Shadows of Steel


Title:                      Shadows of Steel

Author:                  Dale Brown

Brown, Dale (1996). Shadows of Steel. New York: G.P. Putnam Sons.

LCCN:    96000743

PS3552.R68543 S48 1996

Subjects

Date Updated:  June 23, 2015

KIRKUS REVIEW

Gulf War II, albeit without the Coalition and with latter-day Persia as the foe, in this red-meat technothriller from old pro Brown (Storming Heaven, 1994, etc.). Three years short of a new millennium, Iran is rattling space- age sabers in an effort to gain dominion over the Strait of Hormuz, a choke point in the world’s oil-supply line. At odds both with Arab neighbors allied to the US and with the Great Satan itself, the Islamic republic is armed, dangerous, and under the military command of a rash ultranationalist: General Hesarak al-Kan Buzhazi. Hostilities begin when Iran sinks an American spy vessel. In assessing response options, the new US president is all too aware that budget cuts and ill-advised peacekeeping missions have greatly weakened America’s armed forces. Accordingly, the Chief Executive calls in the Intelligence Support Agency, a supersecret arm of the CIA. With a blank check from the White House, ISA quickly goes operational with a B-2A Stealth bomber. Under the expert guidance of Patrick McLanahan (an ex-USAF weapons officer), the all but undetectable aircraft and its on-board array of ordnance and electronic countermeasures raise merry (if deniable) hell with the Mideastern theocracy’s defenses. Although down, Iran (which has concluded a mutual-assistance pact with Red China) is not out, and Buzhazi’s air arm nearly figures out a way to shoot the lone shadow of steel from the sky. The B-2A’s can-do crew rises to the occasion, however, and Tehran’s officer corps pays a stiff price for its extremism. While the Yanks believe themselves clear victors at the close, there’s reason to believe they may have to take on the PRC and its nukes in the next round. State-of-the-art action in the air, on land, and at sea from a master of the future-shock game.

Finished reading: 24 Mar 2014

The Teeth of the Tiger


Title:                  The Teeth of the Tiger

Author:                 Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (2003). The Teeth of the Tiger. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2003047125

PS3553.L245 T44 2003

Subjects

Date Updated:  April 27, 2015

The following review is based largely on a review posted by Joe Hartlaub on BookReporter (January 23, 2011).

It is somewhat difficult to believe that The Teeth of The Tiger is Tom Clancy’s thirteenth novel. One would think that he has written a veritable library of Jack Ryan tales; this simply isn’t so. One might have that impression because, in addition to his novels, Clancy has authored nine nonfiction books concerning the U.S. military and has also fathered a couple of different ongoing series regarding special operation branches within and outside the Armed Forces.

But The Teeth Of The Tiger is his thirteenth, and a lucky one it is. For this is in many ways the beginning of a new legacy for Clancy, providing the perfect vehicle for readers who perhaps fell away a book or two ago and for readers heretofore unfamiliar with Clancy to jump on. At the same time, it provides an exciting yet comfortable ride for those readers who have been with Clancy all along.

The Teeth of The Tiger introduces Hendley Associates, a privately held company that does a quietly profitable business investing and wheeling and dealing in stocks, bonds and currencies. Operating out of its headquarters, known as “The Campus,” its real purpose and mission is to identify, locate and neutralize terrorist threats. Hendley was set up with the knowledge and received the blessing of President Jack Ryan who, before leaving office, supplied Hendley Associates with a drawer full of signed and undated presidential pardons should any of its agents somehow be caught in the engagement of clandestine activities.

Hendley recruits quietly from a number of sources, and its first acquisitions are the Caruso brothers. Dominic is a rookie FBI agent who attracts Hendley’s attention when he quickly and decisively resolves a horrendous kidnapping and murder. His twin brother Brian is a Marine captain who rapidly distinguished himself during his first combat mission in Afghanistan. Both men begin their training, with Brian in particular having some initial misgivings—misgivings that are quickly put to rest when they stumble across a terrorist action with tragic consequences. Hendley unleashes the brothers, who cut a quiet but lethal globetrotting swath through an army of terrorists that threatens to conquer the United States a piece at a time.

Meanwhile Hendley has acquired a new hire, one who actually comes to them, having analytically surmised Hendley’s mission and purpose. That new hire is Jack Ryan, Jr., son of the former president and cousin to the Caruso brothers. Ryan quickly demonstrates an uncanny ability to assimilate and connect random bits of information and make assumptions that more often than not turn out to be on the money. Soon enough, he finds himself joining his cousins in what is to be the role of a passive analyst. Fate, however, has other plans for the three of them.

The Teeth of The Tiger is an incredibly fast-paced novel, in which Clancy eschews the technical explanations that occasionally bogged down the narratives of some of his previous novels. While he continues to demonstrate an uncanny ability to understand and relate to the reader, the focus of The Teeth of The Tiger is more concerned with the ins and outs of intelligence gathering than with the how and why of munitions (though there is a bit of that as well). Clancy continues to play to his strengths, however; there is simply no one who is better at describing the action of battle, especially the new battles in the war on terror, that occur quickly, sometimes quietly, and often without warning. Clancy also displays a fine sense of symmetry in The Teeth of The Tiger, from the beginning of the tale until the very end.

Junior Ryan and the Caruso brothers are just right as well; they are young and make the mistakes in the field that young men would make, but they are errors caused by and often resolved by enthusiasm and energy. That enthusiasm and energy is Clancy’s as well, and it translates onto the printed page. I’m not sure if I’m ready to call this book Clancy’s best book, but I would most assuredly at this point call it my favorite. Highly recommended, whether you’re a Clancy fan or not.

[There’s more to come—the next two books are a continuation of The Teeth of the TigerDead or Alive (2010) and Locked On (2012).]

Black Ops


Title:                  Black Ops

Author:                W. E. B. Griffin

Griffin, W. E. B. (2008). Black Ops (A Presidential Agent Novel). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

LCCN:    2008042220

PS3557.R489137 B55 2008

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 10, 2015

This is the last of the Presidential Agent series which began with the story of the hijacked airliner. It starts slowly and I think Griffin may not have written the first few chapters. About a quarter of the way in, when I was getting impatient with all the exposition of back story and the rather wooden character development, the pace picks up and it seems Griffin is back. I suspect his son may have done the early chapters.

If you are familiar with the other books of the series, skim those early chapters. The writing picks up and the plot gets going when Russian SVR agents contact Castillo and tell him he is set up for assassination. From that point on, we are back with the WEB Griffin skills in plot and character development that have kept us reading his novels for 25 years.

The plot pulls together all the seemingly unconnected threads of the other stories and explains the various characters and their relationships. Griffin is teaching us more Russian history, including the current Russian leadership about which he has strong opinions. I don’t know how accurate his information is. For example, he has an alternative theory about Ivan the Terrible. However, he has been right before. He has sources of information that don’t write books.

Anyway, after a slow start, the novel gets underway and is a great example of Griffin’s story telling.

The ending, which others have complained about, actually opens a new chapter and may promise more books with Charley Castillo and his band of warriors. Actually I had wondered how Griffin was going to handle the changes in Washington. The president in the series is obviously Bush, and the other cabinet officers are recognizable. That has to change, so a presidential agent may now become the agent of the shadowy group of patriots that appears at the end. This novel also introduces what may be the real romance in Charlie’s life and I can see more books with this theme, as well.

I recommend it for those who have read the other books in the series and, as far as I am concerned, Griffin hasn’t lost his touch. Alexander Dumas had a writing team that composed large sections of his novels. Those novels have stood the test of time and these will too.

Dead or Alive


Title:                  Dead or Alive

Author:                Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (2010) with Grant Blackwood. Dead or Alive. New York: Berkley Books

LCCN:    2010027065

PS3553.L245 D425 2010

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews has the following review.

Good guys versus sneering terrorists, yet again: classic Clancy, a blend of stick-figure storytelling, rightist op-ed and tech manual for death-dealing gadgets.

The most interesting figure, and the only one who has even a layer or two of skin by way of characterization, appears first in Clancy’s (The Hunt for Red October, 1984, etc.) latest. Sam Driscoll is a tough-as-nails sergeant, a Ranger, now bearded and lanky-haired, ready for action at the caves of Tora Bora hunting you-know-who. When a few mujahedeen get wasted along the way, Kealty, the namby-pamby and probably illegitimate president who has succeeded President Jack Ryan—who probably should have a trademark symbol accompanying his name—gets all weepy, while politically correct military lawyers come over all legal-like about the rules of engagement.

Ryan, for his part, gets ticked (“This idiot Kealty doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. What’s worse, he doesn’t care”). Meanwhile his namesake, Jack Jr., springs into action at what one supposes to be the mark-two successor to the CIA, a super-secret agency known as The Campus, “which was officially out of all the loops, which was sort of the point.” And why out of the loop? Well, obviously, because liberal presidents like Kealty (fill in whatever name you wish) are loyal only to themselves, not to the country—and bad timing for that, since, well, after all, “Islamic fundamentalists had declared war on America and her allies.” The baddest of ’em all, the Emir, thinks he’s Saladin—and, of course, it’s up to the likes of Ryan Jr. and Driscoll and the other heroes of the piece to mount a crusade against him. The infantile vision of politics aside, much of the book reads like a Pentagon white paper (“Of all the feasibility studies the URC had done in the early stages of Lotus, the most troubling and nebulous question had involved the facility’s on-site security, an issue that neither the DOE nor NRC had publicly addressed”). There are some nifty explosions, though.

If reality were a comic book or a Stallone script, this would be a useful road map. As it is, it’ll be gobbled up like a Happy Meal, Ronald Reagan’s “perfect yarn” franchised into neatly packaged commodity.

My own problem with Clancy is in spite of his really great storytelling ability, he is so far to the right he paints liberals as bleeding hearts and conservatives as the saviors of the Republic. Neither is on target. I wish he would be a bit less ideological in his books. I just finished the follow-on to this book, Locked On.

Locked On


Title:                  Locked On

Author:                Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (2011) with Mark Greaney. Locked On. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2012371493

PS3553.L245 L63 2011

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 13, 2015

This book is a follow-on to Clancy’s Dead or Alive[1]. Clancy gets more and more ideological as he writes more books. Churchill once said that a man is a fool if he is not a liberal when young and conservative when he is old. I guess Clancy is either so far right because he is old, or because he figured his readership (people who buy books) want his liberals to be namby-pamby, and his conservatives to be heroes.

Though his father had been reluctant to become a heroic field operative, Jack Ryan Jr. wants nothing more. Privately training with special forces, he’s honing his combat skills to continue his work within the Campus, hunting down and eliminating terrorists wherever he can—even as Jack Ryan Sr. campaigns to become President of the United States again.

But what neither father nor son knows is that the political and personal have just become equally dangerous. A devout enemy of Jack Sr. launches a privately-funded vendetta to discredit him and connect him to a mysterious killing in his longtime ally John Clark’s past. All they have to do is catch him.

With Clark on the run, it’s up to Jack Jr. to stop a growing threat emerging in the Middle East, where a corrupt Pakistani general has entered into a deadly pact with a fanatical terrorist to procure four nuclear warheads they can use to blackmail any world power into submission—or face annihilation.

Clancy wrote this one with an intelligence studies wonk (or so Mark Greaney’s bio on the book flap would attest) with firearms and combat training from around the world. The novel picks up the Jack Ryan family saga without missing a beat from Dead or Alive. Ryan Sr. is trying for a return to the White House while son Jack has become deeply enmeshed in the anti-terror forays of The Campus, the off-the-books covert intelligence unit staffed by alums of various other Clancy novels.

[1] Clancy, Tom (2010) with Grant Blackwood. Dead or Alive. New York: Berkley Books

 

This book is a follow-on to Clancy’s Dead or Alive. Clancy gets more and more ideological as he writes more books. Churchill once said that a man is a fool if he is not a liberal when young and conservative when he is old. I guess Clancy is either so far right because he is old, or because he figured his readership (people who buy books) want his liberals to be namby-pamby, and his conservatives to be heroes.

Though his father had been reluctant to become a heroic field operative, Jack Ryan Jr. wants nothing more. Privately training with special forces, he’s honing his combat skills to continue his work within the Campus, hunting down and eliminating terrorists wherever he can—even as Jack Ryan Sr. campaigns to become President of the United States again.

But what neither father nor son knows is that the political and personal have just become equally dangerous. A devout enemy of Jack Sr. launches a privately-funded vendetta to discredit him and connect him to a mysterious killing in his longtime ally John Clark’s past. All they have to do is catch him.

With Clark on the run, it’s up to Jack Jr. to stop a growing threat emerging in the Middle East, where a corrupt Pakistani general has entered into a deadly pact with a fanatical terrorist to procure four nuclear warheads they can use to blackmail any world power into submission—or face annihilation.

Clancy wrote this one with an intelligence studies wonk (or so Mark Greaney’s bio on the book flap would attest) with firearms and combat training from around the world. The novel picks up the Jack Ryan family saga without missing a beat from Dead or Alive. Ryan Sr. is trying for a return to the White House while son Jack has become deeply enmeshed in the anti-terror forays of The Campus, the off-the-books covert intelligence unit staffed by alums of various other Clancy novels.

Clear and Present Danger


Title:                  Clear and Present Danger

Author:                 Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1989). Clear and Present Danger. New York: Putnam

LCCN:       89010287

PS3553.L245 C5 1989

Subjects

Date Updated:  October 29, 2015

Tom Clancy is one of my favorite writers, and I read all of his major works. A recent book with a collaborator is Clancyesque but not to be compared with books such as Clear and Present Danger.

At the end of the prologue to Clear and Present Danger, Clancy writes, “And so began something that had not quite begun and would not soon end, with many people in many places moving off in directions and on missions which they all mistakenly thought they understood. That was just as well. The future was too fearful for contemplation, and beyond the expected, illusory finish lines were things fated by the decisions made this morning–and, once decided, best unseen.” In Clear and Present Danger nothing is as clear as it may seem.

The president, unsatisfied with the success of his “war on drugs,” decides he wants some immediate success. But after John Clark’s covert strike team is deployed to Colombia for Operation Showboat, the drug lords strike back taking several civilian casualties. The chief executive’s polls plummet. He orders Ritter (Deputy Director of Operations in the CIA) to terminate their unofficial plan and leave no traces. Jack Ryan, who has just been named CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence is enraged when he discovers that has been left out of the loop of Colombian operations. Several of America’s most highly trained soldiers are stranded in an unfinished mission that, according to all records, never existed. Ryan decides to get the men out.

Ultimately, Clear and Present Danger is about good conscience, law, and politics, with Jack Ryan and CIA agent John Clark as its dual heroes. Ryan relentlessly pursues what he knows is right and legal, even if it means confronting the president of the United States. Clark is the perfect soldier, but a man who finally holds his men higher than the orders of any careless commander.

Along with the usual, stunning array of military hardware and the latest techno-gadgets, Clear and Present Danger further develops the relationships and characters that Clancy fans have grown to love. Admiral James Greer passes the CIA torch to his pupil, Ryan. Mr. Clark and Chavez meet for the first time. Other recurring characters like Robert Ritter and “the President” add continuity to Clancy’s believable, alternate reality. This is Clancy at his best.

The Maestro


Title:                      The Maestro

Author:                  John Gardner

Gardner, John (1993). The Maestro. New York: Otto Penzler Books

LCCN:    93019364

PR6057.A63 M3 1993

Subjects

Date Updated:  October 26, 2015

This is ostensibly a novel about espionage, and it delivers in that department. It has, however, a number of qualities that make it interesting to readers who may not normally read spy thrillers. The main character is the greatest living conductor – supposedly on a par with Toscanini. The story of how he achieved prominence raises a number of questions that are interesting. I did not much like the book The main character, Big Herbie Kruger was just not interesting to me. The back story of his relationship with a coworker didn’t ring true to me. The foisting away of Maestro Passau seems counter to any experience I have had. I waded through the book but did not enjoy it all. The only thing that kept me reading it were the really interesting comments about music throughout the book.

Since we know that many great geniuses (Wagner is an example) led deplorable personal lives, the idea that this character would abandon and even kill some of the people who loved him and would live much of his life on the basis of lies and deceptions is quite credible. The method for telling the story is to have the Maestro deliver his autobiography as a full confession to a secret agent who must evaluate how he should be treated given that he betrayed his country as a spy for Hitler in World War II and also gave secrets to the Russians during the Cold War.

In the latter case, though, he believed he was actually serving his country. As the story progresses we get it from the point of view of the Maestro who is telling it, and of the agent who is listening to it. This causes us to see the same material from several different points of view, which makes it more challenging to determine our own judgment of the characters and events described. Thus we have a work of far greater complexity and literary interest than the normal spy novel.

As I indicated above, fortunately, for me, the author shows a decent knowledge of music and often refers to specific performances on recording, many of which are compared with the Maestro’s own fictitious recordings. This balance between history and fiction is interesting.