Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Roughneck Nine-One by Frank Antenori

Having recently finished SOG, but finding that book somewhat depressing and tragic, I hesitated to read another book about special operations forces, even one that dealt with a heroic victory against superior numbers and resources. But I was intrigued enough by Roughneck Nine-One to read the introduction while at the bookstore, and the author's summary of the action seemed positive and upbeat enough that I decided to give it a go and pay out.

I'm glad I made that decision. Although you'll grit your teeth like I did at some of the bureaucratic and leadership frustrations Antenori and his team experienced, you'll also grove on the positive, can-do will-do attitude these operators had from day one. Antenori, a veteran of Afghanistan and a number of other operations, decided early on that he would not run from a fight, even one against a numerically superior foe, and his team captain and fellow team members agreed with him. Thus, their team motto, "Nine-One Don't Run", was born.

I want to pause for a moment and look at this a little closer. A few years ago I took a military history class for the hell of it, mostly to see if I liked going back to school, and one thing that came up in discussion was the misconception that "Americans are risk-adverse in war". This notion was apparently something born, I guess, from the Vietnam war, and supposedly carried through to this day. My professor did his best to argue against that theory - that the American people may be risk-adverse to war, but the military was not. Furthermore, that there was a difference between "taking risks" and "being stupid".

American combat doctrine is filled with risk-taking and aggression. The fundamental philosophy of destroying the enemy through advancing under a process of fire and maneuver is inherently risky and aggressive, but it's how we helped break the stalemate of the Great War, it's how we took the beaches of Normandy and pushed through to Berlin, it's how we jumped from island to island in the Pacific and twenty years later, it's how we would send patrol after patrol into the jungles of Vietnam, hunting for the enemy so we could bring down the pain. It's how we planned out the Song Tay Raid, the Hatchet Force assaults launched against enemy targets, the SEAL team recon missions deep into the heart of the Mekong Delta. That military aggression is what drove Anthony Swofford and his fellow Recon Marines into the lion's den during the first gulf war, disappointed that he never fired a shot in anger the entire time. And when the second Gulf War rolled around a decade later, the next generation of Recon Marines in their over-burdened Humvees would barrel through enemy-occupied territory, daring the enemy to reveal themselves by firing at them so the Marines could tear the enemy apart with automatic weapons fire.

When Sgt. First Class Antenori and his team made the decision to never run from a fight unless they were in danger of being wiped out, this decision was not made out of reckless bravado, but in the spirit of the aggressive American fighting man. Antenori knew his team had the training, the weapons, and the resources to bloody the nose and halt the advance of an enemy much larger than his team, and that his mission, above and beyond the specifics of any individual operation, was to seek out and kill the enemy whenever he was encountered, to capture and destroy the enemy's resources, and find and exploit intelligence assets. In short, Antenori's mission was to bring the fight to the enemy, using their mobility, aggression, weapons and training to, as he puts it, "eat the elephant one bite at a time".

Truthfully, I found the battle to be, if anything, a little bit anti-climactic. There are certainly tense moments, an increase of the "pucker factor" as Antenori puts it, but without giving away any spoilers there is never really a moment while reading the book that I was thinking "Oh man, they are toast!". The men of Roughneck Nine-One were cool under fire, performed their tasks admirably, and even when the enemy brought superior weapons to bear and attacked with main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers, the team knew what to do and handled the situation like pros.

In fact, the most depressing and disheartening part of the book is Antenori's disgust over the performance of their company leader, a man referred to only as "Major X", who refused to "let slip the dogs of war" and allow his teams to finish out their assigned tasks for fear that a casualty so late in the mission would tarnish an otherwise superbly executed operation. Without exception, every individual warrior under Major X's command was furious; as several of them put it, "We didn't join the Special Forces because we were afraid of getting hurt."

Roughneck Nine-One is a fast, enjoyable read; I finished the book in two days. It's a great account of a modern Special Forces A-Team in action, and what they are capable of when put to the test. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about small unit operations during the second Gulf War.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What The Libyan Rebels Need is Airwolf

I didn't realize it, but I am apparently some kind of psychic foreign policy rainmaker. Just a couple of weeks ago I decided to start watching Airwolf on Netflix, and of course, the first two episodes, Shadow of the Hawk Parts One and Two, deal with Airwolf's evil genius creator taking the super-copter to Libya so he can use it as a bargaining chip to do all sorts of sadistic things to women. Hey, I guess even aeronautical engineering madmen need love too - it just involves dead hookers.

C'mon, do you want to try and pick up chicks in a back-talking blabbermouth sports car,
or a silent, bulletproof, supersonic assault helicopter that resides in a secret desert lair?

When I was a kid, I loved Airwolf. Of course, I also loved The A-Team, and Magnum P.I., and Knight Rider, and MacGyver, and pretty much any other 80's television series that involved kicking ass and taking names. This was the era in which America's post-Vietnam angst provided television with a smorgasbord of ideas; television shows about Vietnam veterans, or episode plots that revolved around vets, or simply grooved off of the post-modern pulp fiction era's themes of harsh vigilante justice, taking the fight to the enemy and "winning the unwinnable war", and many others.

Airwolf was, in many ways, a top contender for the king of the post-modern pulp television series. Although A-Team might beat it out in some regards, Airwolf had the secret government agency, the Vietnam angle, the high-tech gizmos, the Cold War adventures, and most telling, it had a body count. I understand the plot reasoning as to why the A-Team didn't kill people, but just as I got tired of Xena: Warrior Princess punching bad guys with her fist instead of stabbing them through the head with her sword, I got a little tired of the A-Team not lighting up the scumbags they always dealt with.
Okay K.I.T.T., let's see you do THAT. Oh can't. Because you're unarmed. Like a little bitch.

Airwolf, on the other hand, kicked ass for reals, yo. Rocket launchers, cannons, machine guns; Airwolf had it all. Stringfellow also packed a .45 and knew how to use it. But most of all, what two key aces did Airwolf have up its supersonic sleeves?

An Agency honcho with one eye and a spotless white suit, and Ernest Borgnine wearing a bad tie.

If you haven't had a chance to see this show in a while (like...20 years or so...), give it a shot. It's the 80's, the plots are about as tightly woven as a fishing net, but it's still a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Latest Killer Instincts Cover Design

Jumping on the theme of everyone posting cover designs, here is the latest offering for KI. I like the slight texturing of this cover, because it keeps it from being "flat" while not being "busy".

I'm sure there will be other changes and alterations as time goes on, but right now, this is the design I'm working with.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Article Series: The Urban Survivalist - Water

This is a series of articles I've wanted to write for a while now, as it is a subject of interest to me, but with the earthquake and reactor troubles in Japan recently, I've felt a push towards getting a few of these articles written, or at least getting the ball rolling.

As you might have noted if you read the "About Me" page, I grew up in Alaska in the late 70's, and then moved to rural Maine in the mid-80's. My father has been a cold-weather survival instructor, fire chief, paramedic, back country rescue expert, and Maine Guide for years, and between his tutelage, as well as family friends, professional colleagues, and my own experiences and research, wilderness survival is something that I have been familiar with my entire life. Even now, after living in the city for 15 years, I still feel comfortable in the woods, and I know that the best tool for ensuring survival in the wild is nestled right between my ears.

Living in the city for so long, however, has also made me think a lot about urban survival. This isn't necessarily "Zombie Apocalypse / Nuclear Winter" hyperbolizing; after seeing what happened after Hurricane Katrina and in other areas of urban buildup post-disaster, it's important to take some time to think about short-term urban survival. One of the ironies of urban living is that while you have "access to everything", in general the population is far in excess of what any supplies in place are capable of supporting at any given time; a neighborhood would eat it's local market to the bare shelves in 24 hours if no other source of food is available. In a rural environment, the population density is much lower, and people in general have more on hand; shopping is often done by the week rather than the day, freezers are often stocked, lots of canned goods are on hand, and gardens are often maintained and harvested all summer long. We city-dwellers often laugh when we come home and say "There's nothing to eat in the house!", but what if there's nothing to eat, period?

To ground this discussion a little better and keep it more close to home, late last spring one of the main water pipelines into the metro Boston area broke a number of miles outside of the city, and that line was feeding contaminated, non-potable water into the city in the middle of some rather warm (high 80's, low 90's) weather. For about three days, Bostonians did not have potable running water, and the effect was pretty immediate. I went over to the grocery store next door just an hour or so after the announcement, and the drinking water was completely stripped from the shelves. I of course didn't have a stockpile of bottled water in the apartment. What to do?

- You can always boil the water. The problem wasn't chemical or radioactive contaminants, but bacteriological. Because of this, worse came to worse, I could just boil it and let it cool. For hand-washing or dish-washing (i.e., not drinking) water, you'd want to do this anyways even if you have a supply of bottled drinking water. Beyond boiling however (in the event, say, of a chemical contaminant), I could use:

- Vending machines. I wound up going in to the campus and buying a half dozen 20 oz bottles of water from a vending machine in the basement of a building that doesn't see much foot traffic. Vending machines are often overlooked because its something you walk by every day and don't really think about, but a well-stocked vending machine contains a surprising amount of water (or food if you're willing to have a mostly-snacks diet).

- Office Water Coolers. Although our current machines use a piped-in water feed, at the time, I could have simply filled water bottles by going in to work that night and tapping off the bottled supply for the office water fountains. In a true emergency situation, simply grabbing a couple of the sealed 5-gallon water bottles and carting them home on a folding luggage two-wheeler (concealed with a plastic trash bag of course) wouldn't be a bad idea.

- Dehumidifiers. Many homes have a dehumidifier in the basement to keep out the damp, and some offices as well (especially those with archival spaces). A good dehumidifier during a hot, humid Bostonian summer can easily accumulate a gallon of water every 12 hours. If you have power, of course. If you don't, there's always...

- Moisture Tent. If you have access to some open space, like the roof of your apartment building or condo, or your backyard, setting up a moisture tent (also known as a solar still) can provide a limited source of water. It's not a very efficient way of collecting water, but for emergency situations, it's better than dehydrating.

That's it for now. I'll return to this subject and many others in future articles. Feel free to comment and provide further information and links if you like.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Film Review: Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway is an ancient Devil Dog, tough as an old tree root and twice as unyielding. Although he was kicked out of a combat unit for disciplinary reasons some time ago, he's managed to pull enough strings to get back in again. Gunny Highway finds himself leading a platoon of Recon marines, with an LT who is "pure theory and no application", to put it nicely, and a Major who runs his battalion like his old supply outfit. Highway has to turn his "ragtag band of misfits" into an actual combat unit before they are sent off to invade the island of Grenada.

Gunny Highway enjoys a bit of Havana's Finest after wasting some more pissants.

After just having finished SOG, watching Heartbreak Ridge is even more of a bittersweet experience. Eastwood does an excellent job of portraying one of the few remaining old-timers, not only a veteran of Vietnam but also Korea, closing in rapidly on mandatory retirement age. Highway keeps being told he has no place in "The New Marine Corps", that he is an anachronism, a relic, as it is put by his CO at one moment " should be kept under glass with a sign that says 'Break Open Only in Times of War'...".

But as time goes on, his men begin to see that Highway's tough methods and no-BS attitude are just what they need to succeed, and when the platoon finds itself at the tip of the spear when the Marines land in Grenada, his training and leadership get the unit through in good order, despite the Major's incompetence and their Lieutenant's inexperience. Oh, and do you think by the end of the film, he might have won back his long-lost sweetheart? Take a wild guess, pencil-neck.

It's sad to say that not all of the "left-over" Marines and other veterans who stuck it out and stayed career post-Vietnam had such happy endings. I'm sure many in fact languished in the units they were assigned to, the subject of whispered rumors mixed with admiration, pity, and scorn in equal measure. A reminder of our failure in Vietnam, they lived through a period of time when the morale of our armed forces was at it's lowest, through the mid 70's and early 80's, where the main reason many joined up was because of the G.I. bill and a steady job, and the recruiter's promise that the armed forces were essentially a "Real World MBA" for free; that you'd leave the Army and instantly be hired as middle management because of your leadership capabilities and can-do attitude.

But it wasn't all roses. Grenada and Panama came along, followed by the first Desert Storm. This was the generation of kids who grew up on G.I. Joe and Nintendo, who joined the armed forces never thinking they'd pop their combat cherries. Most of them were right, but some were very, very wrong. In a way, Heartbreak Ridge reminds me of the movie Jarhead, although looked at from a very different perspective.

Either way, this is definitely an "80's war movie" in that most of the actors (save Eastwood, who actually kept his finger largely off the trigger until he was ready to engage a target) don't know how to carry a gun to save their lives, and the enemy armor appears to be something cobbled together by a movie studio's design department. But of course, this is the pre-internet 80's, where no one could jump online and tell the world "how it's really done", so we can forgive the film for its minor inaccuracies, and applaud it for showing that the Old Guard still had something to give.

And is it just me, or does Eastwood essentially look no different in 1986 as he did in 2008? His character in Gran Turino might as well have been named Gunny Highway...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: SOG by John L. Plaster

I think we can all agree that the Vietnam War was a pretty messed-up affair.

No war is pretty, but when we look back at such conflicts as the Great War, World War II, and Korea, things seem, if not simple, then at least straightforward. Of course, if you dig deeper, there are layers and sub layers and sub-sub layers of intrigue and self-interest and many other maneuverings going on behind the scenes, but the public perception of these conflicts is largely a positive one. Even the activities of such organizations as the OSS and SOE, who practiced many "dirty" tactics to win the war, were seen as largely thrilling "spy adventures"; James Bond meets Sgt. Rock, if you will.

Vietnam? Not so much. With a country still reeling from a presidential assassination and the messes of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, along with years of quiet "advisement" by the American military and the CIA before we ever went to "war" in Vietnam, America was a country in no mood for a new war, especially a war in some pissant country on the other side of the globe, a civil war no less, fought "to stop the spread of Communism". Hey, didn't we just fight one of those ten years before? Yeah, that one wasn't fun either. Hey, aren't we on the brink of civil war here in the States? Yeah, man, totally. Make love not war, brothers and sisters!

So from the very moment we put boots on the ground in Vietnam, the public perception of the war was completely screwed. This was a war being fought by politicians and the "military industrial complex" wrapping some mysterious dark agenda in the flag of Capitalism and thrust down the throats of drafted minorities. An ugly business all around, and it got uglier as time went on, eventually culminating in America's first "lost war". One of the things that made the war so ugly was the CIA's involvement in so much of it, and that many casualties of the war were occurring during various "covert actions" that no one could talk about. Once the American people smelled that they were being lied to about the way little Jimmy got killed while in Vietnam, it was just a big political dungheap from that moment onward.

Foremost among the "covert actions" taken during the war were the "cross-border operations" undertaken by secret teams of Green Berets, SEALs, and USAF Commandos. Brought together under the benign-sounding "Studies and Observations Group", these teams of elite special forces soldiers, some of whom had fought in Korea and even World War II (only twenty years gone in 1965), partnered with their fearless indigenous allies such as the Montagnards and Nungs.

These teams of elite warrior-scouts would chopper into North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in order to find and report on the operations of the NVA and their VC allies in areas where American troops were, officially, never touching the ground. These were classified, covert missions and at the time officially denied by all levels of government. Even today, much of what went on and when and where it took place has not so much been revealed by the government as "admitted by lack of retribution". This is especially true when the missions involved something other than simple recon, such as prisoner snatching, electronic surveillance operations, and more "direct action" assignments.

I've always had an interest in the Vietnam war. Having been born in the 70's, growing up I knew a number of Vietnam veterans and as a young kid, when others were reading Charlotte's Web or The Giving Tree, I was reading Vietnam memoirs like Mekong or Huey, or pouring through gun magazines and paramilitary rags like Soldier of Fortune. Because of this, I had heard of SOG long ago, and had a fair understanding of who they were and what they did during the war; classified commando operations in countries where we were officially not supposed to have military assets.

But the details of SOG's role in the Vietnam war have been shrouded in a lot of myths and legends, mostly because a lot of the official disinformation released during the war has remained public perception in the minds of most people. So even knowing that there were "layers or truth" going on, reading SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam by Major John L. Plaster, three tour SOG veteran, I was blown away by the exploits of these elite commandos. When every battle was an hours or days long running gunfight against an enemy force that outnumbered you a hundred to one (if you were lucky), it's amazing that any SOG team made it out of the jungle alive.

Unfortunately, many did not. The war swallowed whole recon teams without a trace, hundreds of men who disappeared and went MIA, possibly captured, possibly killed - we'll never know for sure. Probably the most eerie part of reading SOG were all the actions that ended with "RT Such and Such was never seen or heard from again" or "One Zero Sgt. Whathisname's body was never found". Even when the fate of SOG members was known, it was often brutal and nasty; men who were blown away, burned up, shot to pieces or plummeting from damaged helicopters. Some years, a SOG base's personnel (typically 40-50 Green Berets and twice as many indigenous allies) would suffer in excess of 100% casualties; every member of the SOG teams had been either killed or wounded, sometimes wounded more than once, or a member was killed, only to have his replacement wounded or killed as well. Casualties also included MIA, and some years, up to half the American casualties would be MIAs.

On the bright side, however (if you can call it "bright"), many SOG teams did manage to fight their way through impossible odds. Reading this book, so many of these battles are amazingly, mind-blowingly heroic; men fighting through ambushes and evading whole companies of the enemy, suffering mortar and RPG fire, grenades and withering hails of bullets, wounded multiple times and still fighting on for days before daring helicopter crews literally plucked them from the jungle at the end of STABO harnesses. These are the men who earned more medals and commendations per unit than any American military force in the 20th century (and many actions were either denied or had awards downgraded due to their covert nature), and in reading these accounts, you can understand why; kill ratios among SOG teams were some years as high as 150:1, ten times that of the average American military unit. And yet, if a man had survived more than twenty missions, his comrades wondered how he was still alive.

Sadly, the worst part about reading SOG is the jaw-clenching anger you may feel reading about the ways in which SOG operations, especially rescue operations to find POWs and MIAs, were hindered or thwarted by government politicians and senior military brass more concerned with appeasing the enemy or "neutral" (hah!) governments than rescuing their own military men. I can understand when a government says "these are sterile, deniable operations" that there is a risk MIAs and POWs will remain such, but if they can be rescued without public exposure, they should have been. Of all the terrible things that happened during the Vietnam war, I think it was the mishandling of POWs and MIAs that angers me the most. I might be able to forgive a "dirty war", but I can't really forgive preventing able and willing men from doing what it takes to rescue their lost brothers-in-arms.

So, if you have any interest in Vietnam, or in the history of American Special Forces operations, I highly recommend this book. Heart-breaking and pulse-pounding in equal measures, it is an utterly unforgettable read.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Airsoft M1911A1 Replica

Partly for photo prop and research purposes, and partly for the hell of it, I bought myself a cheap Airsoft M1911A1 replica last week, and it arrived today. I only paid about $13 for it, plus shipping and handling, so I'll just preface this review by saying you get what you pay for, and for $13, this isn't too bad.

Here's the box. Note the finish on the gun almost looks like government-model matte gunmetal grey. Also note that there's no orange muzzle cap on the end, and there are no markings by the slide release, mag release, or safety. Also, there's a picture on the side of the box showing a drawstring bag and mention of a manual inside.

Here's the gun in the box, minus the cellophane wrapper. Note the third indentation, which had nothing; I bet that is where the bag or manual should have been. Also note that the gun is a matte black finish, not the dark metallic gray appearance on the box. Also note the white markings by the three mechanisms. The paintjob was uneven, with a number of small flaws here and there. If I had the skill and a good airbrush set, I'd paint this thing a dark gunmetal metallic gray.

Here's the gun out of the box. At this point I've handed it for maybe ten minutes. Although it's obviously a cheap replica, it still has a nice heft to it. The lower frame is plastic, while the slide and trigger/levers are metal. However, if you look closely, you can see that the paint is already beginning to wear along the edge of the safety and the hammer.

Here's the pistol locked back. Note that the orange safety tip is actually the whole shroud of the small 6mm barrel, so you can't just "pop" the end off - you'd have to actually saw it away from the end in order to make it look less like an Airsoft gun. Doable, but definitely more effort. Also, there is very little tension on the slide release spring; it actually wouldn't really catch unless you locked the slide back with real "authority". However, the magazine has a good weighty heft to it, and when fitted into the pistol, the gun's plastic lower assembly doesn't feel as off-balance. I've handled and fired an M1911A1 before, and this feels pretty good in the hand, all things considered.

Here's the pistol in "Condition One". Fun fact - the safety does NOTHING on this pistol. If you pull back the hammer and pull the trigger while on safe, the hammer drops. If you cock the gun by racking the slide and pull the trigger, the firing spring trips (which would fire the pellet) and the hammer drops. However, to the designer's credit, the grip safety DOES work, so unless you have this thing firmly gripped, the trigger can't be pulled, and the trigger when cocked is fairly robust; it won't go off with just a light touch but needs a few pounds of pressure to trip.

All in all, for $13, it's not bad. I'd consider doing some touchup painting, and I expect the minor springs to wear out fairly quickly, but if this was a theater or reenactment prop piece, especially with the safety barrel shaved down and painted black, it would be shockingly realistic; I doubt anyone who didn't know better would know it's a fake pistol outside of five or ten feet. Note that this means leaving the orange safety barrel on there is probably a VERY good idea if you live or take this thing anywhere you might get shot for "brandishing a firearm".

After buying this, I'd consider buying a somewhat better quality Airsoft M1911A1 and compare the two. I know there's a lot of Airsoft MilSim guns out there, and I'd definitely like to get my hands on a couple more.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Source for US Army Training Manuals

I discovered this website a few days ago, and thought I'd share it with my readers:

A huge catalog of military training manuals on a variety of subjects, all available for reading and download. A good resource for us civilians who need to do research into military subjects and want to get our hands on official training, tactics, and other information.

I'm seriously considering loading my iPad up and turning it into a virtual bookshelf of US Army Training Manuals.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: Judgment by Lee Goldberg

When it comes to gratuitous food, you can’t go wrong with the chili dog. Taking what is essentially the discarded remnants of other “edible meats”, packing it with spices in a “casing”, turning that into a “meat product”, wrapping it it a bun that’s mostly processed flour and sugar, and THEN covering that with a big pile of spiced ground beef sauce and beans? There really isn’t a single thing involved in the construction of a chili dog that is actually good for you.

And yet...and yet...

Because of this, I think it is rather symbolic that chili dogs make an appearance early on in Lee Goldberg’s vigilante thriller, Judgment. The first of a four-book series of men’s adventure novels Goldberg wrote while still in college back in the mid-80’s, Judgment is the story of Brett Macklin, a peaceful man who owns his own small aviation business with nary a care in the world until the murder of his father, JD Macklin.

JD was your classic “one good cop in a bad city”, a simple foot patrolman trying to keep crime off the streets, walking the pavement of his beat so that he was at eye-level with the city and the citizens. When JD is killed by a gang of vicious thugs, Brett hopes that the capture and conviction of his father’s killers will be swift, sure, and merciless.

Boy, was he wrong.

When the gang of killers goes free, Brett takes up his father’s .357 Colt Python (“...the Cadillac of handguns...”) and sets out to get himself a little vigilante justice. What he finds instead is a web of conspiracy and corruption that goes much further and much deeper into the fabric of the city than anything he could have possibly imagined.

Much badassery ensues.

I’m going to roll back to that chili dog metaphor for a moment. As I stated in my review of Machete, pulp fiction, be it in literature, film, or on television, serves a purpose; it might not be a grand purpose, but it is there nonetheless. It serves our need for quick, greasy, deliciously tawdry entertainment. It is fast food for the mind - nay, for the Id - and while a steady diet of this sort isn’t very healthy, we indulge ourselves now and then for the puerile thrill of the experience. Fittingly, cheap fast food appears throughout Judgment; the chili dogs, cold pizza right out of the refrigerator, cans of cold beer and flat soda, buckets of fried chicken, flat-top egg breakfasts.

When looked at in this light, Judgment definitely delivers the goods. People don’t just get shot - they get their freakin’ heads blown apart in a shower of blood, bone, brains. There aren’t just “car accidents”; people get torn to pieces in a cataclysm of shattering glass and tortured metal. The violence in Judgment isn’t awful or unbearable, it’s just delivered in Technicolor. In many ways, Judgment has the same feel that a lot of 80’s crime / action movies possess, an amped-up, neon-bright, burning rubber down the main drag doing sixty while blaring Motley Crue so loud you can’t even think sort of quality. And that’s how I like it.

A couple of other choice comments.

First, Goldberg doesn’t over-elaborate on his guns, which is a good thing in a book like Judgment. While Mack Bolan or Carl Lyons may wax philosophical on the terminal ballistics of 230-grain jacketed hollowpoints, Brett Macklin just wants to blow away bad guys. Therefore, the gun talk should be at a similar, pedestrian level, and Goldberg gets this right.

Second, while I don’t really need or want awkwardly graphic sex scenes in men’s adventure fiction, I do tire of the protagonists being sexless killing machines lacking all libido. The fact that Brett still finds time for a little nookie during the course of his adventures is something that I heartily approve.

And third, this book was lean and mean, without a lot of padding or needless over-elaboration. People, places, and things are sketched out in a handful of words, the dialogue is kept fast and to the point, and the scenes move right along without a lot of dithering about. In my opinion, there’s nothing to add, and nothing I’d pare away.

There are three more books in the Jury series, and I hope to read them all. I’ll probably have to save them for some summer reading, but I’m definitely looking forward to Brett Macklin blowing away some more punks, eating more cold pizza, and bombing around in his “Batmobile”.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pretty Awesome Short Movie

More trailer than short movie, this is just seriously cool:

Not Dead, Just Reloading

Sorry I've been a little quiet lately, there are a number of irons in the fire and I'm trying to keep them all nice and toasty. Here are a few of the things I've got cooking for PMP in the next few weeks:
  • I've got to write a review of Lee Goldberg's excellent 80's vigilante thriller Judgment.
  • A review of James Reasoner's long-lost 80's thriller Diamondback needs a-writing.
  • I read and need to write about Jack Murphy's excellent military thriller Reflexive Fire.
  • Gotta read and review a couple of books put out by Granton City Press.
  • More discussion of my experiences using and enjoying the Kindle app on my iPod and iPad.
  • I continue to chip away at Killer Instincts, and begin R&D on my next novel.
There really aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week to get all this done; the more research and reviews I'm working on, the less time for writing, and vice versa. I did realize that I hadn't posted anything for a couple of weeks, so here's me letting y'all know that I haven't fallen completely off the face of the Earth!