Review of “Red Metal” by Mark Greaney and Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV

Red Metal

Author: Mark Greaney and Hunter Ripley Rawlings

Publication Date: 2019

Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Random House LLC

ISBN: 9780451490414

Agent: Not known

Source of Book: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Blurb: A desperate Kremlin takes advantage of a military crisis in Asia to simultaneously strike into Western Europe and invade east Africa in a bid to occupy a Rare Earth mineral mine that will give Russia unprecedented control for generations over the world’s hi-tech sector.

Pitted against the Russians are a Marine lieutenant colonel pulled out of a cushy job at the Pentagon and thrown into the fray in Africa, a French Special Forces captain and his intelligence operative father, a young Polish female partisan fighter, an A-10 Warthog pilot, and the captain of an American tank platoon who, along with a German sergeant, fight from behind enemy lines in Germany all the way into Russia.

From a daring MiG attack on American satellites, through land and air battles in all theaters, naval battles in the Arabian sea, and small unit fighting down to the hand-to-hand level in the jungle, Russia’s forces battle to either take the mines or detonate a nuclear device to prevent the West from exploiting them.

(Source of Blurb: Author’s Website)

Review:  This was a very well done take on a potential U.S. Russia limited war. It is a real gripper. The authors are to be congratulated on creating a scenario (conflict over rare earth minerals) that has entered today’s headlines, is very plausible, and complex enough to be very interesting. The authors examined this conflict from the point of views of army, navy, marines, air force, allies, both professional and paramilitary, and enemy forces and their allies. There are several very strong female characters. I have a feeling a great deal of research supplemented the authors’ extensive personal experience with military operations at both the strategic and tactical levels. It was very readable and held the interest of this non-technical reader. I highly recommend this book.

I awarded Red Metal a rating of 4.0/5.0. This book was by the Mark Greaney who wrote the “Gray Man” series. (Please see my review of “The Gray Man“.) I REALLY like the “Gray Man”, and this was not the “Gray Man”, and was never intended to be the “Gray Man”. Hence my disappointment. Some aspects of the ending were telegraphed a little too obviously for me. Red Metal also ended with a lead-in to the next book at the end. This marketing technique cheapened an excellent, well-written, intellectually challenging, military thriller. These guys don’t need to do this to sell their next book.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Link to Author’s Website:  https://markgreaneybooks.com/

Purchase Link:  https://www.amazon.com/Red-Metal-Mark-Greaney-ebook/dp/B07JL49X3Z/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Red+Metal&qid=1560969882&s=gateway&sr=8-3

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Netflix Alert for “Camp X”

 

Camp X

I came across a two-part documentary on Netflix called “Camp X” which is about a secret agent training school in Canada started by Churchill and Roosevelt prior to WWII. It is terrific for anyone interested in espionage in general and WWII in particular. It outlines the training that took place there and points to some of the missions, both successful and unsuccessful.

For an aspiring thriller writer, ideas abound here, as well as interesting larger-than-life characters. It is a great place for inspiration, as well as being informative and entertaining.

This is a good one, spotlighting a part of history that, until recently, has been pretty much unknown, at least to me.

Review of “Old Boys” by Charles McCarry

Author:  Charles McCarryOld Boys

Publication Date: 2004

Publisher: The Overbrook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.

ISBN: 1-58567-545-8

Agent: Unknown

Source of Book: Public Library

Blurb:

In his magnificent new novel, McCarry returns to the world of his legendary character, Paul Christopher, the superior intelligence agent as skilled at choosing a fine wine as he is at tradecraft, at once sophisticated and dangerous, and no stranger to the world of dirty tricks. As the novel begins, Paul, now a remarkably fit 70ish, is dining at home with his cousin, Horace, also an ex-agent. Dinner is delicious and uneventful. A day later, Paul has vanished. Months pass and his ashes are delivered by a Chinese official to the American consulate in Beijing, and a memorial service is held in Washington. But Horace is not convinced that Paul is dead and, enlisting the support of five other retired colleagues–a sort of all-star backfield of the old Outfit–he gets the “Old Boys” back in the game to find Paul Christopher.

They start with a photo found in Paul’s study: a woman’s hand holding a centuries-old scroll, once the possession of the Nazis and now sought by the U.S. government and Muslim extremists alike. Harassed by American intelligence, hunted by terrorists, Horace and the Old Boys travel the globe, from Xingjiang to Brasil, from Rome to Tel-Aviv, Budapest to Moscow, on a thrilling and dangerous search for Paul Christopher and the unspeakably dangerous truth.

(Source of Blurb: Inside front dust cover.)

Review:

I read “Old Boys” based on a suggestion in a tweet by David Morrell on the occasion of Charles McCarry’s death. Morrell suggested TEARS OF AUTUMN, but “Old Boys” was the only McCarry book available to me in my local library system. This novel is flawed, but it was certainly entertaining and provided a glimpse into an amazing mind. I am sorry I never discovered McCarry until now.

My favorite part of the book was McCarry’s premise that a scroll existed alleging that Jesus Christ was actually an unwitting agent in a Roman dirty trick operation to undermine the Jewish priesthood. I believe McCarry was writing this premise in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, but his description of the contents of the scroll was truly amazing, and the result of a great mind at work. There is a chapter in the midsection of the book in which the protagonist reads a translation of this scroll. This was incredibly entertaining.  McCarry had a great deal of fun while writing this chapter.

His characters were very well-developed, albeit a bit repetitious. A  mysterious character named “Kevin” who showed up at various points in the book was my favorite.

The book had a number of flaws. The procession of characters was difficult to follow, perhaps due to some inattentive reading. The number of locations throughout the book seemed artificially inflated. There was a dowsing scene (yes, I had to look that word up) that seemed like a bit of deus ex machina to me. The scene truly came out of nowhere, and it seemed very much out of place. Most of what followed hinged on that scene, which made it very disconcerting. McCarry’s take on the life of Jesus, however, makes this a must-read.

I do look forward to reading TEARS OF AUTUMN

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Link to Author’s Website:  Non

Purchase Link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MVCHHMY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

 

Blog Break

No, I have not died.

I took an unannounced break from my writing and blogging activities and did a good bit of travel, among other things. We saw a lot, did a lot, and returned home with the strange feeling of being simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. Hopefully, the places we visited, the stories we heard, the people we met, and the simple change of scene will recharge my writing batteries and help me make some progress with the second draft of the novel.

In any case, if you are new here, I offer a warm welcome, and if you are an old visitor, thanks for coming back. Regular blog entries will resume shortly. Hopefully the novel will move forward as well.

Stay tuned.

The Power of Twitter

Twitter works! It is an unbelievably powerful promotional tool. I am a believer. I also know that just about everyone in the world has discovered this relatively new fact of life before I did.

I am not a social media sort of person. This blog was created as a means of testing the social media world and learning a little about it as I go along. I do have a Twitter account that I use to announce a new blog entry, and don’t do much else with it outside of following a few sites that interest me.

One of the Twitter accounts I do follow is David Morrell, the author of First Blood, which introduced the original Rambo character. David Morrell is a legend in the thriller community. I have heard him speak, and read some of his work. I was impressed. He has a very intellectual approach to his writing, and shares his expertise in a very engaging manner. I suggest reading Morrell if you want to see a master writer at work.

Recently, David Morrell tweeted that “And the great spy novelist Charles McCarry THE TEARS OF AUTUMN died recently.” As an aspiring thriller writer, I was embarrassed to admit to myself that I was not familiar with McCarry at all, and I had never heard of THE TEARS OF AUTUMN, so I marched to my local library, which is a member of a very large library system. There were several copies of THE TEARS OF AUTUMN in the system, but all were recently withdrawn. The system noted there were a number of requests for the book pending. I placed my name on the list. After about a month I am still waiting for these copies to be returned, and I am still pretty low on the waiting list. I was able to withdraw a very well-used copy of a Charles McCarry book, OLD BOYS. This was not his most popular book, but it  is still pretty darned good.

I wanted to say thanks to David Morrell for alerting me to this author. I am looking forward to reading THE TEARS OF AUTUMN, but I fear that will be some time in the future. I also wanted to say thanks to Twitter for moving me to action. In my local, limited universe, there was a lot of demand for McCarry’s work. Undoubtedly, a huge demand nationwide and even worldwide has now been generated. All due to a tweet from a respected writer. That tweet moved me, and a whole lot of other people as well. A powerful force!

Thanks again to David Morrell (and Twitter) for leading me to a great writer I would have missed. I’ll be posting my review of OLD BOYS shortly.

Review of “The Eighth Sister” by Robert Dugoni

Eighth Sister

Author: Robert Dugoni

Publication Date: 2019

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

ISBN: 13: 9781503903036 (hardcover)

Agent: Jane Rotrosen Agency

Source of Book: NetGalley

Blurb:

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.

Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.

Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

(Source of Blurb: Author Website)

Review:

The Eighth Sister is a well written espionage thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The best part was the first half of the book, in which the protagonist, Charles Jenkins, travels to Russia to take part in a clandestine operation. The mission is not what he was led to believe, and he must improvise in order to escape Russia and the dogged Russian FSB agent assigned to track him down. The cat and mouse between Jenkins and the Russian agent makes for very good reading and is difficult to put down. The chase is very realistic, and the fact that Charles Jenkins is an agent around 60 years of age with deteriorating but still formidable operational skills is a refreshing twist.

My only criticism involves the second half of the book, when Jenkins arrives home. At that point, it turns into a legal thriller rather than an espionage story. It is a very well done legal thriller, but the second half involves a lot of courtroom preparation and legal maneuvering rather than a traditional espionage story. It was still very enjoyable , just not what I expected. To me, this was a very novel story structure, and it worked.

I could see this book becoming a movie. The juxtaposition between the action scenes in the first half of the book and the courtroom drama in the second half of the book would play out very well on the screen.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Link to Author’s Website:  https://www.robertdugonibooks.com/

Purchase Link:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D6PZ6P1/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

 

 

 

 

News–Some Observations

I have tried not to get political on this blog, and I intend to keep it that way. I do want to make a few  comments that are only loosely related to thriller writing and reviewing.

I try to keep relatively informed on current events. I believe a good touch of current events makes a thriller more relevant, and more compelling that way. I noticed a few problems with the news, at least how I seek it.

My issue is with CNN and Fox News. I first noticed this after watching a presidential debate during the run-up to our most recent presidential election. I watched the debate and then looked at the commentary, first on CNN, then on Fox. I wondered if I had watched the same debate. I sensed a complete lack of objectivity on each of the two networks. What was presented as “analysis” was really “spin”. CNN spun it one way, and Fox, the other way. Since then, I looked a little closer to each of these networks, particularly their website. I believe both networks tell the “truth”, but they certainly select what they say with a careful agenda. Maybe I was the last one on the planet to notice.

I believe we have a “free” press, but I don’t believe we have an “objective” press, at least not in some of the sites I follow on a regular basis. If the current administration does something wrong, or incorrect, I know CNN will let us all know about it. If the “left” does something wrong, Fox will let us know. This is, of course, what a free press is all about, and I am very thankful we have that. I have seen situations where the press is not free.  I believe the free press is one of the necessary conditions for an effective democracy, or any other form of effective government. I would like to find a site I could trust to present the news without the spin, the selective inclusion, or the not-so-hidden agenda.

As it is now, I believe people who are leaning towards conservatism, will seek out conservative media and harden their positions. On the other hand, people with liberal leanings will look at liberal media and harden their positions. This will stifle discourse and debate and harden everyone’s positions. A bad state of affairs, coupled with the fact that computer search engines will compound this problem by leading a searcher to what the search engine decides they would like to hear. People leaning to the right will be directed to right-leaning media. People leaning to the left will be directed to left-leaning media. Positions will become even more hardened.

Let’s keep the press free, but hope for some objectivity in the mix. It has been a long time since I heard anyone say “I changed my position on that based on reading…”