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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. Tag You’re Dead By J.C. Lane, a pen name for Judy Clemens, is a riveting thriller. She takes the playground game and evolves it to fit into today’s technology-oriented society. Readers might relate to this as a darker version of the very popular new game, Pokeman Go. This is a game where the stakes could not be any higher, considering the runners’ lives are at risk. It will play into people’s worst fears since it seems very plausible how someone can be kidnapped and forced to run for their life by some mysterious person in the Internet age. In this story there are three “runners” and three “its.” Almost like a cat and mouse game where three are on the run as prey and three are the pursuers on the chase. When asked about the plot being open ended Lane commented to blackfive.net, “At this point it’s just a stand alone. I wanted to write a book in the same mode as The Hunger Games with a life and death scenario. My husband, a Physical Education teacher was telling me about the type of games his students play, including tag. I thought how could that game happen in today’s technology world?” The protagonists are likeable while the antagonists appear to be psychopaths of sort. The “Its” are Brandy, obsessed with destroying a naturally beautiful girl; Robert, wanting to target his fellow teammate, a superstar of the high school basketball team; and Charles, a brainiac who wants a game with an intellectual equal. They are vicious and rich people, unsatisfied with their own lives, who need something to feel better about themselves. On the other hand, the “runners” have a rich and satisfied life. Laura, is a sweet, caring teenager who makes friends easily; Tyrese is an all star basketball player who has street smarts; Amanda is a geeky gamer extraordinaire. With their lives on the line they use their skills to win the game, to reach home base first. What makes the story interesting is how these three respond to the challenges placed upon them, each in their own way. Chicago is the setting where the game takes place. It becomes a secondary character of sorts. Lane uses the cities landmarks to enhance the story. The author noted, “I have always loved Chicago. I grew up in northern Indiana, so when our family went to “the city,” it was Chicago, where we visited. I also lived in Evanston for a year while my dad was getting his doctorate at Northwestern University, so I have good memories from that time. A few years ago my husband took me to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, and we stayed at The Palmer House, a National Historical Landmark hotel, went to a play, and attended a recording session of my favorite NPR show, ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.’ The trip was a reminder of how much I love the city, and when the idea for this story came to me, Chicago was automatically the place I wanted it to be set. The characters end up in so many of my favorite places, including the Adler Planetarium, Wrigley Field, and the Art Institute, just to name a few.” As the story progresses the old cliché applies, money can’t buy you happiness. This story definitely puts a new spin on the old playground game of tag. It is the race against time, which will make the reader frantically turn the pages, wanting to find out what happens at the finish line. 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 on the right side bar. Two recent books have highlighted the global terrorist dangers. Daniel Silva in his novel The Black Widow underlines the threat of ISIS and how some have underestimated it. Although the book is fictional the story is all too real. Another book, The Field Of Fight, by Lt. General Michael Flynn delves into the world of ISIS. The Black Widow, besides being an intoxicating thriller, is also a warning for Americans. While reading the book it appears that real life events mesh with fiction. The undercurrent of reality is front and center as evidenced by the author himself who wrote in the forward, “I take no pride in my prescience. I only wish that the murderous, millenarian terrorism of the Islamic State lived solely on the pages of this story.” In his non-fiction book Flynn points out that President Obama will never utter the words Islamic Extremist or Radical Islam. Flynn comments about the hypocrisy, “The President should clearly and unambiguously define the enemy that we face and the threat to our way if life. It is radical Islam. We did it while fighting the enemy of Communism and Nazism. ISIS is a very determined enemy who wants to establish a global Caliphate. This political correctness of not naming our enemy is dangerous for the country. I am confident Americans can take the truth.” Silva also shows the dangers of ISIS through a riveting plot. It begins with ISIS detonating a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris. Gabriel Allon, the Israeli Mossad Agent poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, is asked by a desperate French government to eliminate the man responsible for the terrible attack. Gabriel and his team get to work and quickly learn that the man behind the attack is a terrorist mastermind who calls himself Saladin. With women all over the world, including the west, joining the ranks of ISIS, Gabriel exploits the terror group’s one weakness by inserting a recruit of his own to infiltrate Saladin’s operation. Flynn also debunks Democrats and some Republican pundits who say ISIS is being defeated. They point to the terrorist groups loss of land and that these recent attacks are acts of desperation. He strongly disagrees with “those people because that is actually false. We excised them from some village in Iraq like Fallujah, yet they are able to attack the international community in San Bernardino, Orlando, France, Germany, Bangladesh, and Turkey, all of these in recent months. The reason for this is that the enemy has doubled in size and grown in a global geographic footprint in the last six or so years.” The blame lies squarely in the hands of the Obama Administration, including Hillary Clinton. In the book, Flynn gives high marks to President Bush while lambasting President Obama, “He (Bush) realized the war was going badly, that we were losing, and our entire strategy needed to change. The mere fact that he recognized this and proceeded to make the difficult decisions he eventually made is a leadership characteristic our current president lacks.” Directly commenting to blackfive.net, “There is no enemy that is unbeatable. Even though President Bush was at the end of his administration he brought in the fresh leadership of General David Petraeus and Robert Gates. We were able to reverse the strategy and come up with a new one to win. Now we are at the end of President Obama’s term; yet, when 99% of President Obama’s advisors told him in to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq to stop the rise of radical terrorism he did not listen. He made a political decision rather than a decision for our national security. This is a weakness in his leadership style. His problem is that he refuses to recognize this strategy is not working and the enemy has grown in capacity.” One of the problems is that the current President wants to be surrounded by yes men. Flynn recounts in the book how he was fired in 2014 because he went before Congress and spoke of how to keep America safe. When asked about this, he responded, “I was appointed by President Obama twice, as Assistant Director of National Intelligence and the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. I never met with the President once; imagine that. Why not ask to speak with me about our differences of opinion and my suggestions? To me, this is very disturbing.” He suspects he was fired because “our agency was very brutally honest about our findings. I am not, nor have I ever been the type of person that will state what the boss wants to hear. I am always very blunt and say what I feel, including offering solutions. I was fired partially due to my honesty about the enemy we are facing, radical Islam. In complete contrast to the President who called ISIS the JV team, I told Congress they were dangerous and growing. Intelligence is about truth to power.” Although he outlined in the book extensive solutions, he summarized it for blackfive.net, “In order to beat this enemy we need to discredit the ideology. Muslims need to take a more public international stand. To do it they will have to be helped, prompted, and pushed by the US, something we are not doing now. We need to depend on Middle East allies like Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Finally, something that I have been criticized for is to get Russia involved. They should assume responsibility and pressure Iran to stop their proxy wars. As I show in the book the ties between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda have been a well-established fact.” Americans should take solace in knowing that Lt. General Flynn is one of Donald Trump’s top foreign policy advisors. Obviously, Mr. Trump is... Continue reading
Posted 4 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 by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt is the first book in her new Afton Tangler series. This mystery about a baby kidnapping is not a who-done-it since early on readers know who is the perpetrator. This author is also known as “cozy mystery writer,” Laura Childs, but a warning: there is nothing cozy about this plot. The mystery comes in as people try to figure out along with the protagonists how they are going to solve the case, given the clues the author provides. The reason for her pen name of Childs is that “I owned an advertising agency at the time I started writing. I was fairly well known in the Twin Cities. I decided not to co-mingle my two careers. Of course I was found out. Advertising did help me write because I had to have creativity on demand. When I start to write I never have a tight outline. I can see a stage play happening as things just come into my mind.” From the beginning the story is very ominous. In a mall a mother meets a woman, Marjorie, who sells re-born dolls, which is a true creepy profession. This antagonist is spooky in herself with a very disturbing personality. She has her son follow the mother home and that night in an affluent neighborhood of Minneapolis, the baby is abducted from her house after her teenage babysitter is violently assaulted. The parents are frantic, the police are baffled, and, with the perpetrator already in the wind, the trail is getting colder by the second. Schmitt noted to blackfive.net, “I was researching something else and ran into this topic. Women take a doll, strip out the hair and eyeballs, completely breaking them down, put in a motor to have a heart beat, paint them, and then put in human hair. They are adopted for lots of money. I actually went into a chat room where this woman was talking about not bonding with the one she had. How weird is that? I wanted to make sure the antagonist who made these dolls was terrifying, cunning, evil, and bizarre.” The main character, Afton, is a family liaison officer with the Minneapolis P.D. It is her job to be the go-between for the police and the victims of terrible crimes. Afton struggles to prove herself to the police force, juggle work and family life, as well as maintain her physical and mental strength. Because she is intuitive, smart, and desires to become a detective she wiggles her way into the investigation, working closely with the FBI and Detective Max Montgomery. Able to connect the dots and find clues she becomes a valuable asset and more like a partner to law enforcement as they try to stay ahead of the criminals and find them before they kidnap and murder again. Will Afton ever realize her dream of becoming a detective? Schmitt gave a heads up, “In my next book, Shadow Girls, she is still a ‘wannabe’ cop. She pushes her way into the investigation. In real life, crime liaisons get very involved with both the victim and the police. I really don’t know yet what her profession will be. Maybe she will become a cop or maybe she and Max will spin off to a private detective agency. I really don’t know yet. What I do know is there will not be a romantic relationship between Afton and Max, just a working relationship.” This novel is very plot driven. Readers will be at the edge of their seats as the spooky criminals take center stage. Anyone wanting a riveting story that has elements of realism should read this book. Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 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 by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. Crisis Of Character is the perfect name for a book about Hillary Clinton. Written by former Presidential Secret Service Officer Gary Byrne, he recounts how he was up close and personal with the then First Lady. Anyone reading this book can relate his issues with the Clintons to show how she conducted herself while Secretary Of State. In the book Byrne describes her as “distant, cold, dishonest, and a habitual liar.” He commented, “Americans need to know that Mrs. Clinton is not a leader. She displays a holier than thou attitude, ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ When I heard her say Bill Clinton would work with her on the economy my first thoughts, ‘what steps will she take to protect young women working at the White House from him?’ Her pattern is deflection, deception, and lies.” A word Mr. Byrne forgot to mention regarding Hillary was incompetent. Take for example the reset button given to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009. Lavrov noted the translation said, “overcharge,” not reset. Also, the word was typed in Latin script, not in Cyrillic. So wrong word. Wrong alphabet. It later came out that she and company had sidestepped traditional protocol by not asking State’s team of translators to help. Interestingly everything he mentioned about her in the book can be applied to the email scandal. He talked about the Clintons having the attitude they were above the law. Just refer to the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the runway in Arizona. Then a few days later FBI Director James Comey said about the findings, “this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.” Byrne spoke of how Hillary liked to deflect blame, pleading not knowing. Comey pointed out in his news conference how “None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.” Throughout the interview Byrne mentioned how Hillary lies and deceives. Remember in her March 15th news conference she claimed, “I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified material." Yet, Comey reported that the FBI identified 113 emails that passed through her server, containing materials that were classified at the time sent, including some that were Top Secret. Finally, Byrne noted to blackfive.net, “she is arrogant, has disdain, and a desire to push her agenda regardless of the damages. She does not care about any criticism.” This is obvious in Comey’s conclusion, “There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information… There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.” As a side note, Byrne noted, “Her attitude was so bad it got to a point that Secret Service Agents assigned to her detail would think of it as a punishment. Part of our job hazard was having to deal with her anger management issues.” Crisis Of Character offers insight into the personality of Hillary Clinton. It confirms what people have seen regarding how she has conducted her professional life. It becomes obvious that her temperament of ignorance, hypocrisy, and the poor choices she has made are reasons why she should never be elected President. Continue reading
Posted Jul 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 by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. Ice Station Nautilus by Rick Campbell is a fast paced military thriller involving a cat and mouse game between Russian and American submarines. Readers will likely make the inevitable comparison with Tom Clancy’s novel, The Hunt For Red October, but fear not, this story holds its own. The plot revolves around a collision between the newest American and Russian submarines, the USS North Dakota and K-535 Yury Dolgoruky. The Russian sub is being deployed on its first patrol while America's newest fast attack submarine, North Dakota, is assigned to trail it and collect intelligence. Because of their close proximity the subs collide, stranding both underneath the polar ice cap. The Americans immediately set up a rescue mission, sending a new submarine and a SEAL team to establish an ice camp, Ice Station Nautilus. The Russians also send men and material, ostensibly to rescue their own men, but a rogue General orders a Russian Special Forces team to take over the American base camp and the American sub, leaving no survivors or traces of their actions. Campbell balances well the military jargon and technology. Since the author is a retired Navy Commander, having served for twenty years on four nuclear powered submarines, the descriptions and technology are very believable without being overly detailed. Readers will get an up close and personal view of what it is like to be trapped on a submarine. If readers were to do a fact check would they see the authenticity in the story? Campbell told blackfive.net, “Yes. Submarines in this area cannot see each other. They make educated guesses about range, course, and speed. They will never get intentionally close on purpose. I thought of the different parameters that can make something go wrong. My editor once told me ‘true life does not have to make sense, but fiction does.’ I thought how could two subs collide? Knowing it had to be accidental I put in the book that if one changes speed or direction a collision could occur. Additionally, I had to consider how the American sub would get trapped under the ice. Especially since submarines under the ice constantly track the depth of the ice they’re under, documenting the location of ice thin enough to break through, and also looking for leads and polynas, which are small open spaces between the ice floes.” Furthermore, he stated, “I did my due diligence with the research. In 2009 I had an opportunity to go to an ice camp so in writing the story I knew what it looked like and how it operated. I also flew out to San Diego to view all the rescue equipment and was able to speak with a rescue crew.” But even more interesting is how Campbell shows the political struggles between Russia and the US. Both sides realize that whoever reaches the sunken subs first will be able to board the other country’s submarine and get their latest weapon and tactical systems technology. The USS North Dakota is the first third flight Virginia class submarine, with lots of new technology, while the Russian sub, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, is their latest ballistic missile submarine. Through his main character, National Security Advisor Christine O’Connor, the author is able to give readers a world’s eye view of the conflict. She is a female version of the famous character Jack Ryan. Although not a special forces operator nor “Superwoman,” she is intelligent, determined, gritty, not afraid to get her hands dirty, will engage in a battle, and has a get even type of mentality. This novel is a riveting read of how conflicts can arise. It is fast-paced and suspenseful. With four submarines, torpedo battles, undersea rescues, and SEAL shootouts with Spetznaz, readers will be on the edge of their seats. Continue reading
Posted Jul 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 by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. And After The Fire by Lauren Belfer has an historical component to the mystery. The settings alternate between Berlin in the late 1700s to mid-1800s, and 2010 in New York and Germany. Readers follow the dual storylines: the rape of the Jewish people by an anti-Semitic Bach composition and the literal rape of the main character Susana in the present day. Belfer formulated the idea after taking a course about Bach. She commented to blackfive.net, “Some of his music had a lashing out against the Jews. The idea came to me as I thought about the Nazis stealing masterpieces of art: ‘what if I had found a manuscript stolen during the war?’ As I did the research I was introduced to people I never heard of including the real-life Sara. I knew I had to write about her and this propelled two narratives, one in the present with Susana, and the other in the past with Sara.” The plot begins with Susana Kessler struggling to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When her Uncle Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden Bach manuscript. Determined to return it to its rightful owner she enlists the help of Dan, a Bach musical expert who is not Jewish. Because his Lutheran faith is rocked by a personal loss he forms a kinship with Susana who is also questioning her beliefs about mankind in the wake of the Holocaust. Readers will be taken on a journey with the characters as they try to solve the mystery behind this lost cantata of Bach that has unmistakable anti-Semitism in the recitatives. This is where Belfer introduces Sara Itzig Levy, a renowned musician in the 1800s, who receives an unsettling gift from her teacher, Bach’s son. This work’s disturbing message will haunt Sara and her family for generations to come. Both Susana and Sara face the same dilemma, what should be done with a music manuscript, which has been carefully concealed from the world since 1783. If revealed it could bring danger upon the Jewish culture. According to Belfer, “the context of the music is relevant. Critics say that the aesthetic beauty is all that counts and composers’ personal thoughts should not be considered. I don’t buy that. I don’t think these anti-Jewish beliefs came out of nowhere. I also touch in the book how the Lutheran religion has in its Bible that ‘Jews should go to hell,’ and there is Martin Luther’s book that is extremely anti-Semitic. These feelings were simmering for hundreds of years. I was surprised when I learned through my research how Lutherans did not disavow these anti-Jewish thoughts until the 1990s. Bach chose the lyrics from several poets that worked with him, and they lashed out at Jews in very contemptuous ways. He was an ordained Minister of Music responsible for choosing the Librettos for the Church pieces; although the piece in the book is fictional.” Composers Felix and Fanny’s Mendelssohns’ great aunt is Sara. It is with these characters that the author explores the treatment of women during the 1800s. Felix Mendelssohn, during most of his sister Fanny’s lifetime, had the power to prohibit her from publishing her music and, in fact, took credit for some of her work. Belfer noted, “The music of Fanny Mendelssohn was depressed for so many years. People are now beginning to rediscover it. To this day I just cannot figure out what was going through Fanny’s mind, refusing to publish her works. Some have said that during the time period she lived society would have disavowed the family. Yet, it seems to me because her husband, mother, and great aunt strongly encouraged her to publish her music those excuses could not be true. I doubt they would have encouraged her if it were going to destroy their position in society. Right before she died she did get the courage and finally published her works.” But the core of the story has the manuscript seeming like a secondary character. Through it readers learn historical facts about Germany, how music can affect people’s views, and what should be done with such a piece of work. And After The Fire is a brilliant novel. It intertwines history and music with likeable characters, both real-life and created. It transports the reader to a world seldom visited, with a mystery that keeps the pages turning. Continue reading
Posted Jul 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 by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar. The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig is part historical novel, part mystery, with a tinge of romance. Throughout the novel World War I is the shadow that follows all the characters. The plot encompasses the changing roles of society, how social structures are collapsing with the goal to escape by partying hard and living the fast life. Throughout the story is the mystery of unraveling secrets, deceits, and drama. The main character, Rachel Woodley, while working as a governess in France, receives news that her mother has died. While cleaning out the cottage she finds a magazine photograph of her supposedly deceased father, and discovers he is the Earl of Ardmore, who is very much alive. Thus begins her shocking discovery that she is not who she thought she was and that her entire existence is a sham. She is humiliated by the thoughts of being his illegitimate daughter and that everything she thought she knew about her past is a lie, even her surname. Shocked, hurt, and furious Rachel assumes a new identity to confront her father. Originally seeking revenge she decides to enlist the help of a gossip columnist, Simon Montfort, to expose the Earl and ruin his reputation. Simon helps her gain entry to some of London’s most coveted social events while creating a new identity, an alter ego named Vera. Willig commented to blackfive.net, “I thought about the idea, what would it be like if someone finds their father is a different person than the one they knew. How would it feel to suddenly have your underpinning taken away with all the memories turned into something false? I am fascinated with the idea that we do not really know all about those close to us. We think we know our parents, but that is based on a perception of our own interactions. We make up our own myths of those around us based on our own needs, desires, and frustrations. It is almost like turning a blind eye, accepting what we know on the surface. Rachel’s family was considered respectable because her late father was an Oxford man. But when she found out her true identity, even though part of her blood was blue, she is no longer considered gentry.” The characters are well developed. One of the most powerful parts of the book is when the author addresses shell shock and how it affected those returning from the war, including emotional breakdowns and suicide. Readers must journey back in time to understand how plausible it would have been for someone to assume another identity without being found out. People will also go through many of the same emotions as the characters as they suffer loss, grief, and betrayal. The plot also has many humorous moments. Especially when Simon and Rachel debate the barrier that exists between the English aristocracy and someone in Rachel’s class, living a propriety life in a genteel household. The witty banter between them is very enjoyable. Readers see Rachel as funny, intelligent, bold, and genuine. Because she feels the period after World War I is the origins of the modern socialite, Willig told of her desire to “compare the lifestyle of the aristocracy to todays. We shifted from them to celebrities. People read and speculate about the affluent lifestyles. The class barriers of the 1920s were permeable. I am always interested in the way class works and the subtle contradictions. People wanted to know about the balls and what the upper class were doing.” Willig’s next book also has a realistic heroine involved in a mystery. The plot has her trying to find out what happened to her brother and his wife, was it a murder/suicide? She enlists the help of a journalist to solve this crime that takes place in New York during the Gilded Age. Willig noted, “I grew up reading mysteries so my books have that component. I believe you are whom you read. I like to construct my plots around an essential mystery that must be solved for the characters to move forward.” As with all her books Willig allows the people to explore the era she writes about. With The Other Daughter readers will enjoy an engaging and engrossing story surrounded by intriguing characters. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2016 at BlackFive
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This book is f#cking awesome. BLUF: First off, this book should be read by every military officer and senior NCO. Second, I wish I had one back when I was a Group S2/S3Air or the Brigade Training Officer in the 3 shop. It is useful for all but I would strongly recommend that all 2nd LTs and ensigns have a copy. This is what they DON'T teach you in ROTC or the Academies or OCS... Penned with a wry wit, LTC Dunphy outlines the do's and, more importantly, the don'ts of leadership from a staff officer's perspective. Politically incorrect as hell, Dunphy has items like "mouth breather" alerts and "bush league/amateur hour" statements. As I read through the survival guide last night, I found myself nodding in agreement or outright laughing along with the author. However, the book is not about entertaining Major B, it is about making Major B a far better officer than he thinks he is. With chapters like "The Beer Math of Doctrinal Consumption", Dunphy usually opens up with some smart-ass remark that then evolves into the lesson to be learned. Por ejemplo, in the section about building a solid relationship with your commander, Dunphy starts with, "Fight the close fight and run the daily operations of the Battalion so your boss can look at the big picture, fight the deep fight, and make out with the good idea fairy." before outlining some common sense methods to accomplish that goal. While most of the information should be intuitive, with 15+ hour days, deployments and field work, leaders may miss some/most of the points made by Dunphy. The survival guide serves as reminders to us all on (1) what to focus on, (2) what not to step in, (3) how to be a better leader and (4) how not be f#cked up like polio. Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 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. Shadow War is the debut novel by Sean McFate. Unlike other thrillers involving geo-politics this does not have a covert organization sanctioned and working secretly with those in the US government. This Tom Locke series involves an organization that hires private contractors/mercenaries to complete missions. The many characters do not do it for love of country, but are “for-profit warriors.” McFate hopes readers will learn more about contractors. “I wanted to give them a real face. They are human beings who are not stock villains and do have a warrior ethos. I wanted to shed light on these new types of warriors. I think they will be used more and more because they allow for plausible deniability, are cheaper, and can provide manpower. They are a way for administrations to have a lack of transparency, oversight, and accountability. For example we have 3500 troops on the ground in Iraq, but 7000 contractors. Remember Senator Obama proposed legislation against private military contractors that President Obama has not touched. Those in the arena are doing their best given limited time and information and have to work under terrible circumstances. General McChrystal understood this and was the best military commander I had the privilege to work with. He is the real deal. He will go to hell and back with his troops.” The main character, Tom Locke, is based on McFate’s own experiences. Both served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers, and later worked as a private military contractors. This allows McFate to create stories with realism and authenticity that encompass deceit, corruption, and wars fought both by “soldiers” on the battlefield and by men wearing suits behind closed doors. McFate drew all the characters from people he knew. He stated to blackfive.net, “Locke is a lot like me although more damaged and bad assed. His best friend Miles was an actual person, modeled after my platoon sergeant and was like an older brother to me. Locke and I served in the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army as paratroopers from 1992 - 2000, and later worked as private military contractors. Locke is still a contractor while I am now a professor at Georgetown University, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and associate professor at National Defense. The differences are I did not have the actual mission assigned to Locke in the Ukraine, but we both worked on stopping genocides, arms deals, and went after African warlords. Locke’s boss Brad Winters is a composite of two to three people. As he is portrayed in the book, the bosses are extremely smart, Machiavellian, shrewd, very ambitious, who work for their own interests without any scruples.” This captivating plot has terrifying power plays and treachery that can tip the balance of power towards Russia’s Putin. Apollo Outcomes, one of the world’s most successful private contracting firms, assigns Locke a dangerous mission. He has one week to rescue a Ukraine wealthy businessman’s family, and lead an assault on Russian forces to place that rich oligarch in a position of influence and leadership. With a team of highly trained mercenaries and careful planning it appears he will accomplish the mission. Getting in the way of success is Alie Macfarlane, an old love who stumbles, unluckily, back into his life at the very worst time imaginable and his boss, Brad Winters, is engaged in a secretive, high-stakes geopolitical chess game with influential power brokers in capitals around the world. The author sees Putin as a threat to the US and wrote this as a preview of what could happen. “In future years the rise of nationalism will allow Putin to move into Eastern Europe through shadow wars. Remember he thought the worst event of the 20th Century was the dismantlement of the Soviet Union. He has a Czarist ambition for Eastern Europe. This plot shows how he might do it. In this Internet age someone like Putin will take over a country, not like the Soviets did, but through disruption and installing a puppet to rule. It is done with massive propaganda, Internet trolls, proxy militia, mercenaries, and “Little Green Men,” Russian soldiers without Russian insignia on their fatigues. Putin understands America will probably not risk World War III over Article 5 of NATO.” Shadow War is a gripping believable story filled with suspense and intrigue. Readers will learn about the shadowy covert world of private contractors/mercenaries and how wars might be fought in the future. The grittiness of the main character, Tom Locke, adds to the plotline. Anyone looking for a different type of thriller should put this book on their radar. Readers will look forward to the future adventures of Locke. Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 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. Ghosts Of War by Brad Taylor blends humor, action, and history. Anyone who was a fan of the late legendary thriller author Vince Flynn should read Taylor, the heir apparent to the Mitch Rapp series with his Pike Logan books. The realistic scenarios, technology, and military operations keep the plot moving and insightful. Asked about the humorous scenes the author responded, “Maybe because I am a smart aleck. While writing something might strike me as funny so I put it in the book. Regarding the believability, I make sure I always go back and answer every question. For example, when writing scene x I think why wouldn’t they just call the police? Another example, I can have Pike driving a car, reach for something and swerve into another lane. But, if I put that scene into the story people will say ‘how convenient.’ I always think of a good explanation for why the characters do what they do. I actually become a reader since every 100 pages I go back and reread the story to make sure nothing jumps out.” He is also able to use his experiences to enhance the story. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army infantry, he served for twenty-one years, retiring as a Special Forces Lt. Colonel. While in the Delta unit he conducted operations in support of US national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations. This story begins with Pike and Company sidelined because the Taskforce, an illegal off the books group, has been put on hold. While on stand down, two Israeli contractors, Shoshana and Aaron, hire Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill to help find hidden items stolen by the Nazis. This part of the book uses history to formulate the fictional scenes as the heroes struggle to attain an ancient Torah. The backstory about the Nazi gold trains explained how the Jewish people were stripped of everything valuable: gold, paintings, wedding rings, and ancient artifacts while they were loaded into cattle cars. Meanwhile Russia is trying to expand its influence under the guise of fighting terrorism by moving into Belaurs, a country in Eastern Europe on its border. Russian President Putin uses oligarchs and thugs, the Night Wolves, to create a diversion. Having an agenda of their own, they attempt to create a scenario that will cause World War III between the US and Russia that includes shooting down an American aircraft. With time running out, and America demanding vengeance, Pike and his partner Jennifer enlist the Israelis to help them race to unravel who is involved before a point of no return is reached. Fast checking this story: the Night Wolves are an actual motorcycle organization, thugs who work for Putin to stop any protests. Putin is trying to leverage countries for their natural resources. Unfortunately, many of the countries in Russia’s sphere of influence can by taken over without any risk of war, since NATO troops have been depleted. The main antagonist Simon Migonuv is based on a Russian oligarch, the head of a crime syndicate, influential in running the gas pipelines, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list, and has a passport from Israel. Regarding the Nazi gold trains, Taylor noted when he was in Poland doing the research he actually saw these tunnels that he speculates could have possibly been used to build super weapons. All of Taylor’s books have a reoccurring realistic theme of how US policy is determined by politics while citizens’ lives sometimes take a back seat. Quotes reflect this opinion such as when the taskforce commander, Kurt Hale states, “Politics trumps security every time,” and “Ignore what the damn politicians say. You’re the president now. Not a member of a political party.” He explained to blackfive.net, “The world is not black and white. During the crisis with Apollo 13 the effort was made to save three lives. Yet, if an individual hostage is taken as in the case in Syria there might be no effort to get them back, especially if it means risking war.” As the series progresses so does Taylor’s character development. He explores the relationship between Jennifer and Pike, as well as between Shoshana and Aaron. Beyond that readers begin to understand that Jennifer is more comfortable in her Taskforce role and that Shoshana’s backstory has created the person she is today. These scenes are interesting, emotional, and sometimes funny as the characters banter lightens the intensity. Taylor commented, “I was going to kill Shoshana and Aaron in the first book they appeared in, but I liked them so much I decided to keep them alive. In this book we understand why Shoshana was broken from day one. She looks up to Pike and Jennifer and in many ways wants to emulate them as she searches to find her way. She admires Jennifer for her moral compass and feels that Pike is a brother to her. Although Shoshana and Aaron will not be in my next book, Ring of Fire, out in January, they will be the subjects of the short story, The Target, out next year.” Ghosts Of War is action packed, fast-paced, and gripping. With each book readers get to know more of the characters’ personalities, making the story more enjoyable to read. Not only will people have a riveting story, well-developed characters, some historical background, but will also enjoy Taylor’s pop culture references. Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 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. American Underdog written by Congressman David Brat discusses how Americans need to return to the moral and economic lessons of Classical Greece and Judeo-Christian values. He emphasizes the need to protect future generations through a solid Conservative agenda. The Congressman was interviewed regarding important issues of the day. People might think of him as the 21st Century “Mr. Smith”, or “Dave” Kovic. David Brat resembles these movie characters, a citizen politician, a single voice who tries to put their imprint on American politics and policy. Brat is known for his odds defying win in 2014 against the then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat was a little known economics and ethics professor who ran against the Washington establishment of his own party. He noted in the book, “In politics, I believe that true power derives from the people…I began my run for office out of the simple recognition that the establishment and oversized federal government are out of touch with the desires of voters and more responsive legislators are needed immediately.” Winning the Congressional seat for the 7th District of Virginia was a spark that preceded the recent rise of Donald Trump and the Brexit election where voters want leaders to represent them, not a bunch of elitists. He commented, “Lovers of liberty everywhere should cheer the Brexit vote. The British chose clearly and decisively to take their power back from elites in Europe and to throw off the shackles of punishing rules and regulations handed down by disconnected and unaccountable officials. The people of my district, just as the people of Britain did a few days ago, proved that regular people with legitimate concerns, who play by the rules but feel like they are treated as second-class citizens in their own country, will speak out. The English need to reclaim their culture, borders, and a free economic system.” What is important for the Congressman is returning to what he considers the three pillars of America’s foundation: moral tradition, rule of law, and the free market system. He compares what happened in England; how a nation state, took back its sovereignty, to what should happen in the US, with states’ rights and the Congressional branch regaining their power. He noted, “The Tenth Amendment says the Federal Government has certain powers, but the rest belongs to the states. Then there is Congress. I am working with Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) regarding an Article I project, which says Congress should make all laws. The Senator has a picture in his office from 2013, which shows how Congress passed five inches of law compared to the Executive Branch, the President, that had eleven feet. This is a huge difference. This is happening because Congressional members do not want to take a hard vote on anything.” He cites three examples. First, the Corker Bill allowed for the passage of the Iran Nuclear Deal. “This was unconstitutional because it changed the Senate voting on treaties from a 2/3 vote to a 1/3 vote. Another example is Congressman Brian Babin (R-TX) who tried to stop the refugee flow into this country from terrorist hot spots. “Yet, the Republican leadership refused to consider it, but put a 400% increase in H2B visas in last year’s budget. They did not do the right thing, and moved 180% in the opposite direction.” His final example is how then Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) promised that he would thwart President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty. “However, we did not fight it at all. We did nothing. The standard joke in Washington is ‘it is easy to compromise. Just vote to spend more money.’ In the last two years we had three million immigrants and just last months job report said we created only 38,000 jobs. Do the math on the job front. 0.7% growth is not sustainable. This is what I am trying to change.” The book also explains in great detail how Congress must deal with the issue of mandatory spending. He noted to blackfive.net, “In ten years all Federal revenues will go only to our mandatory programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. There will not be a dollar left for the military, education, transportation, or anything else. We will have to deficit finance the entire budget. This is coming from the report of the Congressional Budget Office. As representatives, we need to tell the American people about taxes and spending. We need to explain how our children will not have any basic systems in about fifteen years. We should be presenting in a clear and understandable way the different options and what will result from each. We are not doing this. Republican leadership has left a giant vacuum.” Congressman Brat has taken a pledge to only serve for twelve years. He thinks part of the solution is to have Congress make hard choices, and to have term limits. If there were more Representatives like Brat something might actually get done in Congress. He is the real life Mr. Smith and Dave, humble and honest with good ideas. Now if only others in Congress can follow his lead. Continue reading
Posted Jul 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 sidebar. Hell’s Gate by Bill Schutt with J. R. Finch is an eco-thriller. Combining geo-politics with zoology Schutt uses his knowledge to create this plot involving creatures during World War II. He is a University professor with a specialty in vertebrate zoology, and a research assistant to the American Museum of Natural History. Schutt commented to blackfive.net, “I went to this place in Brazil and thought how it would be a good setting. Since I am a World War II buff I wanted to combine my profession, with my hobby, and this wonderful place. At the time of the plot this place was very isolated, where I imagined the possibility of Germany moving its rocket scientists here, a place that could never be found and would be hard to attack. The creatures are based on my studies of vampire bats that lived in this region. The creatures in the story actually existed.” The plot has the US military parachuting into the Brazilian jungle Captain R. J. MacCready. He enters into Hell’s Gate, a huge plateau that is one of the most remote regions in the world. Each character has a special skill to help solve the mysterious puzzle: MacCready is the expert on bats, a quick-witted, brilliant, scientific jack-of-all-trades zoologist, who is unexpectedly reunited with his friend and botanist, Bob Thorne, thought to be dead, and his wife, Yanni, who possesses cryptic skills. Together they learn of a diabolical Axis plot to destroy America and its allies, and a creepy dark force that attacks at night. The plot has the protagonists trying to save humanity from the Nazis who are attempting to launch a major rocket and a creature, Desmodus draculae, similar to the vampire bats, that has migrated there. Since the setting is almost a secondary character Schutt used his own experiences of spending nights “in the rain forest and living in caves. I wanted to get across to the readers what it would be like to be there alone at night: what it would sound like, smell like, and able to crawl around the floor of a cave. I have been up all night in a tree with no one around.” His next book will be about the natural history of cannibalism out on Valentine’s Day. The sequel to Hell’s Gate, out next year, will have MacCready wearing much warmer clothing and takes place two years later. As with all of his books, Schutt wants to make sure he is able to include his zoologist background to enhance the plot. Hell’s Gate has vivid descriptions of the rain forest with the authors evoking the dangers of nature. Combining that with the dangers of Nazi science development the plot has a very adventurous tone. Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 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. Jane Doe January by crime writer Emily Winslow is a personal memoir of a horrific tragedy, a rape she was forced to endure. While turning the pages people will get fresh insight into the world of the victim as Winslow confronts issues. Readers will begin to understand how there is no set stereotype for a victim, since not everyone is going to act and feel the same way. Winslow commented to blackfive.net, “I tried to understand and accept that the jury could only like me if I conformed to some very narrow range of emotion. I could not be angry. When on the stand I would have to show emotions of vulnerability and hurt; yet, hold back on other emotions. I wondered how do you let sadness show but keep anger in, and be vulnerable but keep my dignity.” Through this book Winslow takes readers on a journey with her as she delves into her past, reconnects with the original detective on her case, and works with prosecutors as they prepare for a trial. The story travels back in time to the morning in January 1992 when she was raped. Over the course of the next two decades she marries, has two children, becomes an American expatriate living in Cambridge England, and becomes a crime writer. The story reveals how she had to become her own legal advocate to get possible retribution. She would encounter a revolving door of detectives as she tried to keep her case alive through inquiries. Only through pure luck, when a friend of another victim convinces a cold case detective to test the DNA, do they find the rapist, Arthur Fryar. After matches were found to provide sufficient evidence he was prosecuted in 2013. Although the ending would not be happily ever after Winslow did get the truth and some kind of justice. The most interesting points are when Winslow displays her emotions. She does not comply with the usual portrayals of rape victims as seen on the TV shows. Readers learn how she did not shy away from the rapist, but became obsessed with him, taking to social media to find as many facts as she could by delving into his family and past. Beyond that she talks to the reader through her writings, letting them know that she is not going to forgive him and that she is not going to cower, instead showing feelings of anger and defiance. Finally, people see how the judicial system can let down a victim as Winslow confronts extradition, statutory limits, and sentencing guidelines. She wants people to understand there is no one fits all type of victim noting, “It’s like people want the victims to follow a script. I write in the book, ‘What I feel is that I would like him to be sentenced long enough that he will surely die in prison.’ Yet, it seems so important to people that I forgive him. I think they want it so I would go along with the perfect victim story. Being a devout Christian, I tried to figure out what forgiveness was supposed to look like. It was like they were trying to rationalize reasons for my attitude. They wanted me to say I was testifying to save potential future victims. I thought what happened to me is enough of a reason to testify. People tried to see me as selfless, which I gently corrected.” Jane Doe January is very powerful because it allows people to think how they would have reacted. It is written in almost a diary form as Winslow recounts her quest to seek justice in a very open and honest way. People should read this memoir to get invaluable insight into the mind and heart of a victim. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 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. Wake Up America should be the rallying cry for everyone who wants the United States to be great again. It is also the name of The Five co-host Eric Bolling’s book. He presents in it a clear vision for this nation, which has gone adrift over the last seven years. The book starts off powerfully with a dedication to President Obama and takes off from there as he explains why there is a need to return to the nine virtues of America’s past. Bolling talks about his book with blackfive.net. The qualities he writes about are grit, manliness, individualism, merit, profit and providence, dominion over our environment, thrift, and above all pride in this country. Bolling speaks of his background, raised in a struggling blue-collar family in Chicago, where he learned from his parents that hard work and firm values will allow someone to get ahead in life. Those values drove him as a young baseball player to being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, then success as a New York Mercantile Exchange trader, and now his daily role on Fox News Channel. The book begins with a dedication to President Obama, “If it weren’t for your announced goal of ‘fundamentally transforming the United States of America,’ I wouldn’t have been to exceedingly motivated to write this book to stop you and your liberal pals from achieving that goal. America will survive your agenda.” He explained, “I did the dedication because this upcoming election is extremely important. It is the last shot we have for at least eight years, maybe longer. We need to push back against President Obama’s stated goal of not making America exceptional on the world stage. The President has done everything in his power to achieve the goal of undermining American exceptionalism. We were built on having the strongest work ethic, the motivation to achieve, and the desire to have free market capitalism.” One group that exemplifies these virtues is the US military. In the “Grit” chapter he wrote, “There are a few major exceptions to today’s ‘softness indoctrination.’ The biggest and by far most important is the US military. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are among the toughest, grittiest folks to ever walk the planet.” Bolling circles back to the Obama dedication as he blames this administration for “questioning the actions of our forces, which has allowed us to go from a winning strategy to a losing one.” How many people have been frustrated with political correctness? Bolling shows his exasperation calling it “defeatist crap…a huge number of Americans think trying to make everyone equal is the right thing to do. For example, a school board's decision in North Carolina to stop naming valedictorians over the ‘unhealthy competition’ is an example of liberalism run amok. What they are saying, ‘it is not ok to work hard and succeed.’ It is a ‘everyone gets a trophy culture.’ We need to emphasize winning, being in first place or the Asian countries like China will eat us for lunch. The top ten countries in math, science, and reading are the Asian countries. We're becoming a nation of wussies. Let's stop America's slide into the liberal abyss. People are fed up with political correctness and are tired of being told what to say, how to say it, and who to say it to.” The “Manliness” chapter is not intended to offend women. Bolling explains that he did not want it misinterpreted. “I did not mean it as some kind of sexist statement, man versus woman, but based it on the word ‘mankind.’ We need to be strong, forward, and to say what we think. Margaret Thatcher epitomized manliness for standing by her values.” In the “Profit” chapter there is the implication that words such as profit and successful are dirty words to the Liberals. But isn’t it more than that, it is also the hypocrisy? Hillary Clinton speaks of her gender; yet, is relying on her two male bookends, President Obama and Bill Clinton. She also speaks of income inequality, but has made a fortune since being First Lady. Bolling thinks “being a hypocrite is anonymous with being a liberal. Hillary talks of income inequality, but gets hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak at a college. If she cares for college students’ welfare give the speeches for free. And she speaks of being the first female president at the same time she says her husband will run the economy.” Bolling has made great points because Americans are asleep. Just refer to what Jonathan Gruber said about Obamacare and what Ben Rhodes said about the Iran Deal, pulling the wool over people’s eyes. The common theme in the book is the need to wake-up, to push back against this liberal culture, by returning to the values of what America is founded on. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 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. A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams is part mystery, part historical, and part romance that is based upon Richard Strauss’ opera, Der Rosenkavalier. It has a gripping plot involving family secrets, an unsolved murder, intrigue, and scandal during the l920s. The title is a metaphor for the time period and the age of each character that is very relevant to the storyline. The narrative alternates between the perspective of Sophie Fortescue and Theresa Marshall with each chapter beginning with a quote from the actual journalist and humorist Helen Rowland. As the story unfolds readers understand that socialite Theresa, age 44, is having a love affair with Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome twenty-two year old aviator and hero of World War I. She enlists him to act as her brother’s cavalier to present the family’s engagement ring. After meeting Sophie Octavian becomes enthralled with her. With the love triangle progressing the saga emphasizes divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists. Williams once commented that she wants to make her characters interesting with a likeable and unlikeable side. She has certainly achieved her goal in this book. Octavian is honorable and loyal, yet appears to be somewhat of a “wus” in the relationship with Theresa. He allows her to take complete control and while professing his love for her falls head over heals for Sophie. She wrote him as a hero who “sacrificed for his country and had to deal with the fact that many of his friends died in the war. An aviator in WWI has a life span of about six weeks. He had survivor’s guilt. He understands he has the power to walk away, but would never do that because it would break his code of loyalty, obligation, and honor. He loves Theresa because she needs him and has brought him back to life. Theresa’s hurt heals through the love of Octavian while his war wounds heal through her. The challenge is making readers understand the dynamics of each relationship.” Theresa has had a hard time in her life, forced into a marriage at a young age, having her husband cheat on her from day one, has a still born daughter, and loses her favorite son during WWI. But she is also very manipulative and controlling. It seems that Octavian to her is no more than a plaything as she calls him Boyo, never by his name, and orders him around as if he is her servant. Williams wanted, “readers to sympathize with her. She has iron around her heart because she has been hurt over and over again. The shield she hides behind is to appear uncaring. Her emotional intimacy is expressed through sexual intimacy with Octavian. She needs to be in complete control of their complicated relationship.” Sophie is an innocent, gutsy woman who strives for independence and symbolizes the women of that era who challenged the role society has pigeonholed for them. An added bonus Williams has become known for are the descriptive and detailed happenings of the 1920s, which add depth to the story. Through the characters people see the conflict between old and new money, the demeanor of Ty Cobb, the famous horse Man O’ War, as well as the growing importance of the new technologies, the automobile and airplane. Coming from a middle class life in suburban Seattle, Williams commented to blackfive.net, she went “on vacation with her family to Oregon for the Shakespeare festival. It was a very absorbing experience with my parents always coaching us about the plays so we knew what is going on. Since my parents had intellectual interests and were not into the pop culture it made it hard for me to relate to people growing up. Now as an adult I look on it as my secret weapon. I love Shakespeare and operas and I don’t care if that makes me a geek. I feel very fortunate because it helped influence my writings. Anyone who pays attention to Shakespeare sees the relationship conflict, which is the centerpiece for my books, when characters are placed into emotional jeopardy.” Those who read her books will never be disappointed. She creates a suspenseful plot with characters that are three-dimensional. Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 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. Field Of Graves, by J. T. Ellison, the first book in the Taylor Jackson series, is a great read. Those who have never read this series will enjoy a gripping story with well-developed characters. Fans of this series will learn about the characters’ backstories, sometimes seeing them in a different light. The story has two characters facing their demons, Lieutenant Taylor Jackson and FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. They both must overcome the psychological scars of killing their co-workers, either directly or indirectly. Forgiveness is a major theme where they have to forgive themselves to survive. They work together to help each other recover and to find a serial killer who is murdering Vanderbilt college students in Nashville. Part of the team is medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, a friend of Taylors. Ellison takes readers on a journey with Taylor’s team, the Murder Squad, as they attempt to find who is responsible for the killings. As the story notes, “The Murder Squad” is not based on the Scotland Yard detectives in the Victorian era, but high elite Nashville homicide detectives whose closure rate was 83%. What makes the story so compelling is the interaction between the characters. Anyone following the series will see how they have grown and changed over the past decade. Samantha is still blunt and a sister-like best friend to Taylor, but they have seemed to change roles. While Samantha is happy and carefree, Taylor is tough, smart, likeable, and has a troubled edge. Her kindred spirit is Dr. John Baldwin, someone she saved emotionally. He is nothing like the person in the later novels, behaving tough as nails. Together they have unconditional love and make each other whole. Ellison writes Taylor as being very black and white, without any grey. She came up with the character because she wanted a female homicide detective “with a moral compass who is half cop, half rock star, and someone who loves her town of Nashville. I did not want her to be this tortured female who did not have the respect of her peers. But rather, someone good at what she does and is accepted for her intelligence and ability. I wanted to make sure my heroine was not a victim. I would describe her as Athena, the warrior-goddess of Nashville.” A loveable supporting character is Jade the cat that adds to the storyline. Ellison noted to blackfive.net, “Jade is my muse. She is real. I had lost a cat and was unemployed when I found Jade. I adopted her and after taking her to a vet I found a job there. I actually hurt my back picking up a dog, and while recovering decided to become a crime writer like John Sandford. I chose the Nashville setting because I wanted to learn more about my new town. The world knows it as the home of country music, yet it’s a much more complex, dynamic city than it first appears, and has a cosmopolitan air. We have the old South rubbing elbows with newfound fame and fortune. We have a serious dichotomy between the upper and lower classes, and a lot of crime.” She writes three series. Her latest is A Brit In the FBI, with legendary author Catherine Coulter. The next book, out in March of next year, has the FBI delving into the history of the Ark of the Covenant. Because of the popularity of her character Dr. Samantha Owens she started a spin off series. Yet, many times the Taylor and Samantha series overlap characters, which is the case with the next book, All Fall Down, a continuation of the stalker serial killer story in What Lies Behind. Those readers who want to understand more of these characters can read All The Pretty Girls, which is being re-published this July. Field Of Graves is a compelling and captivating novel. The characters are realistic and interesting. Anyone who reads this book will want to read all the books in the series. Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 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. Duty And Honor by Grant Blackwood brings back the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan Jr. This story explores a murder centered around a German connection. The plot has an organization whose major recruiting technique is to kidnap children and then release them to grateful parents who become part of a neo-warfare plan. Those who do not freely go along have themselves or their family subjected to torture, drug addiction, and brain washing. The philosophy is to have private armies answerable to no government, no laws, and no rules of engagement. Jack was suspended from The Campus, a covert agency in the government who combats US enemies. Throughout the book Jack Jr. is seen as rusty from his time off. Blackwood noted to blackfive.net, “Special operators always have a strong preference for the type of weapon they chose to use. Knifes play a prevalent role in this book so Jack Jr. can follow clues. The reason he makes mistakes is to make him more believable. The mindset of those in Special Forces is that ‘something will always go wrong.’ I wanted to show how Jack responds to that scenario. I think he grew up a lot in this book. He did a lot of thinking of who he is and where he is going.” A new character is Effrem Likkel, a freelance journalist. Blackwood has the characters play a role reversal as Jack tries to become more mature. With Effrem he sees himself looking into the mirror where Effrem is impulsive, undisciplined, and is single-mindedly focused instead of looking at the big picture. They both must come to grips with being the son of a famous person since Effrem’s mother is a well renowned journalist, while Jack Jr.’s father is the US President. Duty And Honor has a fast-paced intriguing plot. Both Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood have enhanced the Tom Clancy characters and have created new absorbing and captivating roles. Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 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 House Of Secrets by Brad Meltzer with Tod Goldberg is the first book in a riveting new thriller series. Most authors are well known for their writing style and Meltzer is no different, as he has become the king of the conspiracy mystery. Not only does this plot hold the reader’s attention, but it also keeps them off balance and navigating through the twists and turns. Meltzer became intrigued “Eight years ago at the National Archives I was shown the Oath of Allegiance. Those who signed it agreed not to betray the US. One of those names was Benedict Arnold, who was a distinguished military man. Before he became a traitor he had put his life on the line for our country. In that moment when I saw his signature the story all came together for me. I could not get out of my head the story of the last moments between Benedict Arnold and George Washington. It has been said that the portrayal was one of the few times Washington actually cried in public. It is unbelievable that Arnold asked for his baggage and clothes with Washington delivering them immediately. The conspiracy presents itself because no one knows what was in the baggage.” Espionage, government corruption, family secrets, blackmail, betrayal, murder, and a historical conspiracy are all incorporated into the plot. The main protagonist is Hazel Nash. Meltzer has done with her what he previously did with another main character Beecher White, who makes a cameo appearance in this novel. Both characters are realistic, believable, likeable, complex, and intelligent; although Hazel is more of a “badass.” The mystery begins on page one when the Nash family gets into a car accident. The father, Jack Nash, host of a conspiracy investigation TV show is killed and his daughter Hazel has a traumatic brain injury. She is intent on regaining her memory and discovering the real reason behind her father’s death. Remembering her father’s words, that mysteries need to be solved, she wonders if the tale he told her about Benedict Arnold could be true. Conspiracy theorists believe that Arnold was a not a traitor, but a double agent. Meltzer writes in the book why do we remember the name of Benedict Arnold and not other traitors? He noted to blackfive.net, “I think there is something said for being the first traitor. There are no absolutes in life so anyone who believes that all the conspiracies are true or none at all is silly. I think sometimes the government is absolutely lying and sometimes not. I don’t believe in all of them, but do believe is some. I used the Nixon and Kennedy names for my characters because they were the best conspiracies of all. The one that was solved and the one we still cannot answer: Watergate and the JFK assassination.” Hazel is spurred on with her investigation when FBI agent Trevor Rabkin, aka known as Rabbit, reports that her father was poisoned to death along with Darren Nixon and Arthur Kennedy, the latter found dead wearing a Continental Army outfit. Working as a team they must combat an assassin know as The Bear as they search for answers. House Of Secrets is an engrossing story with intrigue, mystery, history, and suspense. All these ingredients are mixed together to form a fascinating conspiracy theory. This fast paced narrative has well developed characters and a plot that will make readers question everything they were taught in the history books. Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 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. Lost And Gone Forever by Alex Grecian concludes the Murder Squad series. Set in Victorian England it brings to life Jack the Ripper and his ability to thwart capture. Readers should be forewarned that this story will be more understandable if the other two books are read in order. Grecian noted to blackfive.net, “There was a real Murder Squad, similar to a homicide unit in America. I wanted to write about the best and most famous detectives in London’s history. I did this by changing names and dates. The Commissioner of Police at the Yard was a real person. Colonel Sir Edward Bradford was larger than life. He was an amazing man who led a remarkable life.” Over the time span of the series many changes have occurred to the characters. All of them were interesting and multi-layered, including the antagonists. Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith lost his job and now has a private detective agency, devoting all his time to finding his friend and peer Detective Walter Day who has been MIA for over a year. His wife Claire has devoted her life to raising her children, finding Walter, and writing children’s stories; one of which is an outgrowth of the anxiety she feels about her missing husband. The wealthy men of the Karstphanomen, a secret society that attempted to use vigilante methods towards criminals, hired ruthless bounty hunters, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, to find and kill Jack the Ripper. Although many readers may think Jack represents pure evil, Grecian does not see it that way and instead thinks he is “self-centered. It’s all about Jack. Anything that gets in his way he will get rid of without a second thought. Yet, occasionally he will do something nice, like when he saved Hammersmith’s life. I think he is a very complicated figure. He is not vulnerable in the least, because he never cares about anybody.” This final installment has the devious, deranged, and deadly Jack the Ripper manipulating Day through torture and hypnosis. As the story begins this broken detective, just released by Jack, is now in a dazed and amnesiac state. Jack is attempting to use Day as his pawn as the Ripper finds retribution against those that caused him pain by killing the members off one by one. An interesting aspect of the book is how Grecian centered the plot in Plumm’s Emporium Department Store, a la Harrods in London. He commented, “I wanted to make the coincidences realistic. This enabled me to use coincidence to help weave all the characters’ different stories together. I needed a place where lots of people would naturally congregate and cross paths. It also enabled me to show how the world changed with having everything a person needed in one place.” Grecian also gave a heads up about his next book. It will be the first in a new contemporary series set in America. The police are hunting for a Nazi that has hidden in the US for over half a century. The series is based on a new character that hunts down war criminals, similar to Simon Wiesenthal. Grecian has a knack for writing thrillers that are terrifying. He has no qualms in putting in scenes that are extremely gory. His plots always involve complicated characters that have fascinating backstories. Anyone wanting to sit on their edge of their seat should read the novel, Lost And Gone Forever. Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 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 Wolf Of Sarajevo by Matthew Palmer is a thriller set in the Balkans. It is the author’s way of reminding Americans about that part of the world. Because of his close ties Palmer is able to use his experiences to create a good storyline. Palmer has spent a good amount of his life and career working in this area of the world. His first post was with the Foreign Service at the US Embassy in Serbia. He later served as desk officer in Washington and as a political counselor in Belgrade where he helped broker the ”April 19th Agreement” between Serbia and Kosovo. This August he will be taking over as the director to the Balkans. He also has personal connections since his wife is Serbian. The complex make-up of the area makes this story very believable. Palmer shows how this is a region where politics, ethnicity, and history blend together with century-old grievances. The plot begins as Annika Sondergaard, a European Union diplomat, has a plan to unite the Balkans and stop the in fighting, enlisting the help of career US diplomat Eric Petrosian. He is back in Sarajevo at the embassy, with the specter of war once again hanging over the Balkans. The Bosnian Serb leader, who had for a time been seeking a stable peace, has turned back to his nationalist roots and is threatening to pull Bosnia apart in a bloody struggle for control. Eric is dragged deeper into the political mayhem while uncovering a plot of blackmail and ruthless ambitions. Understanding how the area can be confusing to outsiders Palmer struggled with the details from his personal experiences. He commented to blackfive.net, “Just because something is complex doesn’t mean that it needs to be dull. I hope to allow the readers through the story to see the human side of the diplomatic profession. I wanted to highlight in the book the awfulness of man’s inhumanity to man. I was able to write elements of truth regarding the cruelty of psychopaths, like Radovan Karabjic, who rose to positions of power. The title is based on the Balkan proverb, ‘The wolf changes its fur, but never its character.’” He also compared the two female main characters, Annika and Sarah. “Annika is an idealist who is pragmatic, brave, and an experienced politician. Sarah shares her vision of trying to make peace in the Balkans but as a CIA operative she does immoral things to achieve that objective. I put the Nietzsche quote at the beginning of the book that best describes Sarah: ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.’ Sarah is prepared to do whatever it takes to support her cause for the greater good.” His next book will also be a stand alone involving a female diplomat who returns to her homeland of Kyrgystan. He explained he likes stand-alones, “I learned from my father that in those types of books authors can create a sense of urgency and tension. It is putting ordinary people, who are just doing their job, into extraordinary circumstances, where trouble seems to find them. I also wanted readers to understand that foreign-service diplomats are seen as positive and valuable people who do not cut deals with the devil.” The Wolf Of Sarajevo is well written with personal touches from a career diplomat that knows the area well. The story is believable and realistic. Continue reading
Posted Jun 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 Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor is a fascinating historical novel that touches on intense and compelling themes where dreams really do come true. Readers will take the adventurous journey with the main characters as they struggle with love, hope, loss, and healing. This rags to riches story has Dorothy “Dolly” Lane struggling to overcome the low-life career of being a chambermaid, someone invisible to the upper class, while striving to become a renowned star of the London stage. Many readers might be reminded of the musical My Fair Lady based on the play Pygmalion. The storyline has Dorothy taken in by Loretta May, a famous actress who has a rebellious streak and lives as she likes. She hopes to teach Dorothy how to fit into upper society and become her protégé. But the story also has Loretta, the daughter of an Earl, falling in love and marrying a soldier, a commoner without a title. Set shortly after the end of WWI, this novel is told by three narrators in the first person, with each perspective offering some of the historical past. Through Dolly readers can explore the class system and the rise of women’s independence; Loretta and her brother Perry explore the Jazz Age; and Teddy Cooper, Dolly’s fiancé, is a solider whose life is changed by the war as he suffers from shell shock. It is through Teddy that readers understand how WWI loomed large over everyone and everything. All the characters are fascinating, including many interesting secondary ones that also influenced the story including the Savoy Hotel. Through the descriptions and events within the hotel it becomes clear that it takes on a personality of its own, almost speaking to the characters. For some it becomes a place of security, almost like returning to a long lost friend. Many times people speak of hearing cracks and creaks within houses. Gaynor through her research found “people in the book and in the real world talk about it as a living, breathing character. It is a place where things were happening, where people came and went, with lots of interesting drama.” It appears that the hotel reacts to the issues the characters face including their sense of loss and how they are haunted by those memories. Teddy has amnesia and lost the life he once knew. Reflected in this quote by Dolly are her feelings, “My heart was broken, my dreams were shattered, my hopes were bruised. Without ever stepping onto a battlefield, I too was wounded… In many ways Teddy did not come back at all.” Loretta lost her newlywed husband during the war, and Perry, the musical composer brother, lost his edge, preferring to be a follower than a leader, after being part of a firing squad that killed his best friend. Gaynor noted to blackfive.net, “There was this loss of innocence. Remember the famous line as soldiers went off to war, ‘It will be over by Christmas.’ The families left behind the lost years together. Many waited for four years for loved ones to come home, and physically they might have, but the person once known, no longer existed. The lost years created a period of separation that placed an emotional strain on the loved ones. Typically history does not write about the women left behind on the home front, which is why I wrote the backstory of Dolly. Many were haunted by the loss of the life they had hoped to have. Unfortunately, people did not talk about how they felt. Instead, having to endure a stiff upper lip and a get on with it attitude.” If The Girl From The Savoy is the first book read by Gaynor it will not be the last. She uses the backdrop of World War I to create a riveting and gripping plot with characters that will pull the reader immediately into the story. Not only will people learn about the history of the 1920s, but will feel they are along for the ride with the very well developed characters. Continue reading
Posted Jun 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. In a just released book, Legend, (WWW.ERICBLEHM.COM) author Eric Blehm recounts the heroism of Green Beret Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez, of the U.S. Army’s 240th Assault Helicopter Company. The first part of the book details Roy’s early life from birth until marriage, enlistment, and examples of the his tenacious spirit. In 1966, Roy suffered a serious injury from his first tour in Vietnam, having been told he would never walk again. Yet, a year later after much therapy and willpower, Roy not only regained his ability to walk, but qualified to become an elite Army Green Beret. The 2nd part of the book gives a lot of background into the special operations out of Vietnam and the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, including how the US covertly inserted and removed 12-Man Special Forces A Teams. The last part of the book details the events of May 2nd, 1968. Benavidez went into the firefight to bring out the wounded soldiers, part of a team sent into Cambodia. Upon arrival he jumped out and into the withering enemy fire. Despite being immediately and severely wounded, Benavidez reached the perimeter of the decimated team, provided medical care, and proceeded to organize an extraordinary defense and rescue. During the hours-long battle, he was bayoneted, shot, and hit by grenade shrapnel more than thirty times, yet he refused to abandon his efforts until every survivor was out of harm’s way. Ingrained into his thinking by his grandfather, Benavidez had the attitude ‘if someone needs help, you help them.’ Blehm told blackfive.net, “He knowingly went into a place of chaos. It is obvious it is not the size of the man, but the size of his heart. The story is surreal considering after putting the wounded on the helicopter, he went back to rescue the interpreter, while holding his own intestines. As I recount in the book, he crawled around the seriously wounded, giving tactical orders, took charge of air support, medical aid, ammunition, and boosted the wounded morale.” He saved the lives of eight men and eventually recovered, receiving the Medal of Honor thirteen years later. He dedicated his life to inspire those in his situation, from humble and difficult beginnings. A powerful part of the book is when Blehm discusses the treatment of those who fought in Vietnam. The Army told them to be proud of their service and go home to rejoin their family and friends. Telling them, “They are proud of you and are anxiously awaiting your return.” Yet, in direct contradiction Roy was told not to wear his uniform in public. However, Blehm recounts how Roy disobeyed those orders. It was not the veterans who were the “baby killers,” but the North Vietnamese who crucified children to walls and used them as target practice. Legend is a moving story. Through extensive research readers get to know Roy personally and understand that the American soldier had their hands tied by politicians. After reading this book people should realize that there is a great debt owed to those that fought in Vietnam, soldiers who were doing their patriotic duty. Continue reading
Posted Jun 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. Five Presidents by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin is a non-fiction book written as a page turning historical novel. People might not recognize the author, but the photo of him jumping on the Presidential car is engrained in most everyone’s mind. He is the Secret Service Agent that heroically leaped onto the Kennedy car in Dallas after the President was shot. Knowing people have played Monday morning quarterback for decades about the JFK assassination, Hill dispelled to blackfive.net some of the rumors: “I don’t think what the FBI knew would have made a difference. Nothing indicated Lee Harvey Oswald had a grievance against President Kennedy. There was no conspiracy because no one would have utilized a guy like Oswald, who was not intelligent or capable enough for anyone to put trust in him. He was a failure: his wife split up with him, unable to become a Marine, and could not hold down a job. Even his defection to the Soviet Union did not work out. He came back to the US and was extremely upset because no one honored him. He did the assassination in an attempt to seek recognition.” The reason the car did not initially speed up was “the driver apparently heard and thought perhaps the noise was a blown tire. I know he tapped the break pedal ever so briefly because I saw the brake lights come on momentarily. After that he did begin to accelerate, which was about the time I reached the car. Understand, this is a big heavy car so acceleration did not happen instantaneously.” Hill succeeds in allowing readers to have a rare glimpse into the personalities and characters of the five uniquely different Presidents, from Eisenhower to Ford. As a secret service agent assigned to protect them he was able to view their strengths and weaknesses, a witness to the historical decisions made by these men. He reflects on the tumultuous times involving the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and Watergate. However, it is more a book about personalities and their human side; how the Presidents spent their private time, treated people around them, and interacted with their families. Able to sympathize with those in the military who suffer from PTSD, Hill admitted to blackfive.net that he had PTSD from the assassination, “You never completely overcome it. I am better off today than I was. Talking about it with my co-author Lisa, writing about it, and talking to the public about it was very therapeutic. What also helped was going back to Dealey Plaza in Dallas and spending time there, examining the situation. I looked at everything, the angles, location of the shooter, the motorcade, weather conditions, and the type of transportation we were using. I realize now I had done everything I could have done that day. All the advantages went to the shooter and we did not have any.” The best parts of the book are the well-written stories and anecdotes. Anyone wondering if there is anything new to be said, the answer is an unequivocal yes! These include President Eisenhower traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan to adoring crowds, allowing readers to understand how times have changed; how Eisenhower was also revered for his trustworthiness, yet during the U2 Spy incident with Francis Gary Powers he hedged the truth to the American people; Hill having personal demons as he struggled with PTSD over the Kennedy assassination; the auspicious humiliating first greeting with President Johnson in October 1964 as the President ignored Hill’s handshake, and instead blew his nose in a handkerchief; Hill’s decision to place the White House files under protection after a midnight phone call about Watergate; how Nixon attempted to put an informant on the Secret Service detail of Senator Ted Kennedy; and President Ford’s willingness to travel to five different countries even though there was no sitting Vice-President. There is also a reminder to Americans how secret service agents are a lot like those in the military and intelligence, where their personal life must be sacrificed for the good of the nation. Hill witnessed the joy, triumphs, agony, disappointments, egos, and frailties of these five Presidents; yet missed many of his own. Hill gave the example of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “I write in my book that the worst part for all the agents was knowing in the case of a nuclear attack or a possible missile launch from Cuba we would go with the President and his family to a relocation site while our families would most likely perish. If someone tried to get aboard the helicopter that was not authorized it may come to the point of causing bodily harm to protect those we were guarding. Our obligation is to complete the mission and perform our job, which ultimately means we would have to leave our families to fend for themselves. Anyone wanting to be an agent has to be extremely devoted, dedicated, and willing to sacrifice.” Five Presidents illuminates the lives of each leader in an insightful way. Hill has allowed readers to take the memory journey with him as he opens up about the private world he observed. This book is an incredible inside account. Continue reading
Posted Jun 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 side bar. Ace Atkins will have two books coming out in the next few months. Slow Burn brings back Robert B. Parker’s character, private investigator Spenser, and his Quinn Colson series, The Innocents. Coincidentally each book cover and plot has elements of fire. Slow Burn, published the first week in May, begins with a church on fire. Spenser is hired to find out who is behind a series of fires that appear to be set intentionally. With the help of his trusted ally Hawk, his apprentice, Sixkill, and his psychologist girlfriend Susan it becomes apparent the trail of fires leads to Boston’s underworld. They must find the firebug before he kills again and destroys more property. The Innocents will be published in July. Sherriff Lillie Virgil enlists the former Sherriff Quinn Colson to help find Milly Jones’ killer. Someone set her on fire and had her walk on a highway. Atkins was asked to compare the Spenser and Quinn Colson series. He commented to blackfive.net, “All the stories are hero driven with themes of honor, respect, and tolerance. They are written stylistically different.” The Spenser stories are told through his eyes and voice, while the Quinn stories are about everyone in the one county. The Quinn series has a continuing storyline, much like a long-term arc in a TV show.” Both these plots are based on true stories. Atkins explained, “They are taken from the headlines. With Slow Burn I found a string of arsons dealing with insurance fraud, which occurred in Boston a few decades ago. However, after meeting with those in the Boston arson unit I was told it would never happen like that today because property is so valuable. There is no money to be made in burning down a building. I refigured the plot and came up with the idea of guys banding together to start these fires. “ Regarding the plot for The Innocents Atkins commented, “The story was inspired by true facts. A young girl over a year ago was found walking down a highway while completely on fire. There was a mystery surrounding the circumstances of her death. Another character was based on a long time well respected football coach accused of some nasty stuff. Because he was a pillar of the community no one spoke up even though they knew what was happening.” The difference between the two series characters is that Quinn is a former Army Ranger. Atkins definitely does his homework getting military figures as fact checkers. “My good friend, retired US Army Colonel George Reynolds, steers me in the right direction. He put me in touch with a young Ranger so I was able to learn about his experiences and training. It was George who suggested Quinn not become a contractor, but work for the Defense Department. My network of those assisting me, people in the military, has quadrupled.” Readers will also find a difference in the themes of the two series. The Spenser books are more action packed and the emphasis is on his character. The other series is more a book about community, family, and a Southern town with emphasis on social issues, corruption, and power. Both books have very well developed characters and plots that will keep the reader turning the pages. Continue reading
Posted May 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 by clicking on the books category link on the right side bar. The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen is the third book of the series that takes place in Southwest Missouri. It is not necessary to read the previous books to understand the plot and characters. Readers will get a very good understanding of how personalities affect court proceedings. The main issues explored are the death penalty, domestic violence, and child witnesses. The novel opens with a pregnant woman being beaten to death by her boyfriend who is high on drugs. Because the eight-month-old baby also died the prosecution seeks the death penalty. Readers will learn certain tidbits, such as the fact that Missouri’s State Constitution considers life beginning at conception. Thus, the prosecution decided to seek justice for the eight-month-old baby rather than his drugged up mother. Because of the horrific crime the death penalty is sought, making it evident that the testimony of the lone eyewitness, six-year-old Ivy, will be crucial. Elsie Arnold, a prosecuting attorney in rural Barton City, McCown County, Missouri, wants to win the case to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Allen explores how prosecutors must weigh the horrific crime versus the heavy burden of seeking someone’s death. In addition, the author emphasizes how friendships can become detached over issues. Elsie is “unfriended” by her fellow prosecutor Breeon over her view on the death penalty. Instead of realizing people cannot agree on everything she becomes cold and distant, refusing to be there when needed by Elsie. Allen knows something about domestic abuse cases since she practiced law for fifteen years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She's tried over thirty jury cases, including murder and sexual offenses. A quote from the book shows how women in the 1980s struggled to be accepted, “The necktie rule… they said no attorney could appear in court without a tie.” Allen commented to blackfive.net, “After getting out of law school, I was the only woman prosecutor in Southwest Missouri. I guess I was a little bit of a trailblazer in that day. Women had to wear a uniform in court in the 1980s. We wore floppy silk ties, kinda like the Girl Scout tie. I had a little polka dot one and a little striped one.” Regarding her female portrayals Allen feels there is a little of her in all the female characters. “Elsie is a cross between that TV Show Beverly Hillbillies character Ellie May Clampett and Amy Schumer in the movie Train Wreck. She echoed who I was in my youth. Being the only woman in the office I was thrown sex crime cases. Madeline, the County Prosecutor, Elsie’s boss, reflected my past experiences of having to confront, in the 1980s, the ‘good ol’ boys judicial club’ in Southwest Missouri. Even Ivy, the six year old witness represented the child in all of us who tries to please authority figures. Because I am a strong advocate of victim’s rights and have cut my teeth on child abuse cases I feel a bond with Ivy. It is a fact that the Ozarks has the highest rate of sex crimes involving children in all of Missouri, and this state is one of the top in the nation.” Allen also gave a heads up about her future book projects. The next Elsie Arnold book has a standup member of a small town community charged with a crime. Elsie must bring down a person who is at the top of the pinnacle in her community. Allen is also co-authoring a legal thriller with James Patterson, entitled. Juror # 3. It is a new series stated by Patterson that will be part of the Bookshots line. Anyone wanting to learn about legal issues and court procedures within a good story should read Allen’s books. She brings her experience and knowledge to the page to make the plots and characters believable. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at BlackFive