Tom Clancy’s Op-Center books

Title:                      Tom Clancy’s Op-Center

Author:                Various

Date Posted:      January 5, 2017

Tom Clancy’s Op-Center is a novel series, created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik, though the first 12 books were written by Jeff Rovin between 1995 and 2005. The three books in the series reboot from 2014 are written by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi.

List of Tom Clancy’s Op-Center characters

These characters are in most or all stories from the main series:

  • Paul Hood: The director of Op-Center and former Mayor of L.A.
  • General Mike Rodgers: Deputy director of Op-Center and STRIKER Commander
  • Bob Herbert: Chief of Intelligence
  • Matt Stoll: In-house computer genius
  • Darrel McCaskey: The FBI Liaison
  • Lowell Coffey II: Op-Center’s lawyer
  • Liz Gordon: Op-Center’s psychologist

These characters are in the stories from the reboot series:

  • Chase Willams: The director of Op-Center and former Naval Admiral
  • Aaron Bleich: geek programmer and data analyst
  • Roger McCord:
  • Brian Dawson:
  • Hector Rodriquez:
  • Sandee Barron: helicopter pilot
  • Mike Volner: response team

List of Op-Center Novels

The books in the Tom Clancy’s Op-Center

  1. Tom Clancy’s Op-Center (1995) LCCN: 97817188, by Jeff Rovin. Op-Center deals with many anti-unification terrorists in Korea trying to provoke a new war with North Korea.
  2. Mirror Image (1995} LCCN: 97810821, by Jeff Rovin. A hardline coalition in the Russian government plots against the new president of Russia, backed by the Russian equivalent of Op-Center.
  3. Games of State (1996 (LCCN: 97811553, by Jeff Rovin. A millionaire funds Neo-Nazi activity in Europe, while plotting to insert subliminal messages of hate into the mass media.
  4. Acts of War-1996 LCCN: 97809669, by Jeff Rovin. Syrian, Kurdish terrorists plotting a political assassination take hostages from the Regional Op-Center: employees testing a prototype mobile surveillance post.
  5. Balance of Power (1998) LCCN: 99610971, by Jeff Rovin. The murder of an Op-Center representative (Martha Mackall) leads to a faction trying to provoke a Spanish Civil War.
  6. State of Siege (1999} LCCN: 99604301, by Jeff Rovin. Rogue soldiers seize the UN complex in New York and demand a hefty ransom for the release of their diplomatic hostages (including Hood’s daughter, Harleigh). Now it’s personal, and Hood has returned to Op-Center to save his daughter.
  7. Divide and Conquer (2000} LCCN: 2003576664, by Jeff Rovin. Op-Center seeks the help of their Russian counterpart in tracking the legendary assassin, The Harpooner. Meanwhile, Paul Hood is called in when it appears the President might be undergoing a mental breakdown.
  8. Line of Control (2001} LCCN: 2002568994, by Jeff Rovin. The Striker Team, cut off and without support, has to fend for their survival on the line of demarcation between India and Pakistan.
  9. Mission of Honor (2002} LCCN: 2003577277, by Jeff Rovin. Op-Center has to work with the Vatican and Spanish Special Forces when an African rebel group takes hostages at several missions.,
  10. Sea of Fire (2003} LCCN: 2003611822, by Jeff Rovin. High traces of radiation found on a corpse, leads to a company selling nuclear waste to terrorists.
  11. Call to Treason (2004} LCCN: 2004597210, by Jeff Rovin. When Mike Rodgers is fired due to budget cuts, he goes to work for a corrupt senator and gets embroiled in the vicious world of Washington politics.
  12. War of Eagles (2005} LCCN: 2005577014, by Jeff Rovin. Op-Center is under new management as Paul Hood is reassigned to a Pennsylvania Ave. appointment. At the same time, bombings in Charleston, Durban, and Taiwan, may signify the outing of a feud within the Chinese government.
  13. Out of the Ashes (2014} LCCN: 2014008057, by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi. When terrorists blow up NFL stadiums across the country, the President of the United States charters a new Op-Center for the 21st Century. Admiral Chase Williams is the new director, (Paul Hood at this time is diagnosed with ALS) and must also stop another plot involving a renegade Saudi prince from manipulating America into attacking Syria and launching a war against Iran.
  14. Into the Fire (2015} LCCN: 2015007284, by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi. A high-ranking North Korean general is murdered and a U.S. Navy ship is attacked and grounded during a training exercise. Op-Center discovers a secret alliance between China and North Korea, and must quickly rescue the crew in time as well as stop a North Korean terrorist cell from being unleashed upon the American homeland in order to prevent the outbreak of World War III.
  15. Scorched Earth (2016} LCCN: 2016003514, by George Galdorisi. U.S. General Bob Underwood, Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL is kidnapped in Syria and brutally murdered on live television. When the U.S. retaliates with a massive attack, the ISIS leader’s son is killed in an American bombing raid. His rage knowing no bounds, he is now determined to wreak vengeance on the American homeland itself. Op-Center must assemble both its domestic, as well as its international force to stop his deadly quest for revenge.

Although familiarly called “Op-Center”, the actual name of the largely autonomous agency is the “National Crisis Management Center”. The charter of the NCMC, or Op-Center, is unlike any other in the history of the United States. They handle both domestic and international crises. Director Paul Hood reports to the president himself, and what had started as “an information clearinghouse with SWAT capabilities” now has the singular capacity to monitor, initiate, and manage operations worldwide. The organization had its own paramilitary response team, called the Striker team, named by an Op-Center member who was a soccer fan, composed of members of the U.S. military special operations community. The series also mentioned similar organizations from England, whose response team was called Bengal, and Russia, with a team called Hammer. It is headquartered in a nondescript, two-story building located near the Naval Reserve flight line at Andrews Air Force Base that used to be a ready room, a staging area for crack flight crews. In the event of a nuclear attack, it would have been their job to evacuate key officials from Washington, D.C.

According to the 2014 reboot franchise, the National Crisis Management Center (Op-Center) was eventually disbanded after the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence managed to convince the President of the United States to shut the organization down due to the effectiveness of the US Intelligence Community and Special Forces in the War on Terror (much to the disgust of Paul Hood and Mike Rogers). Years later however, terrorists blow up several NFL stadiums across the country and leave thousands dead or mutilated. It is determined in the resulting investigation that the inability of government agencies to prevent the attacks was due to a lack of information, as well as the inability to put the pieces together in time. In response, the President executes an emergency order that reboots Op-Center for the 21st Century. Retired Admiral Chase Williams is eventually named the new director and Op-Center’s new headquarters is located in the basement of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; as its response team, Op-Center utilizes soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Command for overseas missions and a SWAT team from the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group in order to respond to domestic emergencies.

I have read all of the Op-Center books, and have posted reviews of a few of them (linked in the list above. It seems Jeff Riven ran out of ideas for Paul Hood. First he was taken out of Op-Center and replaced by an Army Officer. With new writers Paul is diagnosed with ALS effectively removing him entirely as a major character. Intel officer Bob Herbert was also downgraded. I can understand authors’ desire to develop new characters, but Op-Center is a series, and removing key actors is disappointing, at least to me.

Absolute Power

Title:                      Absolute Power

Author:                David Baldacci

Baldacci, David (1996, 2016). Absolute Power. New York : Grand Central Publishing

LCCN:    2016591009

PS3552.A446 A63 2016


Date Posted:      January 3, 2017

Review by Jonathan Kirsch[1]

Most mysteries are set in the mean streets of urban America, where the dicks are down at the heel, the prose is hard-boiled, and the most memorable characters tend to be lowlifes.

David Baldacci, on the other hand, takes the high road in his tale of murder among the rich and famous. Absolute Power starts at the very top–the White–and stays there. Only a few of the men and women who skulk and skuldugger their way through the pages of his bestseller are not certified members of the power elite.

One lowlife who does show up in Absolute Power is Luther Whitney, an aging career criminal who is described as “a card-carrying member of AARP.” While burglarizing a mansion outside Washington, D.C., Luther happens to see the lady of the house in the arms of a stranger–”a view from behind that should have been reserved for her gynecologist and husband”–and that’s what sets the unlikely plot of Absolute Power in motion.

At risk of giving away the key conceit of, I must disclose that the stranger is the president of the United States and that the lady in his arms meets an unfortunate fate. The rest of the book is devoted to the making and breaking of Absolute Power a wildly implausible cover-up that G. Gordon Liddy might have dreamed up but could not have carried out.

[1] Jonathan Kirsch, BOOK REVIEW / FICTION “Not the Usual Suspects You Find in Murder Mysteries : Absolute Power, Los Angeles Times (May 1, 1996).

Time to Hunt

Title:                      Time to Hunt

Author:                   Stephen Hunter

Hunter, Stephen (1998).Time to Hunt. New York: Doubleday

LCCN:    97046985

PS3558.U494 T56 1998


Date Updated:  June 26, 2015


Bob Lee Swagger, master sniper, returns (Black Light, 1996; Point of Impact, 1993), which means testosterone at the boil, gore galore, and filled-up body bags row on row. A super-sniper (not the illustrious Swagger but his nemesis Solaratov) shakes off the Arizona morning chill, hunkers over (for those who care) a “Remington 700, with H-S Precision fiberglass stock and Leupold 10X scope,” and seconds later a “man’s chest explodes” (snipers in this novel miss maybe once a decade). Flash back, then, to 1965. The war in Vietnam is winding down and, tragically, a young marine, Swagger’s partner, is blown away the day before he would have finished his tour. Are the two super-sniper incidents connected? Though for years Swagger has believed that the bullet that killed his friend was meant for him, events in the present prove him wrong. Unwillingly, then, he has to face the terrible fact that the death of his friend in 1965 was just the first act in a violent melodrama that now threatens his wife who was once married to his long-dead comrade. The answer behind the decades-old conspiracy is as convoluted as it is nefarious, involving chicanery in the corridors of power. Swagger, however, has little time to fritter away on inductive reasoning, since it’s time to hunt for that enemy sniper and take him out before harm can come to the innocent and helpless. “You’re a sacred killer,” an admirer tells Swagger. “Every society needs one.” Whether that’s true or not, the stage is set for a grim denouement, and Swagger drops from a helicopter—demigod ex machina—to frustrate evil. Hunter’s prose doesn’t get much above pedestrian, and the dialogue is particularly weak. But Swagger in battle—brandishing his wondrous rifle, Excalibur with a trigger—will hold most and enthrall some.

This book in the Op-Center series created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik is a power profile of America’s defense, intelligence, and crisis management technology.

Arctic Event

Title:                      Arctic Event

Author:                   James H. Cobb

Cobb, James H. (2007). Robert Ludlum’s The Arctic Event. New York: Grand Central Pub.,

LCCN:    2006925190

PS3553.O178 R63 2007


Date Updated:  June 9, 2017

This book is one in the series Covert One, created by Robert Ludlum.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, researchers discover the wreckage of a mysterious World War II-era aircraft, a discovery that forces the Russian Federation into a shocking admission. The unmarked plane is a Soviet strategic bomber that disappeared with its crew more than fifty years ago while carrying two metric tons of weaponized anthrax.

Desperate to prevent a political and diplomatic firestorm, the U.S. president dispatches a Covert-One team led by Lieutenant Colonel Jon Smith to the crash site. But others have reached the frigid, windswept island first, including an international arms dealer and his crew of vicious mercenaries. As for the Russians, they are lying: a second, even deadlier secret rests within the hulk of the lost bomber, a secret the Russians are willing to kill to protect. Trapped in a polar wilderness, Smith and his team find themselves fighting a savage war on two fronts–against an enemy they can see and another hiding within their own ranks.

Cobb’s latest Covert-One novel comes to us under the Ludlum rubric, consistent with the endlessly high pace, supercharged energy and international intrigue characteristic of the franchise. While the concept of the plot might stretch credulity, it doesn’t go too far for the inveterate action thriller fan and has the great virtue of high craft in the writing — well up to the standards of Eric Van Lustbader who wrote the preceding two Ludlum sagas.

Wednesday Island, a remote, hostile place a short distance from the Earth’s magnetic pole, is an excellent challenge for an intrepid climbing team. When a member of just such a group spots a strange sight a plane on a glacier!—the adventure becomes more than a recreational outing.

Word goes out under official secrecy and the craft is identified as a World War II era Soviet strategic bomber—a discovery that has all the potentials of a diplomatic cataclysm. The Russians, currently engaged in an anti-terrorism pact with President Samuel Castilla and the U.S. government, reveal that the long-lost Tupolev Tu-4 heavy bomber, called the Misha 124, is a strategic biological weapons platform loaded with weaponized Anthrax. The plane and its cargo were lost 50 years ago—an admission forced on its manufacturers by the untimely and hugely embarrassing sighting. Worst of all, the deadly bacterial agent must be presumed viable.

Knowing that any admission by the Russians is like the one ninth of an iceberg that’s visible above sea level, Castilla suspects there’s much more to the story than the official line, but agrees to a cooperative approach toward the recovery and elimination of the weapon. Tasked to coordinate with our old Cold-War enemies in as diplomatic a way as possible under obviously competitive circumstances is Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Smith, MD, who immediately puts together a team of “mobile cipher” agents of exceptional skill to get to the crash site first.

Spicing up the operation are two gorgeous military-trained women, presumably to provide the sexual tension dimension in the rigorous reaches of human habitability. Not so credible when you consider the physical demands, but there are demands and then there’s fiction. The choice brings in a dynamic that has its allure for men of the species and satisfaction for the feminist wing of the action demographic. Call it a win-win.

The women are: Randi Russell, who had spied in Red China for the CIA and has past history with team leader Smith which, for all her dedication, first-class experience and pilot training, could spell attitudinal trouble; and Valentina Metrace, professor of history and an equally smashing head turner of a more aggressive and sexually lively personality. She is to be Smith’s executive officer.

The fourth member is Russian liaison officer Major Gregori Smyslov of the Federation Air force, required by the Soviets to satisfy political demands. The major will ostensibly “aid and observe the team efforts,” officially. But his true task is to blunt the American effort and to facilitate the secret task force the Russians are sending out to “protect” the evidence. As for the good major himself, he’s more than a straight spy-automaton from the KGB, but a rather conflicted man with independent judgment. His wavering calculations between duty and decency generate a key vibe for Smith to assess. The question of Smyslov’s true values won’t be answered until the confrontations begin.

The more lethal threat is Anton Kretek, one ruthless arms dealer with spies everywhere and loyalty only to those who pay him best. To him, the anthrax is treasure that he will obtain at all costs. He brings in a twenty-man security and technical team, two helicopters, explosives and industrial equipment to thwart the plans of both the Russians, who will kill anyone to protect their secrets, and the Americans, who have a lot to lose if the biological agent isn’t destroyed and the full truth isn’t uncovered.

With precision staging, author Cobb’s mission is to convince us of his depth of knowledge about military culture, methodology, weaponry and the extremes of human savagery and survival—and he doesn’t let his readers down. His detailing of escape and evasion in the Arctic environment is tense and gripping—a lively demonstration of story structure and dramatic skill on the Ludlum scale of international intrigue.

This series seems to me to be much better written than some of the other series spawned by Ludlum and picked up by other writers.


Radical Son

Title:                      Radical Son

Author:                 David Horowitz

Horowitz, David (1997). Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey. New York: Free Press

LOC:       96027127

E840.8.H67 A3 1997

Date Posted:      March 20, 2013

Reviewed by Ramesh Ponnuru

David Horowitz is the most prominent member of his generation to have made the political trek from left to right. He has become, no doubt because of his radical background, one of the right’s most effective agitators, concentrating on issues that conservative activists generally neglect, like the politicized corruption of higher education and the federal “culture” bureaucracies. He has also, with his frequent collaborator and fellow ex-radical Peter Collier, challenged the left’s self-serving accounts of the 1960s and their legacy in Destructive Generation, Deconstructing the Left, and other works.

Now he has written a memoir integrating his political critique of the left with his own life story. That story is told with an honesty painful to himself and, sometimes, to the reader. It is a tribute to Horowitz’s moral seriousness that revelations about his troubled relationship with his father and disorderly romantic history are never presented as a therapeutic exercise, nor exploited for titillation; his missteps are neither excused nor minimized.

The powerful early chapters of the book introduce his parents and recount his youth as a red-diaper baby. For his father, communism provided the certainty, self-confidence, and sense of mastery of fate that he lacked; it promised an end to the alienation that he felt from his country and, indeed, himself. This made for a strange childhood: “Almost all conversation in our household was political, other than what was necessary to advance the business of daily life.” Horowitz was warned off baseball, “a form of capitalist exploitation,” and especially the Yankees, “the ruling class of baseball”: “To root for the Yankees,” as Horowitz furtively did, “was to betray a lack of social consciousness that was unthinkable for people like us.”

This upbringing reinforced his youthful hubris. “As a result of the Marxist ideas I had already absorbed,” he drily notes, “I was . . . able by the age of eleven to dispose of the enduring pathologies of our social condition.” Despite the universalist aspirations of his politics, Horowitz was also quite parochial. Of an aunt who was “not a New Yorker, not Jewish, and not political,” he remarks, “I didn’t know anyone else in our circle like her.” Outsiders were sometimes hostile—justifiably so, as Horowitz now recognizes, given his family’s anti-Americanism. During the McCarthy period, his parents lost their jobs as schoolteachers. Still, Horowitz is able to put their misfortune, and even the short prison stints of other Communists, in perspective: “This was not . . . an insignificant price to pay for their political allegiances. But, considering the Party’s organizational ties to an enemy power armed with nuclear weapons poised to attack America, it was not a large one, either.” In one of the quirks of life that defy neat ideological narratives, his mother’s firing resulted in her taking a more fulfilling job.

After a courtship he describes with surprising delicacy and warmth, Horowitz married Elissa Krauthamer at twenty. They moved to Berkeley, where Horowitz half-heartedly pursued graduate studies in English when he wasn’t busy germinating a New Left with the other red-diaper babies he found there. Confucius, Buber, and the early “humanist” Marx influenced him, but not so much as the example of his political (and actual) forebears. The Khrushchev report on Stalin’s crimes had made it impossible for his circle wholly to embrace their parents’ politics; but it remained unthinkable to reject the socialist vision that was central to their self-images. Thus they embarked on what Horowitz calls “a self-conscious effort to rescue the Communist project from its Soviet fate.” Just as they aspired to make a world anew, they thought they could make a left anew. This time there would be no low, dishonest decades. The revolutionary Marxist project would be revived, but this time from within American popular culture.

This New Left was thus able to provide political direction for a large slice of America’s youth that did not buy its whole ideological package and would never have consciously subordinated itself to the USSR in the manner of the Old Left. Except for a few remarks, however, Horowitz does not examine the relationship of the larger “youth rebellion” to political radicalism, which might have helped evoke the milieu of the sixties left. Instead, as his autobiographical prerogative, he sticks closely to his own life and reactions to the turbulence around him.

Horowitz made a name for himself in international—well, internationale—circles with Student and Free World Colossus (on U.S. imperialism), both formative New Left texts. After a brief stay in Scandinavia, he moved to London to work for Bertrand Russell. The great philosopher, by then a nonagenarian, had fallen under the sway of his megalomaniacal and fanatically left-wing secretary, Ralph Schoenman, and set up a “Peace Foundation.” Horowitz facilitated its “War Crimes Tribunal” judging America’s conduct of the Vietnam War.

He then returned to California and joined the staff of Ramparts, the largest-circulation magazine on the left at the time. Through Ramparts, he became connected to the Black Panthers and their charismatic leader, Huey Newton. Horowitz deluded himself that he and Newton, the intellectual theorist and the man of action, could be partners, and that the Panthers could be democratized. Despite numerous warning signs, it took the Panthers’ murder of Horowitz’s friend Betty Van Patter to shatter his illusions about them, and about the left.

Whatever private reservations individuals held, he writes, “no one on the left—no one—had dissociated themselves from the Panther cause.” Nor did Bay Area leftists, who were forever protesting injustice “in regions they could hardly locate on a map,” take any interest in Van Patter’s murder: “The incident had no usable political meaning, and was therefore best forgotten.” And other implications were even more disturbing. If Newton wasn’t “a victim of circumstance,” if “bourgeois” rules would always be necessary to restrain evil, then perhaps “the Marxist idea, to which I had devoted my entire intellectual life and work, was false.” This epiphany, together with the simultaneous collapse of his marriage, destroyed the foundation of his self-importance and initiated a long period of turmoil.

It is possible, however, to divine seeds of his present conservatism even before this cataclysm. He had early misgivings about the Cuban and North Vietnamese Communists, and visited neither regime. Having married early, he never really participated in the drug culture or, his divorce-inducing affairs notwithstanding, sexual liberation. He was consistently hostile to totalitarianism, and to the slovenly anti-intellectualism that made the left tolerant of it. When Eldridge Cleaver, at a Berkeley political rally, advocated gangsterism and invoked “pussy power,” Horowitz was embarrassed; others on the left indulged or promoted such folly, and worse.

Horowitz doesn’t let them off the hook, and he names names. While some readers may detect an excess of score-settling in the book’s final chapters, it seems to me reasonable to demand some accountability for the duplicity, malice, and willful misunderstandings of such as Todd Gitlin, Sidney Blumenthal, Hendrik Hertzberg, Paul Berman, and Tom Hayden. If Horowitz thought that he could induce shame in his former allies, however, he was quite mistaken.

It is the curse of the gifted memoirist to be psychologically shrewd in hindsight. Horowitz is devastatingly perceptive about the psychology of his family and of the left. But though the totalitarian temptation has psychological roots, he recognizes that it takes theological form: the left is a secular idolatry based on the denial of original sin. Its conviction that evil results from misunderstanding itself results from a misunderstanding of evil.

Conservatives have always known this truth, of course, even those who don’t know they know it. Horowitz’s belated recognition of it is what elevates his political conversion over the simple exchange of one set of verities and passions for another. Some readers of his tabloid Heterodoxy may complain that his politics have changed but not his manners. And Horowitz distances himself from “puritanism” on the right, though his account of his private life since his first marriage suggests that some puritanism might have served him well. But his sensibilities have changed. And in telling the story of how he came to appreciate an imperfectible world, he has written a close-to-perfect memoir.

Ramesh Ponnuru is National Reporter for National Review.

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


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 Hunters

Title:                      The Hunters

Author:                  W. E. B. Griffin

Griffin, W. E. B. (2006). The Hunters (A Presidential Agent Novel). New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2006037462

PS3557.R489137 H68 2006


Date Updated:  October 28, 2015

I like most of Griffin’s work and believe that it is definitely better when he wrote it alone than when he collaborated with his son, Butterworth.

This is the third book in the Griffin Presidential Agent series. It centers around Homeland Security. I have read comments that Griffin’s books are boring because there is so much dialog and the action moves slowly. I disagree. His facility with dialog makes the book move, develops characters as well as suspense. It continues where The Hostage finished, but it seems to move at an even faster pace, which I enjoy.

Carlos Castillo continues to build his team with the best people he can find, from the various intelligence agencies, as well as the military. I love this aspect of his books, because it is so much like true life, where people progress in their careers, or die, and new people join the team. But as usual I am a bit bothered by the omniscient leader and several other characters who speak several languages with facility – Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, German, all with perfect fluency.

The hunt for the bad guys crosses international boundaries, proving that today’s intelligence operatives need to be multi-lingual and very intelligent. An agent who only speaks English is no longer an effective agent against international terrorists. Hungarian, Russian, German, Spanish and English were the languages for most of this operation. German, Spanish, and obviously English do have a basis in reality for him. I’ve studied Russian and Hungarian seems to be from another world. To develop perfect fluency while being a serving military officer just is a stretch. It seems unrealistic to me that Castillo could have developed facility in all these languages.

The characters are multifaceted and certainly not stereotypical. You have to read to the end, to find out who all the good guys and bad guys really are. Carlos Castillo and his growing band of experts move from country to country, progressing through firefights that reveal bad guys at the highest levels.

As with any Griffin book, the winners are the people who have both the intelligence to analyze complex data, and the strength of character to act on it. In addition to people with military and intelligence skills, Castillo’s team now has: a financial analyst (with the financial and computer expertise to track billions of dollars through the labyrinth of secret international bank accounts); a newspaperman (with the instincts and contacts to uncover bad guys at the highest levels); and Max (who can actually smell bad guys).

For me, this book was as exciting and fast moving as Mr. Griffin’s books on WWII and Korea, with so much action that you feel like you are in the middle of a declared war. I recognize that there are others who disagree with me on this. I suppose that’s part of the reason I know of no movie made from a Griffin book. I wish there were.

This new series continues to highlight Griffin’s contacts with, and knowledge of, the modern military and intelligence communities. Although he points out some infighting between government agencies, he also points out that there are good people in every agency, and if they work together, they can stop the bad guys. This I really like. I served in military intelligence, and NO, it is not an oxymoron. Most of the people I worked with were apolitical and great patriots, working make the country better. I am disgusted with people who constantly belittle our government.

The book deals with heroes from Homeland Security, the Diplomatic Corps, the FBI, the CIA, Special Forces, and other US military units, as well as like-minded patriots in Argentina, Germany and Uruguay.

WEB Griffin is truly the dean of American military story tellers, and this book reveals his understanding of the complex relationship that exists between various intelligence organizations, as well as the military.

This is the audio version of The Hunters, read by Jay O. Sanders. It is abridged, but being on 16 CDs it doesn’t seem to have much of it cut out. I read the print version before listening to the audio version (on a very long trip to Colorado). One should give due credit to Jay Sanders who read this novel for the audio version[1]. He did very well with accents, giving life to words on the page. I heard only one mistake on the entire 16 CDs. Once he referred to the OOA as the Office for Operational Analysis (instead of Organizational). I know that these performers are not paid well for their work, but maybe they should be. He did a fantastic job.

[1] New York: Penguin Audio. ISBN: 978-0143059196


The Fourth Protocol

Title:                      The Fourth Protocol

Author:                   Frederick Forsyth

Forsyth, Frederick (1985). The Fourth Protocol. New York: Viking

LCCN:    83040646

PR6056.O699 F6 1984

Date Updated:  October 14, 2015

The Cambridge Four continue today to stir conspiracy theories and inspire endless novels. I have read several books and seen many movies about those four. At the heart of most of the books is Kim Philby.

The Fourth Protocol is a cold war spy story. Kim Philby, a traitor to the UK and a deserter, lives in Russia. He and Russian officials hatch a plot to destabilize the West or even cause revolution. If the plot works, many will die and the alliance between the UK and the USA will be broken. Russia dispatches an agent to the UK, who can pass for an Englishman to work on the plan.

John Preston works with the intelligence agency of the UK government. He is very able, but not much appreciated by his superior. He becomes aware, by accident, that foreign agents are in the country, planning a big coup, but is not sure what it is. The plot consists mainly of his efforts to gather information and put all the pieces together. Not only does Preston have to deal with foreign agents, there are those in his own government whose motives he cannot be sure of and who seem to interfere with the plans to find out what is going on.

Forsyth does his research. He fills his novels with historically accurate details that give so much life to his writing. He is also master of the suspense novel. With spies as his main characters, and intelligence gathering guiding his plot, it is the perfect book for me. No wonder I loved the movie made of the book.

The New York Times (Michiko Kakutani, August 30, 1984) says of the book: “THEY would not really try it, would they?” thinks a senior British Intelligence officer. “Not breach the Fourth Protocol? Or would they? Desperate men sometimes take desperate measures.” Well, of course they’d try—this is a Frederick Forsyth novel, after all. And besides, who cares about probability, anyway?

In The Day of the Jackal, Mr. Forsyth wrote about a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle—even though de Gaulle had died peacefully a year before the book was published. And in The Odessa File, he wrote about a Nazi plan to liquidate Israel by using rockets filled with bubonic plague.

What, though, is the “Fourth Protocol,” and why do the Russians want to breach it? To begin with, the year is 1987, and technology has progressed to the point at which it’s possible to build a tiny atomic bomb—“small enough to go in a suitcase and simple enough to be assembled from a dozen prefabricated, milled and threaded components, like a child’s construction kit.” Apparently these things are just as bad as big atomic bombs, and in a way more dangerous, because you can destroy your enemy by planting one of them in a locker or an abandoned house—no need to use missiles that might trigger radar or a counterstrike.

Mr. Forsyth’s Russians, however, don’t simply want to bomb Britain. They are far more subtle than that: their plan is to set off a small nuclear explosion that will give credibility to the British antinuclear movement; that, in turn, will bring the Labor Party to power; that, in turn, will enable hard-core leftists to seize power; that, in turn, will make Britain a Marxist state.

Sound complicated? Most of The Fourth Protocol is pure unadulterated plot—unsullied by well-developed characters, moral insights or interesting prose. When the main story bogs down, Mr. Forsyth simply throws in a subplot about office politics inside British Intelligence, or summons an allusion to a real-life event such as the Falkland crisis, or a previous spy scandal. He even gives the traitor Kim Philby a supporting role in the novel—though his role, like that of many others, ends up being little more than a red herring.

The problem with The Fourth Protocol is not that its premise seems silly: Mr. Forsyth has such a knack for describing technical matters like cracking safes and building bombs, and such a deft ability to juggle the sort of little details spies specialize in, that his novel has a strong documentary sense. The problem with The Fourth Protocol is that—unlike some of the author’s earlier books—it becomes predictable, and so lacking in suspense. Halfway through, the reader knows exactly where it’s headed. In the end, in fact, the novel resembles one of Mr. Forsyth’s little atomic bombs—a kit “assembled from a dozen prefabricated, milled and threaded components.”

The Chancellor Manuscript

Title:                  The Chancellor Manuscript

Author:                 Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (1977). The Chancellor Manuscript. New York: Dial Press

LCCN:    76057768

PZ4.L9455 Ch

Date Updated:  June 17, 2015

Ludlum’s book is by an author about an author, a particularly successful author, Peter Chancellor. Chancellor becomes a successful novelist after his thesis is rejected by the supervisory committee. His novels, though works of fiction, portray the happening of certain events that may not have happened the way the people believe they did.

A group of highly intellectual people known as “Inver Brass”, see a threat to the United States when they discover that John Edgar Hoover, the director of FBI is using scandal-ridden private files as leverage. Hoover has compiled 1000 dossiers on the most influential people in the USA. The group decides to get rid of Hoover and recover the files.

To carry out their plan the Inver Brass hire Varak,  a professional working with NSA. Hoover is eliminated, however, not all the dossiers are recovered, since someone else got to them first. The question is who has the dossiers that could have a devastating effect on the country’s future. The group sets out to find who has Hoover’s files.

One does not approach Washington’s elite with indelicate questions. The group decide to use Chancellor for their purposes, since his profession of a novelist provides him with a natural cover. Chancellor, on the other hand, is not the novelist he once was. After suffering a terrible accident and losing his fiancé, he is leading a broken life. But when Varak, posing as a FBI agent, approaches Chancellor and hints the possibility that Hoover (who is thought to have died from a heart attack) may have been assassinated, the writer inside Peter awakens from a state of dormancy. Varak also feeds him with the information that the “scandal ridden dossiers” collected by Hoover are missing.

Peter decides to write a book on the last year of Hoover’s life. For this he needs hard facts and to get them he has to delve into the existence of the scandal- ridden dossiers. The plot thickens when a number of people are blackmailed with the information contained in their dossiers compiled by Hoover. By doing so, the blackmailer (who is a voice on the telephone, and reveals he has the dossiers) gains undue advantage, specifically on the political scene in Washington. As a case in point, a journalist questioning the ways by which funds are being raised for the elections, is asked to give away the investigation. If not, certain facts about her will be publicized, ending her career as a journalist.

Peter starts writing his book. His investigation into the existence of the dossiers leads to him to unearth two secrets. First is the mystery behind the massacre of Chasong which took place during the Korean War, and the second is the true identity of the blackmailer. These revelations not only endanger his life but also the lives of the people he cares for.

All Ludlum’s books are excellent mystery/thriller books, and this one especially so. I have enjoyed The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Osterman Weekend, The Rhinemann Exchange, and The Gemini Contenders just as much as this, The Chancellor Manuscript.

The Janson Directive

Title:                  Janson Directive

Author:                Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (2002). The Janson Directive. New York: St. Martin’s Press

LCCN:    2002005136

PS3562.U26 J36 2002


Date Updated:  June 19, 2015

Former operative, now security specialist Paul Janson is called in to rescue an international diplomat only to find himself set up, his team members killed, and the target of an immensely powerful cabal.

Paul Janson has a difficult past which includes a shadowy, notorious career in U. S. Consular Operations. Now living a quiet life, nothing could lure him back into the field. Except Peter Novak—a man who once saved Janson’s life—who has been kidnapped by terrorists and is set to be executed. Janson hastily assembles a team of former colleagues and protégés to rescue Novak but the operation goes horribly wrong. Now Janson finds himself marked for death and his only hope is to uncover the truth behind these events – a truth that has the power to foment wars, topple governments and change the very course of history.

Ludlum died in March 2001, but here he is again, back with yet another posthumous thriller. Such books rarely live up to the author’s standards, but this one is different it’s vintage Ludlum—big, brawny and loaded with surprises.