Bimini Run


Title:                      Bimini Run

Author:                  Howard Hunt

Hunt, E. Howard (1949). Bimini Run. New York: Farrar, Straus

LCCN:    49010344

PZ3.H9123 Bi

Date Updated:  January 17, 2017

Reviewed by Ranger on September 8, 2014

4.0 out of 5 starsA good read overall; a taut yet lean-souled psychological thriller that deserves a fresh audience

A taut psychological thriller from a real-life master of intrigue and suspense, E. Howard Hunt. Bimini Run has a Hemingwayesque feel to it due to both the subject matter and Hunt’s sparse writing style. But the story lacks the existential depth that made Hemingway’s work so rich. What we are left with is a story somewhat lean of soul about a down-on-his-luck gambler named Hank Sturgis who is hired to work aboard the chartered fishing yacht of a rich, decadent couple, Clay and Leslie Crawford. Over the course of Clay Crawford’s obsessive effort to validate his manhood by landing a record-breaking marlin, the Crawford marriage disintegrates with Sturgis caught between the bitter, unstable husband, his shallow, alcoholic artist wife and the charter boat’s captain, a rugged old salt with no patience for either of them. Published in the late 40s, the book avoids the gaudy in-your-face sexploitation of Hunt’s later novels. Instead we are left feeling the raw temptation and emotions of worldly, cynical people trapped by their bad decisions in the same claustrophobic place—a boat at sea with no place to run to or to hide from each other. The violent ending is predictable but still fascinating—like watching a slow motion train wreck. Unlike most of Hunt’s later novels (many written under pseudonyms) Bimini Run is pure psychological suspense. There are no crimes to solve, spies to catch, drug dealers to shoot, or bikini bimbos to jump all over the hero. It’s a classic, one that deserves a fresh reading audience. Bimini Run remains the most interesting early work of the novelist, E. Howard Hunt. People who only know him from his Watergate “plumber” misadventure, his colorful career in the CIA, the ridiculous theories about his involvement in the Kennedy assassination, or from his later, exploitation action novels would be surprised to discover that Hunt won a Guggenheim Fellowship Award for his fiction in 1946. And Bimini Run was optioned to Warner Brothers in 1949 but never made into a film. It’s a pity because the writing style clearly lends itself to screenplay. One wonders what might have become of Hunt as a writer had he focused on his craft instead of joining the CIA in 1950. But he did and the rest, as they say, is history.

For a review of all Howard Hunt fiction books, see Maelstrom (1948)[1]

[1] Hunt, E. Howard (1948). Maelstrom. New York: Farrar, Straus

 

Threat Vector


Title:                      Threat Vector

Author:                Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (2012) with Mark Greaney. Threat Vector. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2012037741

PS3553.L245 T48 2012

Subjects

Date Posted:      June 7, 2015

KIRKUS REVIEW

In which Jack Ryan, Junior and Senior, take on most of the bad guys in the world. Guess who wins.

Writing with international relations maven turned novelist Greaney, techno geek and political mayhem lover Clancy (The Hunt for Red October, 1984, etc.) drafts a legion of villains—al-Qaida operatives, rogue spooks, former Gadhafi agents and high-ups in the Chinese Communist Party—who are separately and together up to decidedly no good when it comes to the sovereign interests of the U.S., now led by former CIA agent Jack Ryan. His namesake son is a field agent, as adept as dad at identifying and eliminating threats, and the threats are ever so many. Junior and company have a clinically efficient way about them: “Target Four died, slumped on the floor by the toilet in the bathroom of the sports stadium, certain that this all must have been some terrible mistake.”

Even so, getting to the heaviest of the heavies, among them brilliant hackers who, from the safety of China, are working 24/7 to break into America’s computers, takes them a little more effort and planning. Most of those heavies are believable, though one of them, a certain Tong, has a sort of Odd Job quality to him: “Not much gave him pleasure, his brain had been virtually programmed by the state so that it did not respond to such banal stimuli as pleasure.” It’s a pleasure, banal or no, to watch the Ryans at work against such fierce competition, and Clancy and Greaney are at the top of their game. Interestingly, too, Clancy’s writing has shed some of its erstwhile woodenness, and though he still loves gadgetry and military hardware, his latest doesn’t read like a tech manual, which is all to the good.

Hostage Tower


Title:                      Hostage Tower

Author:                 Alistair MacLean

MacLean, Alistair (1980, 1983) with John Denis. Hostage Tower. New York: Fawcett Crest

OCLC:    09436294

PR6063.A248 H67 1983

Date Posted:      October 8, 2014

Here’s what a customer on Amazon wrote about the book. I have not read Air Force One is Down so I can’t comment on that book, but I concur with the rest of the review.

I had just finished this book’s sequel, also by John Denis, Air Force One is Down, so my expectations for Hostage Tower were at rock bottom. My expectations were not exceeded but spot on. Do not get me wrong. I am a MacLean fan, but that does not include being a fan of cheap MacLean imitations like this. John Denis has neither MacLean’s talent for spicing up a story with mystery nor his wit. Hostage Tower is a pedestrian, trivial, predictable hostage drama where everything unfolds as you would expect a hostage drama to unfold. No mystery. No wit. No plot twists of interest. A plot full of holes, ranging from the utterly silly or the obviously impossible to plain contradictions. A B-movie was filmed in 1980, based on this book. It is the least interesting MacLean movie I have ever seen. Read: Boring from start to finish. The film’s rating on the International Movie Database […] is as low as 5.3/10, which is a scandal for a “MacLean” movie. At least the film makers have the valid excuse that the script was useless from the start, but then again, why bother making a film out of it in the first place?

This book should have been titled “How to make money for MacLean and his publisher without actually going through the trouble of writing a book himself”. It may be tempting to make a quick buck out of a well-reputed name by having a B-author write a book and put a MacLean stamp on it, but in the long term, it risks discrediting MacLean’s name.

If you are desperate for something to read, for example if you are a hostage yourself and the alternative is staring into a wall or reading the yellow pages, or if you have been forced on vacation with your mother-in-law and need an excuse to distance yourself from her, then maybe this book can distract you for a couple of days. In most other situations, this book is a waste of paper.

Ice Station Zebra


Title:                      Ice Station Zebra

Author:                  Alistair MacLean

MacLean, Alistair (1960, 1967). Ice Station Zebra. London:Collins

LCCN:       63006126

PZ4.M1626 Ic

Date Posted:      June 23, 2015

This is early MacLean and one of his better books, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the movie but the “expert” reviews tore it apart, notably Rogers and Ebert. You can’t judge a book by its movie. I liked them both, and, well Excuse me!

Ice Station Zebra, an arctic meteorological station, located on the ever drifting pack ice of the high Arctic, has been destroyed by an equipment fire. The Dolphin, an American nuclear submarine, is about to set sail on a dangerous high speed mission under the polar ice cap to rescue the badly injured team. But, just as one would suspect from a cold war thriller, all is not as it seems. Ice Station Zebra is a good deal more than just a scientific meteorological station. The scientific team is not just a collection of scientists. One of them is a ruthless killer for which the achievement of his mysterious secret mission against the Americans and the Brits may even require the cold-blooded execution of the entire crew of the Dolphin. Nor is Doctor Carpenter, a British volunteer member of the Dolphin’s crew ostensibly along to seek out his brother who was part of Ice Station Zebra’s stricken team, precisely what he shows to the world.

As thrillers go, Ice Station Zebra is certainly enjoyable but it’s a long, long way from what most readers would label a compelling page turner. It’s got all the requisite ingredients to be sure—murder, sabotage, hidden identities, spies, accidents, cliff-hangers—but I think it could have been so much more. The parts of the story that took place inside the submarine were interesting and, at times, even exciting. But the action never reached the breathless urgent pace that was more recently achieved in other submarine thrillers such as The Hunt for Red October or Larry Bond’s Dangerous Ground. The Arctic itself as an environment which can be stunning in its breathtaking beauty and is always fraught with danger and the potential for deadly accidents was never truly exploited as a part of the story to anywhere near the extent that it might have been.

Ice Station Zebra is an enjoyable change of pace and nice easy brain candy reading that won’t tax the little grey cells. It just won’t make anyone’s top ten list of the best all-time spy vs spy thrillers! Since most of my reading is done when I go to bed (already worn out and yawning) it satisfied, but didn’t keep me awake.

A Prisoner of Morro


Title:                      A Prisoner of Morro

Author:                  Upton Sinclair

Sinclair, Upton (1898). A Prisoner of Morro; Or, in the Hands of the Enemy. New York: Street & Smith

OCLC:    57400718

PS3537.I85 P97

Date Posted:      February 27, 2014

Mind boggling adventures on the sea and on the land of Cuba by Upton Sinclair (pseudonym Ensign Clark Fitch). So much adventure in a just a few pages for this grandma, but I can imagine my grandsons getting a big kick out of the war stories, water escapades, and intrigue. If you like sailors and ships and guns and bravery, this book is for you!

Upton Sinclair, born in 1878 was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author. He wrote over 90 books in many genres. Best known for his muckraking novel, The Jungle, Sinclair also wrote adventure fiction. Many of these works were written under the pseudonym, Ensign Clark Fitch, U.S.N. A Prisoner of Morrow, published in 1898 when Sinclair was but 20 years old, is one of these efforts.

The period for this work is the ten-week Spanish–American War which occurred in 1898. Revolts against Spanish rule had been prevalent for decades in Cuba and were closely watched by Americans. The main issue of the war was Cuban independence from Spain. The war was notable for a series of one-sided American naval and military victories and led to the downfall of Spain as a colonial power. Clif Faraday, a naval cadet, is the main character in this novel. Stationed on a gunboat off the Cuban island as part of the U. S. naval blockade, Clif survives a series of confrontations at sea and treacheries on land. He is captured while on the island during a mission and lands in a Cuban prison called Morro, renowned for its cruelty. Clif receives aid from an unlikely source when all seems lost and survives to show commendable leadership and canny judgment.

If you’re looking for social commentary from Sinclair, this is not the book. If you want an entertaining read reminiscent of “old-time” radio weekly serials where the hero faces dire consequences at the end of the each week’s program, then you should enjoy this story.

Finished Reading: February 26, 2014

Aftermath


Title:                      Aftermath

Author:                  Peter Telep

Telep, Peter (2013). Tom Clancy’s Aftermath. New York: Berkley Books

ISBN:     978-0425266304

PS3570.E447 T66 2013

Date Posted:      February 25, 2014

In the aftermath of conspiracy, corruption, and betrayal a reconstructed Splinter Cell team designated “Fourth Echelon” emerges under the command of Sam Fisher and answerable only to the President. We join the team during their current assignment: find and steal back one hundred pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU) stolen from Russia and hidden somewhere inside Iran.

But, when Igor Kasperov, Russia’s equivalent to America’s Bill Gates vanishes, the President orders Fisher to abort the HEU mission and find him. How is Kasperov more important—or dangerous—than weapon grade uranium in the hands of Islamic radicals?

President Caldwell dispatches the 4E team to learn the answers. Meanwhile, the Russians order their elite operative, Major Viktoria Kolosov, the Snow Maiden, to bring the missing software genius back to Moscow. Smells like a showdown between the Snow Maiden and Sam to me.

There’s more here between the book covers than the usual over-the-top action adventure scenes and sequences. Telep shares some of the geopolitical underpinnings driving his story. I like that a lot. It puts meat on the bones. It shows respect for the reader and demonstrates a keen awareness of current events. Two examples: The permanent stationing of U.S. Navy missile equipped ships in European ports to circumvent Russia’s “no land missiles” prohibition is nothing short of brilliant and U.S. natural gas sales that undercut Russian pricing in the European marketplace is akin to dropping an economic bomb. Such actions by the U.S. are viewed as a direct assault on the economic stability of the Russian government and a threat to its homeland security. The Russians have long considered Europe as their exclusive gas and oil customer and missile platforms that can sail from port to port yet remain on target is enough to make any country nervous.

It’s no surprise that the Russians feel compelled to retaliate against such threats. Is Kasperov’s disappearance a part of their scheme? The author sets it all up, turns Sam and his team loose, and dares us to follow.

Did you forget about that missing HEU? Telep doesn’t. You can bet your lead vest it’s going to arrive, uninvited, in a crucial place, at an awkward time, ticking like a, you-know-what!

I finished reading this February 24, 2014.

Executive Orders


Title:                      Executive Orders

Author:                  Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1996). Executive Orders. New York: Putnam

LCCN:       96023388

PS3553.L245 E9 1996

Date Updated:      July 31, 2013

Tom Clancy makes me hurt—really hurt. I like his writing but he is so, so biased in presentation. Well, he is slanted away from me and I guess that is what hurts. I just don’t like his harping on what’s wrong with America. I will quote some from a New York Times review.

LOGLINE: The President, Congress and the Supreme Court are wiped out when a Japanese airline pilot turned terrorist crash-dives a 747 into the Capitol. The inexperienced Veep, Special Agent Jack Ryan, who had been sworn in only moments before the crash, is forced to take over the Presidency, fight the Iranians (who have launched an Ebola virus threat), declare martial law, prevent a bloody kidnapping attempt on his daughter and finally save the country.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, most of the book is about what’s wrong with America and how Jack Ryan can make it a better place (not the kind of place Oliver Stone would like). But the real problem is that Ryan has little to do here, and without his beating up Russians (The Hunt for Red October) or taking down Colombian drug lords (Clear and Present Danger), this will be a major disappointment for Clancy fans and is a DEFINITE PASS, pending of course a NEW SCRIPT. Then RECONSIDER.

So, what does Clancy have to say?

Inside every Tom Clancy novel is a thin Ian Fleming waiting to get out. Executive Orders makes the memoirs of Richard Nixon (1,120 pages) seem far more entertaining, if not as wacky. In inimitable Clancy fashion, Executive Orders would have us believe that Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford in two movies)—rogue C.I.A. agent, opponent of abortion rights, and what Oliver North always wanted to be—has temporarily become Vice President of the United States owing to a sex scandal involving his predecessor (Jack Ryan, I believe, has yet to experience an errant erection).

This of course allows Mr. Clancy, disguised as Ryan, to act out his innermost secret fantasy and become President for 874 pages. He gets not only to go after the Iranian “ragheads” (who have, incidentally, solved one problem by taking over Iraq) for launching the deadly Ebola virus against us, but also to recognize Taiwan, the better to stick it to the heirs of Mao Zedong, and along the way to turn the psychological tide on the evil Liberal Media Empire. (I must admit to wondering, What liberal media empire? In the 1970s, those tired of crime got Dirty Harry. In the 90s, when a jaded and disgusted pre-election citizenry is jumping to its feet when the White House is blown to smithereens in Independence Day, those tired of the whole exhausting media-soaked process get Jack Ryan.)

Clancy’s essential miscalculation is not allowing Jack Ryan, an action hero at heart, to stop telling others what to do as President and go out there and kick more butt, which is exactly what President Harrison Ford will do in his movie Air Force One. On this one, Clancy may for once be behind the Zeitgeist.

As usual, some of the Clancy plotting is fiendishly inventive, and he has a technically sharp command of the realistic detail, like the horrifying use of Ebola as an instrument of war rather than of nature. But the realism comes at the expense of the story’s flow, and here I must ask whether anyone actually “edits” Mr. Clancy, or for that matter whether there is any living workaholic who actually reads every cybernetic paragraph, with its obligatory expressions of grief, anger, fear and that little bit of love that in Clancy’s world can be taken to mean “responsibility.”

The book’s true spirit lies in its dedication to “Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States: The Man Who Won the War.” I am curious as to which war Mr. Clancy means– Grenada? Libya? Or the Bush wars of Panama and the Gulf? Surely I am not the only Vietnam veteran to have nightmares whenever the Tom Clancys of the world promote this reverential mythos of winning great wars, when in fact the proper analogy to our behavior as a nation comes from the backs of those magazines we read as kids, promising the 98-pound weakling that if you sent in 25 cents, you too could beat the living daylights out of the beach bully and grab the girl. Has no one noticed that in our movies and our popular culture, we have become the beach bully? Since when did Stallone the cartoon cross over and become a national symbol? How has the ideology and demagoguery of Nixon and McCarthy entered and so infected our cultural landscape?

I suspect that when Mr. Clancy celebrates Mr. Reagan’s war record, he really means the perpetual war he is fighting in his own mind against all foreign demons, be they Arabs, Chinese, the drugged veins of our own populace, or crazed Hollywood liberals. Yes, promotion of a culture of threat is and always has been a pop function, but it is being ideologized into a political reality. The trouble is, as my grandmother used to tell me, the boy cannot cry wolf every day without eventually bringing on the Big Bad Wolf.

When I read and see stuff like this perpetually coming out of Hollywood, I wonder, have I lost touch? Do the old and the young in this country, bombarded by action films and Tom Clancy novels, even remember that once upon a time patriotism was occasionally a highly suspect emotion, lending itself to vigilantism, the suspicion and murder of foreigners and plenty of local lynchings? That, as Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart might have said at their scriptwritten best, in the name of patriotism many a scoundrel has shone in passing times of terror and degeneration?

To thrive in such a climate means precisely to help create such a climate. Create the terror, then rescue the terrorized, and you will be a hero forever. In such a way does the white knight Tom Clancy (a k a Jack Ryan) save his bride (the U.S.A.) from the clutches of the Evil Arab, Oriental, Outsider, and so on.

The myth is a false one. You rescue yourself only. From your darkest nature. The bride, the other that you rescue, is also yourself, call it your feminine. The whole purpose of the theatrical exercise at the end of the day, in my opinion, is the reintegration of yourself. Thus the true Happy Ending. I’m all for it. But let’s not take our private struggle too seriously or too publicly, Clancy. And that goes for you too, Mr. Stone.