoint 98% of the Chimpanzees are like us whereas gorillas are 97%. Yet, from an intelligent and thinking standpoint gorillas are closer to humans than Chimps. The author’s description of how Baako looks at the world seems very plausible, having a sharper sense with a very emotional understanding of the past, present, and future. The best scenes are between Baako and Maria, which mirror a mother/child bond. The Bone Labyrinth blends intense action with thrilling plots that are sprinkled with interesting historical and/or scientific facts. A fabulous adventure that is heart wrenching and action packed. Rollins also wants those who live in the Southern California area to know he will be doing a book signing at Camp Pendleton and he would love you to come bye and say hi! Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at BlackFive
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Wreaths adorn headstones following the annual Wreaths Across America event in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Dec. 12, 2015. Volunteers with the nonprofit organization placed a wreath on every eligible headstone in the cemetery to remember and honor the fallen. U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at BlackFive
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U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Fabiochi signals the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman for more cargo during a replenishment at sea with USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 7, 2015. Fabiochi is a boatswain’s mate. The Carney is conducting a routine patrol in the U. S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support U.S. national security interests in Europe. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Theron J. Godbold Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at BlackFive
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Wreaths lay in the columbarium following the annual Wreaths Across America event in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 12, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at BlackFive
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The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. The Hunting Trip by William E. Butterworth III, aka W.E.B. Griffin, is a humorous novel, in the same style as his previously written MASH books. People who need an escape from today’s dark times might want to read this novel. He pokes fun at the future CIA, the OSS, military graduates, and Southern small towns. Butterworth III told blackfive.net, “I started out writing a serious story of a hunting trip that had sexual implications. But it was not working so I decided on a funny book like when I wrote the MASH books. I thought it was funny and hope readers get a couple of laughs from it. They can take their minds off of Obama, Kerry, and Hillary for a few hours.” The novel begins in 1975 with an attempt by a bunch of wives of prominent citizens, living in Muddiebay Mississippi, to convince their spouse to go on a hunting trip in Scotland, while they go on a shopping spree in London. It then flashes back to Philip W. Williams III who is expelled from boarding school for committing a prank, and on the train home naturally wonders about his future. It never enters his mind that he will become a world-class marksman and a special agent of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in postwar Germany, play a key role in the defection of a Soviet officer, and then court danger as a courier for the CIA. He marries a beautiful Austrian ballet dancer, becomes a renowned bestselling novelist, and meets his lover on a hunting trip to Scotland. Readers might question how this book parallels Butterworth’s life. People may recognize that he was actually writing about the small town in Alabama where he now resides part time. Yet, those who think that Phil Williams’ Austrian wife is based on Butterworth’s first wife would be wrong. He noted, “Yes, my ex-wife was an Austrian ballet dancer, but she was a good woman and I would never write anything nasty about her. My son Bill would never let me get away with it. Although she did have a red Mercedes convertible who did believe the car had two speeds, on and off.” The other similarity is that he went on a hunting trip to Scotland, as shown by the picture on the back cover. He further commented, “I wanted to zing my friends who were former OSS and those graduates of West Point who are a little stuffy.” Another interesting point about the book is that for cuss words he substitutes “expletive deleted.” When asked why, he stated, “I didn’t think the dirty words were appropriate. It is much more crude when you read them than when you hear them. I wanted to let people’s imagination go to work. I don’t think they will have a hard time understanding what I meant.” Readers will enjoy the lighthearted spirit of The Hunting Trip. This story will allow them to take their minds off of their problems and this country’s problems. Fans of Butterworth III will enjoy a raucous series of adventures across Europe and the United States that will have them immersed in laughter. Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at BlackFive
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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. Commander In Chief, a Jack Ryan novel, written by Mark Greaney has all the ingredients of a Tom Clancy story. There is action, technology, a lot of world politics, and characters that many wish actually existed. This book can be seen as a follow-up to Command Authority, the last book actually written with Tom Clancy. Greaney noted to blackfive.net, “When I wrote Command Authority with Tom Clancy Putin had attacked the Ukraine and was in a position of strength. We decided to have Volodin as a literary Putin figure, never trying to mask it. Now because of the repercussions of sanctions he is in a weak position, which is why I put in the quote about Russia not having a better military, economy, geography, or ideas than the West. I decided to bring back the Putin-like villain, Valeri Volodin, who uses the threat of force in a move of desperation. He is playing poker with a bad hand, but is a very good bluffer. Russia still sees the Baltic States as their territory.” The plot includes two themes: a geographical political war between NATO and Russia, which is where President Jack Ryan has a major role. The other features Jack Ryan Jr. who attempts to find out what the Russian leadership is up to by following the finances involving money-laundering schemes. The plot has Russian President Valeri Volodin planning to expand his power and territory by covertly taking over Lithuania. US President Jack Ryan recognizes this action but needs proof to get the European nations on board. With the help from the Campus, a clandestine small operations unit, President Ryan must move swiftly to stop Volodin’s grand plan of global conquest that could change the balance of power. Readers realize that this relates to today’s events. The story is almost the direct opposite of what is happening. The US President, Ryan, actually want to win wars and takes aggressive action. He is attempting to get the passive European nations to help in the fight. Compare that to today where the French President is asking for US support. Greaney also commented about his status in writing future Clancy books. Currently he is not contracted to write another Ryan novel. It would be a shame for those who are fans of Jack Ryan, because Greaney writes such action packed plots, while maintaining the flavor of a Clancy story. When asked about it he stated, “I had a conversation with my editor about a grand idea I have for another plot. I just want to make sure I have enough pieces of the plot to make it interesting. I want to make the stories realistic to the contemporary world while being honest to the characters.” Currently the author has his own book coming out in February. His “Gray Man” series has a former CIA, para-military type chased by the CIA. Having worked as a contract killer around the globe he will come back home to confront the CIA leadership. With the next book going forward, he will be moving in a new direction. Whether writing his own series or the Jack Ryan series, Greaney combines enthralling characters with realistic plots. He seems to be able to foreshadow events in the real world. Commander In Chief is a riveting book that readers will not want to put down. Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2015 at BlackFive
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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. Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Kristi Belcamino is a non-stop action packed novel involving murder, mind games, and a parent’s worst nightmare. She has come into her own as an author with great character development, showing their emotions, fears, and strengths. Almost from the very beginning of this plot, readers are drawn into the character’s anguish. Bay Area crime reporter, Gabriella Giovanni and her live-in partner, Detective Sean Donavan confront evil when their child is kidnapped. She suspects that the same person who kidnapped and murdered her sister is behind the nightmare she is personally facing now. Detective Donovan is frustrated when he cannot protect those he loves, his girlfriend and daughter. The story’s suspense never lets up, as it becomes a race with the clock to find the child before time runs out. Belcamino uses her experiences as a crime reporter to add realism to the plot making her main characters jump off the page. She noted to blackfive.net that in a New York Times Op-ed both her worlds as a reporter and parent sometimes conflict. “As a mother and crime writer, I’m two people every day. One is an Italian American mother who carts children to soccer and softball, making pancakes and acting silly. The other sits down and writes about terrible people doing terrible things to others. And sometimes those others are children. I wonder how I can tell my own daughter that the monsters she reads about are not real, when I know better than most just how real they are?” A powerful quote from the book exemplifies this feeling, “At work, I’m pulled into the depths of darkness talking to people who are grieving or coaxing information out of convicts. When I return home at night, I’m confronted with innocence in the form of my small child who knows nothing of the evil in this world.” Americans tend to forget that policemen, those serving the military, reporters, and first responders must reconcile having to deal with the darker side of humanity. She wants her readers to understand, “As a crime reporter I understand all those who must confront evil and then go home to hold their children. I began to find it very difficult to do both. I have put in all my books the theme of a child kidnapped and killed because I was haunted by the reality in a story I covered as a reporter. The dedication in my first book is to every girl and young man kidnapped and killed. Unfortunately, the details I draw from are my real life experiences of sitting with parents in the first few days as the search went on for their taken children. Now, as a reporter, I am more guarded, and try not to get as emotionally involved.” It becomes obvious after reading Belcamino’s books that her character Gabriella is her alter ego. Besides writing a strong, smart, and sassy character; a riveting and intriguing plot; she also writes about the inner workings of a large Italian family, their loyalties and devotion towards each other. Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2015 at BlackFive
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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. What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan blends suspense, humor, and issues of the day. With multiple storylines told by numerous narrations, readers come to understand the workings of a crime scene. These sub-plots include murder, child abduction, and treachery. Also explored are the characters loyalties, having to decide between family and their career. As with all Ryan’s books Jane Ryland investigates a story while Detective Jake Brogan is solving a crime, bringing both together by the end of the story. The plot begins with Jane having quit a job based upon principle. She interviews for a new job with Channel 2 and is given the task of covering a stabbing in Curley Park, Boston. Once again Jane is put into a position of covering a case her boyfriend Jake is investigating. Ryan noted to blackfive.net, “Both Jake and Jane are honorable, determined, search for the truth, and believe in justice. In real life there must be a hard line between a law enforcement officer and a reporter, each has a job to do, and each have to protect their interests, their information, and their investigations. But Jake and Jane sometimes cross that line. So what I love about my books is that Jane and Jake in their professional lives are incredibly honorable, but in their personal lives their passion has sometimes overruled their professionalism. Throughout all the books they are trying to figure out how to deal with that ongoing struggle. What will happen to their relationship or how they will deal with it going forward? I have no idea. It’ll be fun to find out.” The plot insightfully explores the current issue of privacy. With cameras everywhere, including in cell phones, on buildings, and on streetlights, can a crime be easily solved? A powerful quote says, “Life never just happened anymore. Memories had to be indelible, every event captured. And shared.” Because the murder takes place in front of City Hall there must be some surveillance. But this video leads into a dark conspiracy where what you see is not always as it seems. Having to deal with the political fallout from City Hall Camera Surveillance, Catherine, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, must juggle her job responsibilities with her family. Something any parent can relate to is this powerful quote, “Geographically, her daughter was inches away. Emotionally? Right now, Catherine didn’t have time to fix it.” But Jane also had a conflict between family and her job. While investigating the crime, her sister calls asking for help in finding her future stepchild who appears to be abducted. Ryan vividly writes how Jane is being pulled in multiple directions, forced to switch tasks and put family first. Interestingly when asked hypothetically the title of a future autobiography Jane responds, The Juggler. It is fitting since she must decide when to put family ahead of her job, something most people struggle with constantly. Readers will also be amused with some of Ryan’s well-placed humor. In a scene there is definitely a take off on the famous “who is on first, what’s on second” skit. More than anything the humorous interludes allows for a relief from the tension packed story. Ryan noted to blackfive.net that many professions including the police, investigative reporters, and those serving in the military need humor in their lives. “Oh, gosh, if there’s no humor in our lives, how would we manage? As a reporter, I see relentless sorrow, injustice, violence, and fear. As a journalist, that's the drumbeat every day, sometimes feeling as if television and newspapers are full of only bad news. I was on the job during the marathon bombings, reporting live, within moments of the second explosion. How do we manage to keep equilibrium? On the air, we focus on the story, the listeners, and our responsibility. A journalist is documenting history, I think of that every moment of the day. As a result, reporters must be careful not to let fear rule our lives, or sorrow drag it down. As a reporter, there is a need for a sense of humor, or else the world becomes relentlessly dark, bleak, and sad. Jake Borgan, as a law enforcement official, just as those who serve in the military, have the same dilemmas: they are putting themselves, as all those in public service do so bravely, in the line of fire, in the path of danger. They run toward the problem, not away from it. So in my books, I try to leave a little room for humor, pleasure, love, and redemption, because that’s what we need in real life. I am careful to find a way for some of the characters, which as in real life, are faced with danger and grief and situations that are difficult to understand. I want them to be able to look at the world with some hope, and laughter, with love, and a sense of humanity.” Besides humor, What You See has believable plots based upon Ryan’s experiences as a television investigative reporter who has won over thirty Emmys. Readers become enthralled and engaged with a story that has a hectic pace involving child abduction, murder, surveillance, and political secrets. Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2015 at BlackFive