Title:                      Firebreak

Author:                  Richard Herman, Jr.

Herman, Richard (1998). Firebreak. New York: W. Morrow

LOC:       91007969

PS3558.E684 F5 1991

Date Posted:      August 5, 2013

In this action adventure book, the Middle East erupts in a red-hot shooting war—and the President’s grandson is in the thick of it. Herman’s prewriting career (The Warbirds, Force of Eagles) as an Air Force fighter pilot shows clearly and to advantage.

President Zack Pontowski and his high-flying grandson Matt are at the heart of the heated political and military action stirred up by the resurgent Iraqis and their new best friends, the Syrians, and by Israel’s clear intent to go nuclear if provoked. While the President copes with the intrigues of his Sununu-ish chief of staff, his wife’s fatal illness, Soviet political disintegration, a blackmailing oil empress, and Israel’s friends in Congress, his grandson seeks to erase his playboy past, renounce his grandfather’s political influence, win the heart of luscious Sabra, and earn the respect of his Air Force colleagues.

The brilliant, tubby, lustful chief of staff, who is in the clutches of the aged oil queen, very nearly cooks Israel’s goose as he pooh-poohs the threat of war and tries to freeze out pro-Israeli intelligence. But the Israelis start channeling their messages through Matt, and the President wises up in time to get on top of the situation when the Arabs and Egyptians start shooting. As the Israelis rattle their nuclear weapons, the Iraqis shake their chemical weapons, and it becomes necessary for grandson Matt to zoom into the thick of the fray to let off a few of those amazingly intelligent weapons we have come to know so well on the TV screen. Good, generally intelligible military thriller–this one distinguished by credible political characterizations and hair-raising aerial shootouts.

Medusa’s Child

Title:                  Medusa’s Child

Author:                John J. Nance

Nance, John J. (1997). Medusa’s Child. New York : Doubleday

LCCN:    96027656

PS3564.A546 M43 1997


Date Updated:  June 7, 2015

While I like thrillers, and particularly those involving advanced technology, I found this book stretching credibility on a number of things. The crisis of the book develops when a disgruntled U.S. nuclear scientist, formerly working in the U.S. weapons program, wills his ex-wife the unthinkable, a thermonuclear bomb. This is no common nuke. It is engineered to create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) orders of magnitude greater than anything experienced from the largest weapons in the U.S. arsenal.

Before his death, the scientist con’s his ex-wife into taking a so-called “model” of a Medusa device to the Pentagon for analysis. A working Medusa bomb, the theory goes, would knock out all of the working computers in North America, while killing a few million people at the same time. For the purposes of national security, the former Machiavellian husband argues that this information belongs in the hands of our military to study and defend against. But in transit to the nation’s capitol, the model comes alive in the belly of a Boeing 727 air cargo jet, and its inventor speaks from the grave.

Medusa’s Child maybe author John Nance’s finest aviation thriller. The heroes of this novel not only have to battle a bomb to survive, they have to battle horrendous weather, fuel limitations, a screwed up military, a paranoid FBI, and the limitations of their own aging 727. One adversarial situation after another, they just keep coming. And one after another, the pilots keep on flying.

I am not convinced that a 727 could land on the deck of a navy carrier, regardless of how well the scenario is devised. I am unconvinced that there is anyway to boost EMP to the level suggested in the book. The source of the EMP is from radiation absorbed and re-radiated from bomb blast debris. I am willing to give Nance that such a device might be devised, but whoa, what happens in the airplane, especially with hurricane-force winds buffeting the aircraft, just doesn’t fly with me.

My copy of this is from Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Select Editions (1997, Vol. 233, No. 5, pp. 291-445).

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 Last Days

Title:                      The Last Days

Author:                  Joel C. Rosenberg

Rosenberg, Joel C. (2003). The Last Days. New York: Forge


Date Updated:  March 9, 2013

It’s the near future. Osama bin Laden is dead; so are Saddam Hussein and his sons. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been wiped out. Iraq is in ruins, and it’s up to Jon Bennett, the U.S. president’s senior advisor, to find a way to rebuild it. Central to this effort is a “massive and spectacular tract of oil and natural gas” discovered in the Mediterranean, a source of wealth that could bring peace to the Middle East. But will 81-year-old Yassar Arafat let peace reign? That becomes a moot point when Arafat is assassinated by a suicide bomber, and the hero, Bennett, is suddenly all that stands between peace and global destruction.

Rosenberg’s sequel to the bestselling The Last Jihad (2002) is a near-clone of its predecessor: an action-packed Clancy-esque political thriller with paper-thin characters. Presidential envoy Jon Bennett returns as the protagonist, along with his bodyguard and love interest, Erin McCoy, an “Uzi-toting, Arabic-speaking CIA supermodel.” Their efforts to broker a Middle East peace, whose centerpiece is a fortuitously discovered deep oil reserve with the potential to make every Israeli and Palestinian wealthy, are literally blown to pieces when a suicide bomber claims the life of the U.S. secretary of state and Yasser Arafat himself.

The surviving members of the American delegation, along with the Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs behind the oil-drilling venture, are scrambling frantically to escape from the Gaza Strip when civil war breaks out among the factions grappling to succeed Arafat as leader. Meanwhile, the sinister forces behind the attack seek to wreak further havoc by dispatching teams of terrorists to America while provoking the Israeli government to trigger a wider conflagration by invading the West Bank and Gaza. The author singularly fails to suspend readers’ disbelief with his baffling decision to set the action in the year 2010 while simultaneously placing real-life events from 2003 such as the invasion of Iraq and the appointment of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) as Palestinian prime minister seven years in the future. His efforts to make the book a relevant, “ripped-from-the-headlines” tale are already dated-the real Abu Mazen resigned his post-and the fantasy solution to the intractable political conflict by a deus ex machina will strike many readers as silly.

Like the first Jon Bennett novel, The Last Jihad (2002), this one is a timely tale of political intrigue and international terrorism. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that (also like its predecessor) the novel features stilted dialogue, crudely drawn characters, and a generally clunky narrative style. The author is clearly an expert in international politics, but his skills as a storyteller have yet to be revealed.