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"Teamwork is essential; it gives the enemy someone else to shoot at." - Anon

Last Build Date: Sun, 21 May 2017 16:19:23 PDT


Book Review: MacArthur's Spies

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:19:23 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. MacArthur’s Spies by Peter Eisner recounts how three individuals played a significant role in the resistance against the Japanese occupation in the Philippines during World War II. The book shows how heroes come from many backgrounds: A singer, soldier, and spymaster. As the greatest generation is dying off written accounts such as this is a reminder of how ordinary people can become extraordinary by putting themselves in danger to help others survive and achieve victory. The emphasis of the book is on the American singer, Claire Phillips, who opened a nightclub in Manila catering to Japanese officials and officers. She and those who worked for her gathered information that was passed on to the allies. In addition she provided food, supplies, and medicine to many of the allied POWs and citizens interned in the camps. Given the code name “High Pockets,” she met with guerrilla fighters to inform them of Japanese military plans, and by all accounts gave credible intelligence reports. Another contributor was US Army Corporal, John Boone, one of the first to start a guerrilla organization against the Japanese. He not only had to evade the Japanese who would kill him on the spot, but also homegrown Communist Filipinos, and turncoats. After the Japanese overran the forces in Bataan, they demanded the Americans surrender. Although the majority did, Boone was one of the few who disobeyed orders by refusing to surrender, and fled into the jungles where he aided in foiling the Japanese. Through sabotage and disruption he and his men helped to pave the way for General MacArthur’s return. Readers will enjoy how Eisner intertwines the resistance with the battles fought in and around the Philippines. Charles “Chick” Parsons was called MacArthur’s spymaster. An American businessman who was in Manila during the Japanese advance, he convinced them he was a Panamanian diplomat. They never found out he actually was a US Navy intelligence officer, and allowed him to depart the Philippines. Having convinced MacArthur to have him return, in March 1943, he arrived back via submarine. He eluded detection by operating off the grid and became the chief aid in organizing and supplying the guerrillas including making sure the intelligence network was successful. The book also discusses the faceless American heroes, those captured by the Japanese. Although much is known about the Nazi atrocities, the Japanese also had their share of brutality. Citizens in Manila would have to bow and show their subservience to the Japanese or risk being slapped, kicked, and beaten. One of the worst was the Bataan Death March where starving and thirsty American prisoners were forced to trek for miles in the wilting sun. Eisner noted, “This march was a horror show of inhumanity. The Americans and Filipinos who fought with them were brutalized and slaughtered. When some stopped because of exhaustion they were bayoneted on the spot. Another example occurred just after the surrender where the Japanese mowed down the allied forces with rifle and machine gun fire. This continued throughout the war and came to a head when in August 1944 the Tokyo High Command issued a secret kill order. At the Palawan POW camp prisoners became slave laborers and were forced to build an airfield. In December under the guise of a supposed air raid the POWs were told to go into the trenches for shelter. Suddenly the Japanese guards dumped gallons of gasoline into the trenches and torched them. Statistics show how brutal the Japanese were: the death rate for American POWs was 33%, non-American 27.1%. Compare that to the allied prisoner death rate in German and Italian camps, 4%. In case you are curious the prisoner death rate held in allied camps, .001%.” Claire was also not immune from the Japanese brutality. Arrested for being a collaborator she was tortured to get a confessio[...]

Book Review: The Operator

Sun, 21 May 2017 16:14:56 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. One of the biggest crimes perpetrated on Americans was the horrific terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. It is said, “real heroes are born in the face of danger.” This is no more evident than when Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill took the three shots that killed Osama Bin Laden. In the just published book The Operator, O’Neill recounts his years as a SEAL Team Warrior. Joining the SEALs on a whim, after growing up in Butte, Montana, he participated in many high profile missions. These include being a part of the team that rescued the “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, Captain Richard Phillips from the Somali pirates, and searching for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl. The book is a story of his adventures and missions that captured the human side of those in the Special Forces. The Bin Laden mission was extremely dangerous, because of the different variables: not knowing the defense systems inside the compound, if there would be suicide bombers or improvised explosive devices inside the house, and the fear of being stuck inside Pakistan. Yet, on the helicopter ride he thought of “the single mom who jumped to her death, the realization of the last time I saw my family, and President Bush’s quote, ‘Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.’” It is obvious when a SEAL unit is deployed that individual heroes arise within the team effort. O’Neill explained that Americans should think of the player who made the last shot to win an important game. Although he received much of the acclaim it was very much a team effort where each player made some impact. In the Bin Laden kill it was his teammate who shot the son Khalid that allowed O’Neill to make the ascent up the stairs to the room where Bin Laden was found. The book describes how “The point man lunged at the two women, assuming they had suicide vests...If they blew up, his body would absorb most of the blast, and I’d have a better chance of surviving...In less than a second, I aimed and pulled the trigger twice. Bin Laden’s head split open, and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.” Similarly the book describes how a teammate, Johnny, rescued Captain Phillips by shooting a “pepper popper,” a target that pops up randomly and briefly requiring an immediate reaction with a perfect shot. But unfortunately, afterward, some of the team displayed envy and distrust. These emotions would also come into play after O’Neill shot Bin Laden. He stated, “Johnny took this incredible heroic shot, and those people who did not shoot, got upset with him. I did tell him he was a hero and he should ignore them. I understand that these are Tier 1, alpha personalities and were jealous. I am also assuming there will be more ill will now that the book has come out. Guys were talking about me, saying ‘with all the extra attention, why is he bragging about it?’ I know that anyone on the team could have done what I did just as effectively. Even though I intended to stay in the Navy for thirty years, I now decided to retire after fifteen because people were bashing me for ‘trying to cash in.’ I should not have to prove myself to anyone, but had the feeling that I needed to. I did stay in a year and a half more after those died in the helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The crash was the worst loss in Naval Special Warfare history, thirty-one Americans killed. I think the terrorists were given too much credit. It came down to a mission that should not have happened and just a lucky shot.” Does he feel he broke the SEAL code of silence? What he first wants to make clear is that he was not the person who wrote the book published in 2014, No Easy Way: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden. It was Mark Owen, the pen name for Matt Bissonnette. O’Neil[...]

Book Review: Beneath A Scarlett Sky

Mon, 15 May 2017 08:00:08 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. A recent novel is based on the factual story of one hero who did change the course of history, fighting against the tyranny of the Nazis. In Beneath A Scarlett Sky, Mark Sullivan chronicles the life of Pino Lella, a seventeen-year-old boy who grew into a man during the last years of World War II. Although all the facts could not be verified, the story is still extraordinary, and Sullivan stated that the following details are all true. He stated, “I contacted the daughter of the Nazi General who brutally used slave labors as well as his spiritual advisor. Regarding Pino, he is still living today and I was able to verify that he did indeed work as a spy and save Jewish refuges. I did the research and verification over the course of ten years and lived in Italy spending three weeks with Pino and finding other witnesses to what he told me. His name was given to a researcher by the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem.” This inspiring story is a lesson on courage. Those in America today should read it to realize that their current life is nothing compared to what those who suffered through the Nazi regime had to endure. Sullivan tells Lella’s story, showing man’s inhumanity to man in Italy, the forgotten front, where the Nazi war machine made the citizenship suffer and struggle. The book begins in the summer of 1943, as the allies started bombing Milan. As in England, Italian families sent their children to the countryside to save them from possible death. But Pino was not content to lead a normal teenage life; instead, deciding to join the underground railroad of the Catholic Church and the Italian resistance to save Jewish lives. Unfortunately, despite heroic efforts nearly 20% of the Italian Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust. Readers will learn how the German SS found a list of Jews, rounded them up, put them on trains, and transported them to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Many others were machine gunned down or thrown into the lake, forced to freeze to death. Yet, throughout the last years of World War II Pino risked his own life to save Jews. A very compelling scene tells how he led Jewish refugees across the dangerously snowy Alps to the Swiss border, having endured an avalanche that almost buried him and his rescues alive. Many of those trying to escape the grips of the Nazis did not have the physical strength; yet some how found the perseverance. They made the demanding climb up the mountain near Casa Alpina, many times with the refugees on his back, as he skied them to safety in icy weather. The author noted, “I read accounts of what the Nazis actually did and confirmed a lot of what Pino told me. We cannot forget they had a long-range vision of genocide and atrocities, including hanging young boys’ head on barbed wire posts. I actually did the climb he did and made a video. After getting to the top, you cannot believe what these people went through to escape. It was a very dangerous and unforgiving setting.” In addition to helping Jews escape, he also became a spy while the driver for General Hans Leyers, a commander in the Nazi engineering and construction group, Organization Todt. Pino’s parents, who insisted he sign up with Todt to avoid being conscripted by the Germans to fight on the Russian front, put him in this situation. Unfortunately, very little is known about the General, until Pino came forward, because Leyers destroyed many of the documents. When reading about Leyers, people might compare him to Wernher von Braun, dubbed “the father of the space age.” During World War II he was the technical director of the V-weapons development and head of the Mittelbau-Dora Planning Office, a division within the SS. He rose to become a major in the SS and used slave laborers from the Buchenwald concentration camp to [...]

Book Review: The Red Line

Mon, 15 May 2017 06:28:43 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Red Line by Walt Gragg is an action packed political military thriller with a “what if” war story scenario. In this novel, peace is shattered as World War III has a resurgent Communist Soviet Union pitted against the US in the heart of Germany. The best way to describe the plot, “war is hell.” Gragg uses his experiences to create this story. A former Vietnam veteran he is able to write very realistic battle scenes. He also played war games while serving at the United States European Headquarters in Germany at the height of the Cold War, which adds authenticity to the novel. He noted, “Much of the story came from my personal knowledge while serving in Europe for three years. I knew what we expected the Soviet Union to do in such a war and what our greatest fears were. I had significant experience with American command and control systems and some of the weapons in the book. In my 38 months there, I was able to gain a great deal of insight into how such a ground war in Europe would look and what the American military feared most about a Russian attack. What I saw was a potential nightmare of unspeakable proportions, our strengths and weaknesses versus theirs.” The plot begins in the not too distant future where Fascists once again come to power. The new Fuhrer, Manfred Fromisch, a leader that promises unity and protection from the Communists, is able to quash the uprisings with his ruthless SS paramilitary forces. The fanatical Russian leader, a la Vladimir Putin, orders the Soviet military to invade Germany and reclaim the Eastern sector. They use the strategy of deception, sabotage, and excess manpower to potentially win this war in five days. In a bold move they catch the Americans off guard, because the US political leaders refused to accept the warning given by the military leaders. The US President is definitely a political animal that “was written by me to be more concerned about getting re-elected than doing what is right for the country. He fails the American people and fails as Commander-In-Chief because his self-interest is more important than doing his job. He refused to allow the military to do what it needs to do, having a full alert. This led to a domino effect where Americans were caught flat-footed. The President is not cautious, but reckless because he did not follow the advice of his cabinet.” Gragg shows how individuals play an important role with their decisions and choices. The US President appears to be part of the Vietnam Syndrome, not interested in going to war at all costs. Because of this the Americans are complacent and the losses become extraordinary. A warning, this is not a sunshine and roses book. Almost all the heroes, brave men and women, face death and destruction so readers should not get too attached to any character. Almost all of the heroes were killed off because the author hoped to show how video games are unrealistic. “I wanted to show how good people die and never come back to life, a reality that is not prevalent in video games. There are no happy endings in the realistic theatre of war. No one should ever become immune to killing, and war should never be taken lightly.” This is no more evident in the scenes involving Russian atrocities. They are truly evil as they use chemical weapons, and tactical nuclear weapons. The quote hammers the point home, “They arrived at Ramstein as ruthless bullies,” mowing down civilians and US forces. Their strategy was using sabotage, murder, and terror. They did everything to go against humanity in the crowded setting of Germany, with over eighty million people in an area the size of Oregon, making it even more chilling. Although most of the scenarios in the book are very realistic, the one involving Fascists regaining power seems very far[...]

May 5 in U.S. military history

Fri, 05 May 2017 10:53:30 PDT

1862: Disappointed in the lack of progress of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, President Abraham Lincoln departs for Hampton Roads, Va. on the Treasury Department revenue cutter Miami to personally oversee operations. Over five days, the president - a former militia rifle company commander - directs the bombardment of Confederate positions and lands to conduct reconnaissance of the area with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. 1864: The bloody albeit inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) opens between Union Army forces under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee. Fighting is grim: Casualties will be heavy on both sides. Union and Confederate generals will be killed. Wounded and trapped soldiers will be burned alive by a battle-sparked woods fire. Within two days, Grant will disengage and advance toward Spotsylvania Courthouse. 1916: Two companies of Marines from the transport USS Prairie (AD-5) land at Santo Domingo, beginning the United States' eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic. The leathernecks provide protection for the U.S. Legation and Consulate, and occupy the nearby Fort San Geronimo. 1917: Eugene J. Bullard becomes the first black combat aviator, earning his wings with the French Air Service. The Columbus, Ga. native's father came to America from the Caribbean island of Martinique and his mother was a Creek indian. Bullard fled to Europe to escape racism in the United States and joined the French Foreign Legion as a machine gunner, seeing action in the Somme, Champagne, and Verdun campaigns before being wounded. After recovering, he joined the air service and earned his pilot's license. The "Black Swallow of Death" would fly 20 combat missions for the French - claiming two aerial kills - before war's end. He volunteered for the infantry when Germany invaded France again in 1940 and was wounded. Excerpt - the rest of the post can be found at Unto the Breach.

Book Review: Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 07:39:25 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins is another winner. Having taken over writing the Spenser novels nothing has been lost with this smart aleck character. Using his past experience as a journalist Atkins created an engaging story. Spenser’s long time girlfriend psychologist Susan Silverman has referred one of her clients, Connie Kelly, to him. Thinking she found the perfect man on an on-line dating site Connie eagerly wrote him a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars for a real estate investment. The problem is he vanished with all of the money. Enter Spenser to try to make things right. He finds out that this cad, M. Brooks Welles, is actually a con man, owing plenty of money to others as well. In fact, everything about him is phony including his resume. A self-proclaimed military hotshot and former CIA, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. The rest of the book has Spenser trying to track him down and get back the money of those Welles swindled. Atkins noted, “When I worked as a journalist I covered stories of con men and was fascinated with their personalities and motivations. I made Welles a compilation of those I covered as well as Wayne Simmons. He was a Fox news analyst, claiming to be a CIA spy who also swindled a woman out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wanted to point out how the backgrounds of these TV talking heads are never vetted. Money is only part of the con. They also enjoy the respect and the feeling of importance. The reason many use the CIA as a profession is because the Agency will not confirm or deny employment.” One of Parker’s best characters is Dr. Susan. In this novel she is front and center, which makes the story even more enjoyable. It is fun to have her work with Spenser, where her toughness and intelligence are highlighted. But a newer character that is also getting more airtime is Boston PD Captain Glass. Atkins wrote Glass “to bring to the Spenser world more women characters. Also, I wanted to have someone in the police more skeptical of his involvement with them. Instead of being a friend, I wanted someone to question him more, where there will be friction between him and the police.” The relevance of the plot should not be lost on the readers. Within an entertaining story this book has fake news, spinning lies, and how facts can be spun. [...]

Book Review: The Thing About Love

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 07:58:15 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Thing About Love by Julie James is a believable mystery whose strengths is the character interaction. Presenting both the male and the female differing points of view of certain events will remind readers of the classic book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray. Beyond that, this novel combines a mysterious plot, some romance, and a realistic look at the undercover world of FBI Agents. During their training rookie FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd are constantly butting heads. Following misinterpreted motives and misunderstandings they became fierce competitors. After graduating they both go their separate ways, until six years later when they are picked to work together as partners on an undercover assignment. Being paired with a former rival comes at the worst time since Jessica is finalizing a divorce and John has just broken up with his long time girlfriend. Their assignment is to nail a Florida politician for taking bribes. Throughout the story readers learn some very interesting facts about the life of an FBI undercover agent. The details about their job and career surprisingly have many comparisons to those serving in the military, besides the obvious, defending their country. There is a unit called the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) that has a two-week selective process that appears to be as grilling as hell week for the SEALs. They have to scale a narrow ladder 75 feet above the ground, walking blindfolded underwater for seventy-five feet while caring a thirty-pound weight, running with a large raft to a lake, and being sleep deprived, getting no more than two hours each night. Realizing there is a similar analogy, James “wrote how those trying out for the HRT are recruited from the military, for me, the civilian equivalent to the Special Forces. An FBI undercover agent interviewed told me how in his class there were only two females, which I put in the story. I researched the army and FBI on their websites as well as public forums. I knew that John, who was an Army Ranger, would whiz through the physical stuff and the firearm challenges. Also, I wanted to show how undercover work is hard on relationships. Jessica and John had a failed relationship because the other person could not handle the mental toll or the lifestyle. Both were gone a significant amount of time, while their main focus was on the case. Since they could not talk about it the other person feels blocked out to a whole part of their life.” Although learning about and understanding the profession was intricate to the story, a Julie James novel will always have competitive, elegant, and witty-smart characters. This book is no different, having the characters initially appearing to be as different as night and day. Jessica is from Stanford law school. John, a former Army Ranger, is handsome and athletic with a commanding, masculine impression. The banter between the FBI training recruits enhances the story, as they give each other quips, sarcasm, and dirty looks. Their personality clash has a lot to do with the competitive nature of each. But through the course of the novel the realization takes place that there is mutual respect and their quips become talk, the sarcasm becomes laughter and joking, and the dirty looks become desire. They also begin to realize they are similar in many ways determined, committed to their work, confident, and honorable. James commented, “I made the lead male, John, young and attractive. He tries to interact with Jessica and she overreacts. She had her attitude to create a distance, because she was aware of how something would be viewed. Regarding the banter, I do love the sarcasm. I go back to the black and white romantic come[...]

Book Review: One Perfect Lie

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 07:55:25 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline is a home run. Baseball is the springboard for the riveting mystery that includes a lot of curve balls. Not only do the characters deceive each other, but with the many twists and turns so will the readers. This suburban domestic crime thriller plays off the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that looms powerfully in the background. Scottoline came up with the idea for the story, “Last year I was asked to throw out the first pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies game for ladies night. Honestly, I do not know how to pitch. I started to go the high school where my daughter graduated from to get pointers from the team. I noticed the different relationships between the moms and dads, the children, and between the team and the coach. Although this coach was enlightened, encouraging, and friendly, it got me to think what if there was a coach who was the direct opposite, manipulative and uncaring. I like writing ‘what if’ stories. BTW: The pitch I threw out was not that bad.” The plot begins with Chris Brennan applying for a teaching and coaching job at Central Valley High School in Pennsylvania. He is hired as an AP Government teacher and baseball coach. He is looking for the right student to act as his pawn and apprentice for an unsavory evil job. On the same day that Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building it appears Chris is planning his own bombing. He uses the Constitutional debate in the classroom to find the right teenager that can be manipulated, and then as the baseball coach makes sure he builds that bond by intentionally causing friction among the teammates. Pennsylvania is the setting for every book of Scottoline and the spring books can be considered suburban noirs. “When I write I usually try to have a strong sense of place. Since I live on a farm, I am concerned about fracking. I touched on this in the book, since it is a real Pennsylvania problem. I also wanted to get across in this story the difficulty of raising a child in this suburban world. Each mother had a problem in their life that affected how they interacted with their sons who also had some psychological issues. Every character is in effect lying to themselves and to the outside world.” Through Chris’s eyes readers see the interaction between the boys on and off the baseball field, and how they react to their mother’s circumstances. Susan, Raz’s mom, has guilt feelings for failing to step up and take control of the floundering family after her husband and their father dies. She is at a loss on how to parent her two teenage sons who are acting out. Mindy, Evan’s mom, stays at home and succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. She suspects her husband of having an affair, using social media to try to find answers. Heather, Jordan’s mom, is the most likable, because of her being very grounded. A hardworking single mom, she is counting on a baseball scholarship for Jordan so he can attend college. The mystery comes into play as the ATF agents try to find the bomber and what are his motivations. The supervisor, known as “The Rabbi,” is a supporting character that has a big impact on the plot. He is intelligent, caring, and effectively juggles work and family. Scottoline nicknamed the ATF character “The Rabbi,” because in the large law firm she worked for “I had a mentor who we called ‘The Rabbi.’ I always thought of him as a teacher and a voice of reason. To me a Rabbi signifies a leader. In the book the undercover agent looked up to this character. It was a loving nickname representing the wise one.” To make the sto[...]

Do You Know This Man Or Voice?

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 02:57:29 PDT

Bumping yet again. The media coverage is dying down, but they are still getting about 100 tips a day. More are needed, and this man needs to stay famous. To him I say: This is not going away, and there are some of us who will do all we can to keep you in the public eye until you are caught. If you think you know him, note that the reward has grown a bit... Bumping again. This is not going to go away. Someone, somewhere, will recognize your image or voice. The reward is now more than $200k, and growing. You can run, but you will just die tired. Give it up. For any who think they know him, note the reward. Bumping, as someone, somewhere, knows who he is. He may be the person at church who recently shaved his head or dyed his hair after a comical "accident." He may be the person who assisted you at the home improvement store, or that gets his cigars/cigarettes at the same place you do. He may be the person you see getting gas each week. He may be the neighbor down the street. He's the person you would not think of in this context, so adding this to help people think a bit. Listen to this voice. Listen Again. Imagine that you know something bad is about to happen to you, and that you have no effective means to prevent it. You know nothing can stop it, but you activate the video feature on your cell phone not to help you, but to help police find the person or persons who did those things to you. 14-year-old Libby German did just that in the moments before at least one male ordered her and her friend -- 13-year-old Abby Williams -- "down the hill" and ultimately to their deaths. She showed a clarity and courage that I'm not sure many adults could or would match under the same circumstances. The least we can do is spread this far and wide, so that the killer or killers are brought to justice. Somebody, somewhere, will recognize the photo or the voice. Share it far and wide. Light. The. Bastard. Up. Cross posted at Laughingwolf.

Media Files:

Book Review: 42 Faith

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 09:29:15 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. April 15th is known as tax day, but it is also an important day in baseball history if not American history. Seventy years ago this day Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball. In the latest book about Jackie Robinson, 42 Faith, Ed Henry recounts the struggles of someone who just wanted to play baseball. But it also shows how faith helped Robinson overcome many hardships. Many might know the name, since Ed Henry has a hybrid role at Fox News as the chief national correspondent and a freelance anchor on various Fox programs. Within his busy schedule he decided to write this book because this is “the rest of the Jackie Robinson story. It came about ten years ago at a dinner party at the Belgium ambassador’s house. After having a bad time, I sat there thinking about the three-strike rule in baseball where you are out. I was about to leave to watch the World Series when the woman beside me shared the story of her late father-in-law. She starts telling this tale how, in 1945, a man shows up at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, who needed to see a minister right away. Reverend L. Wendell Fifield received the man, who paced, prayed and silently stewed for about 45 minutes before telling Fifield, ‘I’ve decided to sign Jackie Robinson to his first baseball contract. It’s the hardest decision of my life. I need to be in your presence, in God’s presence, to know it’s the right thing to do.’ Fifield kept his conversation with the man confidential, but he eventually told his wife. And long after her husband’s death, June Fifield wrote in her Church Bulletin a 5-page essay about her husband’s encounter with Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Being a reporter I researched this fascinating story and decided to write the book.” Both Rickey and Robinson were to face many adversities with their craftiness and cunning, guts and grits, brains and brawn, as well as an overwhelming belief in G-d. It was almost that there was divine intervention on why the color barrier was broken. Carl Erskine, a teammate of Robinson, told Henry, “Athletic ability and determination could take Robinson only so far. Hidden is how pivotal faith turned out to be.” It helped give Robinson the confidence he needed to rise above not only the taunts and death threats he faced from outsiders, but also the insults he faced from some of his white teammates. Furthermore, Henry believes, “Rickey had a ‘dark fire’ within him to right the wrongs of racism, which set him on a mission to bring profound change to America. Rickey was looking for someone who had the skills but his scouting report showed he was also looking for someone that had a support network, was married, and a strong sense of faith.” Unlike politics, sports has a way for teammates to come together. There is a powerful story in the book that was recounted by another colleague of Robinson, Ralph Branca. While sitting down with five other white teammates who were from the Deep South he reminded them that all had worked in gas stations with African Americans. They responded that the blacks pumped gas, while the whites fixed cars, claiming, “We weren’t equal.” Branca retorted, “Well, you won’t be equal on the ball field either. Jackie’s better than you.” Rickey knew this experiment had to succeed and that many on other teams would show their racial resentment through slurs and attempting to do physical harm. To emphasize how faith played such an important role, Henry told how Rickey quoted to Robinson from the Bible, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that y[...]

Book Review: The Devil's Feast

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 09:23:49 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Devil’s Feast by M. J. Carter plays off Anthony Bourdain’s quote, “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk… food has always been an adventure.” Carter had the idea for the story because of “an illness I had for the past few years that has to do with my digestion. I could not eat so I became very interested in reading about food. I was feeling sorry for myself because of all these foods I could not eat. In the course of my research I encountered Alexis Soyer, the famous chef. I decided to write a story around him and what better way to have someone die than with poison.” And so it is with this story that involves England’s first celebrity chef and a mysterious death, poisoned at the renowned Reform Club. The plot has Captain William Avery invited to dine at the private table of the famous chef, Alexis Soyer. After one of the guests at the table dies he is asked to investigate. As the suspects pile up, everyone involving food appears to be a person of interest from meat suppliers to waiters. Finding parallels with today’s world, Carter told of incorporating “the idea of the celebrity chef who had tantrums when he did not get his way. I also think the past should not be a foreign country so I included the idea of people dying by being poisoned. In the 1840’s arsenic was everywhere, on cake decorations and even the dye on children’s dresses.” Readers will find out about Soyer’s life and it becomes obvious the author spent a lot of time researching the food entries, maybe a bit too much. There is a lot of detail about the inner workings of the kitchen run by celebrity Alexis Soyer who is not only an incredible chef, but the inventor of many innovations. Having come to prominence in the 1840s, Soyer is nicknamed the “Napoleon of food,” a culinary genius who loves to self-promote, a la today’s chef, Gordon Ramsey. This first celebrity chef fascinated the author. “He was the first to use gas ovens, thermometers, accurate clocks, and clever kitchen gadgets. Determined to improve the country’s diet and alleviate the sufferings of the poor, he devised menus for London hospitals and workhouses, reinventing the soup kitchen. For me, he was a gift since he was sometimes a ridiculous figure, manically energetic, crazily ambitious, and dreadfully pretentious. Everything I wrote about him in this book is what he did in real life, including the way he dressed in lavender-colored velvet suits. After becoming chef de cuisine at London’s Reform Club it turned into, not a political association, but a place where males went to hide from their wives, have a fancy dinner, and have conversations.” This series has two protagonists that usually work together. However, in this novel Avery is mainly on his own, struggling to solve the case, while thinking for himself. His partner, Jeremiah Blake chafes at being considered a hired hand and refuses a new assignment from Theophilus Collinson, a very influential person. Claiming that Blake was already paid for work not performed, Collinson has the stubborn detective arrested and imprisoned for debt. This leaves Avery to solve the case of why diners are dying at the prestigious Reform Club. If readers think of the comparison with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, the author says not so, “I did not get my inspiration from the famous investigative duo. Patrick O’ Brian’s sea stories is what influenced me. He writes such great relationships between his characters, Aubrey and Maturin. At least consciously I never thought of Holmes and Watson.” At the heart o[...]

Book Review: The Darkness Of Evil

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 09:19:45 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Darkness Of Evil by Alan Jacobson brings back FBI profiler Karen Vail in a unique story. He clicks into the curiosity of many who question how does a serial killer’s family not know, and what is it like to be related to one? The plot begins when Jasmine Marcks, the daughter of a serial killer, writes a book about her life experiences. After receiving a threatening letter from her father, she must cancel her book tour. Her testimony about some bloody duct tape and other items helped to put her father in prison with a life sentence and no chance of parole. Vail goes to visit Marks there to evaluate how much of a threat he is to Jasmine. Shortly thereafter, the murderer, Roscoe Lee Marcks, escapes from prison to seek revenge on his daughter. Vail, the local police, and the US Marshals, must all work together to find him before he achieves his target. Jacobson noted, “I always do a lot of research, speaking with my go to experts, FBI Supervisory Special Agents and retired senior FBI profilers, Mark Safarik and Mary Ellen O’Toole. I also talked with some US Marshals about the escapes of convicts. They happen more often than not, but we only hear about the ones that succeed. When you talk to the different agencies; you find how they compete with other law enforcement organizations in terms of budget. They always complain how the FBI is viewed as the favorite child. Pretty much what was written in the book is true, about the rivalry and competition. As they begin to work together on a case there is some friction, but in the course of working it they bridge relationships and find a way to work together.” Interestingly, in almost all of his books, people learn about facts of the different agencies. In this novel Jacobson uses realistic scenarios to make the plot believable. The escape of Roscoe will remind readers of the ex prison worker, Joyce Mitchell, who aided two killers in escaping in upstate New York. The author also shows how Vail, a tough and seasoned profiler, must re-examine the case she inherited as a rookie, putting forth a different set of eyes. This book has a riveting story with many twists and turns. It explores a subject matter from a different angle that allows the reader to have an original storyline. [...]

"No Survivors" - The Eagle Flight Anniversary

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 07:01:29 PDT

"They came to save us, and to give us dignity. Their sacrifice will remain in the minds of our children for the rest of their lives. We will teach their names to our children, and keep their names in our books of history as heroes who gave their lives for freedom." - Kurd Sheik Ahmet at the April 17th, 1994 memorial service in Zakhu, Iraq. Today, is the 23rd anniversary of a dark day in our military history...while the inquiry results were weak, this was one incident in which many lessons were learned that later saved American and allied lives (true IFF came from this), and continued the long trek to freedom for one of the most deserving groups of human beings on this planet. Let's start at what isn't quite the beginning but as good as any place to start this story... In April, 1991, as part of U.N. Resolution 688, the National Command Authority commanded the US Armed Forces to conduct Operation Provide Comfort. On the 8th of April 1991, the 1st Battalion (FWD) of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Bad Tolz, Germany, deployed to conduct humanitarian relief operations for over a half million Kurdish refugees. Soon the 2nd and 3rd Battalions arrived from the states. From the 10th Group's history page (emphasis is mine): ...Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was one of the largest relief operations in history. During the critical first three weeks, the 10th Special Forces Group directed and executed the overall ground relief and security efforts. In the words of General Galvin, the CINCEUR "...10th Special Forces Group saved half a million Kurds from extinction." The conditions in the refugee camps shocked the world. Before 10th Group arrived, an average of 450 refugees perished daily, with 70 percent being children. In two weeks time the rate was approximately 15-­20 per day and of these, only 28 percent were children. 10th Group had made the difference. The basic operation was divided into three phases. Phase one provided immediate emergency relief with food, water and shelter. The intent was to make an accurate assessment of the situation and to organize Kurdish leadership. Phase two provided basic services. The ODA and ODB detachments performed many tasks and missions: pipe water from the mountains, organize food distribution and camp sanitation, service drop zones and landing zones, and coordinate with the multi­national relief organizations. Additionally, they assisted in rendering medical treatment for the refugees. Phase three prepared and moved the refugees from their mountain camps into resettlement camps in Iraq or straight back to their own homes. Way­stations built by 10th SFG(A), provided food, water and fuel, and limited medical help enroute... As the video below shows, it was really about saving the families and the children: The mission was a tough one - to provide humanitarian aid to over one million Kurdish Refugees in northern Iraq. The mission began with airdrops (food, clothing, tents, blankets, medicine) and soon launched missions taking supplies directly to the Kurds. A UH-60A Black Hawk (Blackhawk) helicopter flies over a small village in the Kurdish occupied security zone in northern Iraq. The helicopters and the crews from C Company 6/159th Aviation Regiment, Geibelstadt, Germany, are deployed to Diyarbakir, Turkey, in support of the operation Provide Comfort. (DoD photo by: SSGT. THEODORE J. KONIARES Date Shot: 1993-11-17). To further stop Saddam from killing the Kurds, a northern No-Fly Zone was placed north of the 36th parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft would be shot down in the No-Fly Zone. Photo from CIA Factbook The No-Fly Zone was patrolled and kept "clean" by the USAF with fighters (F-15s) being supported by command and control aircraft (AWACS). General John Shalikashv[...]

Book Review The Burial Hour

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 12:04:05 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Burial Hour by Jeffrey Deaver incorporates his usual writing style with misdirection and plot twists. The subject matter is timely and relevant, taking into account the many concerns of the Western world. Although the plot begins in New York the main setting is in Italy, where the classics play an important role, intertwining Greek G-ds with legendary musical compositions of “The Blue Danube,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Danse Macabre.” The plot begins with the abduction of a business executive in Manhattan by someone known as “The Composer.” Left behind at the scene is a small hangman’s noose. Lincoln Rhymes, the notable Forensics investigator and his fiancé police detective Amelia Sachs get word that a similar kidnapping occurred in Naples, Italy. They decide to fly there and join forces with the Italian investigating team led by prosecutor Dante Spiro and a legal liaison in the State Department. As the dots get connected it appears all the victims are refugees. The team must battle their worst enemy, time, trying to find “The Composer” before he succeeds in killing one of the people snatched, apparently for no better reason than to record the sounds they make as they are choked to death. Deaver noted, “The bad guy, Stefan, is obsessed with sound. I enjoy writing an eerie depth to my villains so they have substance. Stefan ponders how music speaks to someone including what history would have sounded like, the words of Judas or Abraham Lincoln. I think as a society we are not as attuned to sound as we used to be because of the overload. Robert Frost once said that ‘you can induce meaning from sound, independent of words.’ I wanted to show the emotional sides of sound in this book. Stefan is moved by the combination of notes and timing. There is something about the ¾ tempo of a waltz I find pretty engrossing, which is why I used those musical classics.” This book has Lincoln traveling to Italy. With the new setting also comes a new direction for his profession. Since he is a formidable forensics investigator he uses his skills to get more involved with other types of crimes. Deaver did not see as a problem having Lincoln, a quadriplegic, move around the world. “Even in New York he sits in a room while Amelia does most of the legwork. I chose Italy because it cannot escape the classics. Also, this story had to move more slowly because life in Southern Italy does move slowly. The story is tied to the Italian law enforcement system that is more leisurely and takes a holistic approach to justice. To make the plot move faster I had to extract elements of crimes.” The Burial Hour has many turns. It is interesting to see how Deaver took his character out of his safe zone. Incorporating sound and music is a twist that readers will find interesting. [...]

Book Review The Night The Lights Went Out

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 11:59:42 PDT

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar. The Night The Lights Went Out by Karen White is a play on the song since the title continues “In Georgia.” This novel takes place in the suburbs of Atlanta. As with all her books readers get a glimpse of the Southern culture where friendship is a major theme within a mystery. The strength of the novel is the bond that forms between Sugar Prescott and Merilee Talbot Dunlop, both with formative secrets. Sugar, a woman in her nineties, is very crusty and represents how society used to be. This is contrasted with the modern day perspective that depends on technology for communication. White is one of those authors that write such gripping characters readers become embedded with. It is fun to see the generational differences between Merilee and Sugar. Heather is another character, representing the southern suburb housewife who plays tennis, drives a SUV, and has her children in a private school, with secrets of her own. Besides these characters the blog writings are character-like with its southern words of wisdom that provide levity and frankness. She does make fun of social media, noting, “I do make digs at Facebook and social media in my stories. I have to force myself to go on Facebook. I enjoy my fan page because I can talk about my dogs and books. Unfortunately, you cannot have a fan page without a personal page. I cannot believe the things people post; they over share. I think we need to communicate directly to people. If you have something to tell me that is short then text, but anything bigger than five words call me. What really upsets me is when I leave a voice mail and then someone calls me without listening to it, forcing me to repeat myself.” The mystery comes into play when Dan, the husband of Heather and a friend of Merilee’s, is found lying face down in the lake. She becomes a person of interest since her past also includes other victims of drowning. The other sub-plot mystery is when a bloodstained jacket is found in a locker located in the basement of Merilee’s rented cottage. The author noted, “All my books are about a woman’s journey, finding her place in the world, and moving beyond a setback that many times includes a mystery. The heart of my stories is following the main character to see if she gets out of some predicament. In this book they have the kind of friendship that does not come with Facebook or texting. It comes from spending time with each other and getting to know one another.” This story has friendship, family, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and hope. Readers will laugh with the characters, while at other times will be on the edge of their seats. White is great at combining all these elements to make a gripping story with fascinating characters. [...]