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


Date Posted:      June 7, 2015


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


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.

The Bourne Ultimatum

Title:                      The Bourne Ultimatum

Author:                  Robert Ludlum

Ludlum, Robert (1990). The Bourne Ultimatum. New York: Random House

LCCN:    89043201

PS3562.U26 B685 1990

Date Updated:  January 6, 2017

This is another in Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. I’ve read them all, including the more recent ones written by Eric Van Lustbader. Ludlum’s are the best, with action perfectly described, along with great plots. This review lists most of them up to the more recent books.

This review is adapted from Deist Brawler. Brawler says: “I saw The Bourne Identity in theatres with my dad. He’d already read the original trilogy and was excited that they turned it into a movie. During the movie he turned to me and said, ‘This is nothing like the book, but I like it.’”

Being poor I was looking through my parents’ books to find something to read; lo and behold, I came across the original trilogy. I set those to the side and kept looking, when I came across The Bourne Legacy. Then Betrayal and The Borne Sanction popped up…then I got Deception. My intent was to read the entire series and then write a review not of just the individual books, but the series as a whole. Why? Basically all of the stories are the same, Jason Bourne gets caught up in some crazy government plot, beats the crap out of some dudes, kills some other dudes, and in turn gets the crap beat out of him. In the end though, he’s going to save the USA. However, Bourne is like Rambo on steroids. I think, if he got in a fight with Rambo, Rambo would be dead in a second. He would step up to Bourne, fists raised, ready to fight, and he wouldn’t even get to swing before he was dropped to the ground. And to think, they were both born in the jungles of Vietnam.

Robert Ludlum created the original trilogy. Without doubt, Ludlum is the master of action stories. Jason Bourne is really named David Webb. Once an intellectual, his Thai wife and two children are murdered by a strafing plane in Cambodia. Enraged and without hope he goes to Vietnam where he joins a group of misfits and outlaws known as Medusa. [Although, this is gradually revealed through the book. You don’t know it until you’re deep into the story.] Through them he learns most of his skills, quickly becoming the best with the code name DELTA ONE. With the war ending Bourne is recruited to join Treadstone (which you should know from the movies…if you’ve seen them). His job there is to become the world’s number one assassin (at least on paper and in minds) so he can hunt down and kill the real number one assassin, Carlos the Jackal. This is where he, essentially, becomes Jason Bourne.

The Bourne Identity is basically what you see in the movie…with a few minor details. Bourne has amnesia. He’s trying to find out who he is, while an assassin (Carlos) and the CIA are trying to kill him. Carlos, because he thinks Bourne is after him. The CIA, because they think Bourne has gone rogue. In the film, Marie is a poor German woman trying to make her way through life. In the book, Marie is an intelligent economist who works for the Canadian government. She helps Bourne; the CIA acknowledges they made a huge mistake; and she steals several million from them; they give them a home and Bourne returns to being David Webb…a college professor.

The Bourne Supremacy. Marie is kidnapped. The kidnappers tell Bourne that in order to get Marie back, he must go to China and kill an assassin who is claiming to be Jason Bourne. Along the way, we discover that it’s not just kidnappers, it’s the American government that took Marie. The assassin he’s after is/was actually trained by another former member of Medusa, and the conspiracy is a lot larger than anyone imagined. How so? One man is trying to take over China.

The Bourne Ultimatum. Bourne is now a father. Marie and he have had a boy and a girl (parallels to his original wife and children). Carlos the Jackal comes after Bourne. In response, Bourne sends Marie and the children to the Caribbean with her brother. There’s a side story of a new Medusa? You can probably get the idea of what happens from there.

Ludlum’s Bourne is a rather complex character. Far from the young and energetic Matt Damon from the movies, he’s more Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 4. Bourne is old. In Ultimatum he is 51. As such, he doesn’t beat his enemies by being necessarily faster, or stronger, he beats them by being better. Another thing to note of Ludlum’s Bourne is that he, in essence, has a split personality,that alter ego being David Webb. Throughout the books, Bourne almost has waves of sympathy, of guilt, of remorse. These come from Webb, and Bourne is constantly having to shut Webb out. [This reminds me of Caliban in The Tempest. A character used, and two personalities in one.] Marie is also much stronger than she was portrayed in the films. She fights, she gets dirty, and she’s generally smarter than any of the other people around her…including Bourne. Ludlum also likes recurring characters such as Alex Conklin and Morris Panov. His books also take place in the 80s. Now, we get to Lustbader.

The Bourne Legacy. So how does Lustbader enter the Bourne world? He’s put Jason back to being David, working at the university again as a professor. He’s still got Marie there with the kids. Then…boom…he not only gets rid of Marie and the kids (figuratively), but he kills off Conklin and Panov. What Lustbader does in the first two books is kill off everyone that meant anything in the original trilogy. In essence, he wants to start from scratch. Legacy is about an assassin who wants Bourne dead. Through the course of the story, Bourne finds out about another terrorist plot that he has to stop and eventually gets the other assassin to help him do it. The key? The other assassin ends up being his son Joshua (the one who died). Joshua is good too…better than Bourne.

The Bourne Betrayal. Marie is dead. The only other remnant from the original trilogy, Martin Lindros, is kidnapped. Was Marie killed by some nefarious means? No, she got pneumonia.This book once again deals with terrorists. It’s also where Lustbader starts tossing around the word “chameleon.” Bourne before was always able to blend into situations. Ludlum would mention it using clothes, the way he walked, talked, and moved, etc. Lustbader goes beyond that by using prosthetics, makeup, etc. Now Bourne (and other characters) can mimic literal people. Change their appearance to look exactly like someone else, alter their voice so they sound like them too. This is what happens here. Two terrorists brothers want Bourne dead because he killed their sister (at least so they think) a long time ago. That’s their main driving motivation. The other is to take down the government from the inside. What better way to do that than to become someone important, thus, one brother becomes Martin Lindros. There’s also a little subplot wherein Bourne is brainwashed…it doesn’t last long…and I think Lustbader pulled it out of thin air. Along the way, we are introduced to several new characters, including Bourne’s new love interest, a woman named Moira who works in private security; Moore, a woman who is half Egyptian; and a protege of Lindros, Tyrone Elkins!. Although he’s a ghetto black guy that befriends Moore, technically he’s almost like a replacement for a character that was continued from Ludlum’s Bourne.

The Bourne Sanction. University professor, etc., going after terrorists, assassin hunting him down. So how is this assassin, Arkadin, different from all of the others? Well, he was Treadstone’s first attempt. That’s right. Treadstone’s real goal was to create the perfect killing machine. When Arkadin ran away from them, they grabbed Bourne. So how do they meet? While Arkadin is going one way, trying to track down some people, Bourne is going the other way, trying to track down some people. New people? Well, Moore is now head of Typhoon. Hart, a woman, former private security, who is now head of CI. Kendall, LaValle, Halliday are a bunch of government wonks with ties to NSA that want CI eliminated. Indeed, Tyrone is tortured by Kendall and LaValle, as Moore attempts to provide proof to have them taken out.

The Bourne Deception. Guess. No, really, guess. Terrorists.. Only this time, they’re Americans! There is so much going on in this book…I wouldn’t even really know where to begin. Arkadin almost kills Bourne, then Bourne goes after him. In the meantime, Arkadin has taken over a terrorist cell that he’s training for…something. The NSA is trying to swallow up all intelligence agencies, deriving much of their intel from a private company named Black River. Black River, in the meantime, is trying to start an international war, because an international war means more money. It’s just…confusing.

Lustbader’s Bourne is the movie Bourne. Not only does he eliminate everyone from Ludlum’s world (with the exception of Bourne himself), but he does so in two books. Never again is Bourne’s age mentioned, nor is it a factor. We’ve stepped out of the 80s and moved into modern times. After the death of Marie in Betrayal we don’t even really hear of his children anymore, as if they don’t even matter. David Webb? Other than initial introductions of him in the beginning of each book, he doesn’t really exist anymore either. That dual personality? Nope. Only Jason Bourne exists now. Lustbader kills characters off with reckless abandon, almost as if as soon as he gets bored with them, he just blows them up. I’m also getting the impression that he doesn’t even like Bourne. More and more, his novels are focusing on other characters, other aspects…more on political intrigue. Jason is almost an afterthought to keep the fist fighting and gunplay in the novels. I mean really, how many times can another assassin go after Bourne? Are there even that many high caliber assassins in the world? You would think that after a dude kills a gajillion of them people would quit sending them. Even his new love story between Bourne and Moira is…dull. He’s good at writing action [contra – I think he is lousy at writing action], but he’s not good at developing personalities [contra – I think he’s good at it.]

Ludlum took 10 years to write the Bourne Trilogy. Lustbader put out his first Jason Bourne book in 2004. Some 14 years after Ultimatum. His next one came out in 2007 and since then, he has popped out a Bourne book every year. Lustbader is much better with action and pacing than Ludlum was [contra: I disagree on both counts], but Ludlum has the story. I think the main problem is that Lustbader is trying to do too much in each novel. Rather than focus on one storyline, or even two, he seems to be trying to fit in as many different plots as he can. In many ways it just becomes confusing, in others it’s boring. My advice to him would be to keep a core group of characters. Quit killing people off in every book and introducing more. Stop with the endless roundabout of lies. He mentions that Bourne has a son, Joshua, an assassin, and three books later he hasn’t even mentioned him again. I honestly wish the two of them could have worked on a book together, let Lustbader handle the action and Ludlum stick to the story.



The Hunt for Red October

Title:                  The Hunt for Red October

Author:                 Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1984). The Hunt for Red October .Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press

LCCN:    84016569

PS3553.L245 H8 1984


Date Updated:  April 29, 2015

By Reid Beddow[1]

“Underneath the freezing seas of the North Atlantic, a giant Soviet submarine, the 30,000-ton Red October, many times larger than any American sub, glides through the deep. Armed with 26 solid- fuel missiles (each with eight 500-kiloton nuclear warheads) she is headed for the East Coast of the United States. In hot pursuit are 30 surface ships and 58 other submarines—the entire Soviet Northern Fleet.”

So begins Tom Clancy’s breathlessly exciting submarine novel, The Hunt for Red October. It may be the most satisfactory novel of a sea chase since C.S. Forester perfected the form.

Its startling premise is that the Red October’s skipper, Captain First Rank Marko Ramius, wants to defect to the West, taking his ship with him. That is why the Russians are chasing one of their own. Thanks to a spy, the U.S. Navy knows Ramius’ intent. At the Pentagon they salivate at the chance to dismantle an intact Russian submarine of the latest design. But neither Ramius nor the Russians know our side knows. So the U.S. Navy must deploy to meet the Soviet fleet’s appearance in force, while at the same time it attempts to track down the Red October, establish communication with Ramius, and escort his ship to a concealed anchorage.

The scene of the action shifts rapidly, from Moscow to Washington, from Murmansk to Norfolk, from ship to ship, and back again, the tension constantly building with gratifying unpredictability.

For a landsman, Clancy marvelously evokes the cramped quarters and high morale of submarine duty. Many of his good guys are aboard the U.S.S. Dallas, an attack submarine on “Toll Booth” station, near the treacherous undersea trough off Iceland where Russian subs habitually disgorge into the Atlantic. Here Sonarman Second Class Ronald Jones stands sentinel over his listening equipment. (Off duty Jones plays tapes of Bach: this is the new Navy.) The Dallas carries a chain of passive sensors which extend 200 feet down both sides of her hull, “a mechanical analog to the sensory organs on the body of a shark.” From them, Jones picks up a strange sound, a “sort of swish.” It is the Red October hurtling into harm’s way.

Who will catch the quarry first, the Russians or the Americans? The double hunt climaxes in a series of lethal encounters as the NATO and Soviet navies converge and the world teeters on the edge of Doomsday. An attractive cast of strong characters—CIA spooks, political commissars, old sea dogs and young sailors—lends credence to the elegant plot.

Clancy’s strong suit is his facile handling of the gadgetry of modern weapons systems. Readers who don’t know the difference between Tomahawk or Harpoon missiles will lap up his depiction of a hide-and-seek world, one where killer submarines shadow missile-firing submarines above an ocean floor alive with electronic sensors flashing data to ultra-high- speed computers.

Clancy’s revels in the high technology of the arms race never bore. His chilling description of what happens when a nuclear reactor melts down, condemning a submarine crew to not quite instant and horrible death, will cause armchair admirals to shudder. The metallurgical properties of submarine hulls, ultra-low-frequency radio—all is grist for the author’s mill. Here he discusses propeller cavitation:

“When you have a propeller turning in the water at high speed, you develop an area of low pressure behind the trailing edge of the blade. This can cause water to vaporize. This creates a bunch of little bubbles. They can’t last long under the water pressure, and when they collapse the water rushes forward to pound against the blades. That does three things. First it makes noise, and us sub drivers hate noise. Second, it can cause vibration, something else we don’t like. The old passenger liners, for example, used to flutter several inches at the stern. . . . Third, it tears up the screws . . . “

This is engaging stuff, and just as we used to rejoice in C.S. Forester’s technical descriptions of 200 tars scaling the rigging of a man-of-war to shorten sail, so we warm to Clancy’s deft handling of modern naval armament. Red October makes the pigboat of the motion picture Das Boot look like a Model T.

No doubt some persons will deplore Clancy’s enthusiasm for the superpowers’ game of high-tech chicken in Davy Jones’ locker. All that is another argument: The Hunt for Red October is a tremendously enjoyable and gripping novel of naval derring-do. Evidently submariners mean it when they say, “There are only two kinds of ships—submarines and targets.”

[1] Reid Barlow in The Washington Post (October 21, 1984). Downloaded April 29, 2015


Patriot Games

Title:                      Patriot Games

Author:                  Tom Clancy

Clancy, Tom (1988). Patriot Games. New York: Putnam

LCCN:    87006910

PS3553.L245 P38 1987


Date Updated:  September 25, 2015

Patriot Games, although not the first published, is the first chronologically of Tom Clancy’s series of Jack Ryan novels. It explodes from the beginning pages. The story begins with Ryan and his wife and daughter in London on a working vacation. Ryan happens upon an IRA terrorist attempt on the car driving the Prince of Wales and his wife. Ryan thwarts the attempt, suffering grave injury, and recovers to testify in the trial of one of the terrorists.

One of the would-be killers wants revenge for his brother’s death in the failed attempt. Jack and his family are the targets. It’s a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, and this time the bad guys just might win but the terrorist escapes while being transported to prison. Feeling secure Ryan and family fall back into normalcy believing they are safe. However the terrorist hunt Jack and his family down. Jack joins the CIA in an attempt to find and eliminate those who did him and his family harm.

The remainder of the story follows the escaped terrorist’s plot for revenge on Ryan, ending with a full scale assault on Ryan’s home by terrorists while Ryan is entertaining the Prince of Wales and his wife. All of Ryan’s family are targeted by the terrorists and injured to varying degrees prior to the finale. Patriot Games is one of the better books by Tom Clancy, and that is saying something to most readers.