Posts tagged with: Author Ed Baldwin

Civilian Warriors by Erik Prince: A Book Review

Read this book to understand how our government works.  Politicians will say one thing on television and then do just the opposite in private, and sometimes that’s a good thing.  If we made it easy to go to war we’d be doing it all the time.  Nobody wants that, so our elected officials cut the military budget, debate hotly any movement of our boys overseas, and then when something absolutely positively has to be done they hire a contractor.  That’s Blackwater.

The whole title of Prince’s book is Civilian Warriors:  The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.  Prince is the founder and former CEO of the security contractor Blackwater that protected American diplomats and performed many other duties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  After doing exactly what they’d been paid to do Blackwater and Erik Prince were later vilified in the media and congressional hearings by the same people who hired them.  Forced by contractual obligations to be silent about Blackwater’s activities, Prince is now opening up with both barrels, and he’s dishing some dirt.

I write international thriller fiction based on reality, and books like Civilian Warriors supplement my own experience in creating stories.  I’m working on a geopolitical thriller now, The  Fourth Domain, and there is a civilian contractor deeply involved.

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The Book Cover

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This is the draft of the cover art for my next novel, The Mingrelian.  Steve Meosky of Austin Texas created this design.  He is the designer of The Other Pilot and The Devil on Chardonnay covers as well.

He’s dapper, confident, mysterious, and he’s looking over his shoulder.  Well he should, because he’s been laundering Iranian oil money through the Republic of Georgia, and passing secrets about Iran’s nuclear weapons program to the Americans; triple agent espionage.  But, there’s the promise of action in this picture too.  What is that C-130 doing behind him, and which mountains are those?  Oh, this is going to be fun.

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The Mingrelian: Espionage at a Tbilisi rug shop

 

IMG_0212This is the rug shop in Tbilisi, Georgia where Boyd Chailland, the dashing Air Force captain and protagonist of Ed Baldwin’s adventure series meets his contact in the shadowy world of Central Asian political intrigue.  When the beautiful Ekaterina Dadiani steps out from behind a curtain in this rug shop the whole story changes for Boyd, and for the reader.  “The Mingrelian”, CIA’s code word for the spy passing secrets about Iran’s nuclear weapons program suddenly becomes personal.  Is it Ekaterina?  If not, who?  Why?  What happens if the Iranians find out?

You won’t have to wait long.  Boyd’s tale is almost done, and Steve Meosky, the cover artist for The Other Pilot, The Devil on Chardonnay, is back on the job with The Mingrelian. Expect to be reading something in May.

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The Mingrelian: Is this the man?

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Dapper, sophisticated, mysterious; this is the statue of Lado Gudashvili, an artist and anti-Soviet activist from the Republic of Georgia.  I was in Tbilisi gathering material for my next novel and scoured the National Art Museum, the National Museum, several art galleries and a large street flea market looking for an image for the cover of the book; nothing.  Then, on my last day before driving to Zugdidi and the Dadiani Palace (see last post) I found this statue behind the art museum.  Though Lado Gudashvili was not known to be a Mingrelian, he could have been.  Mingrelia is to  Georgia what Texas is to America; part of the fabric of the culture.

Look at that wide brim fedora; the face in partial shadow, the nonchalant way he stands there with his elbow on the pedestal.  You know this guy is up to something.  That’s what the character in the novel is like; sophisticated, mysterious, and up to no good.  He’ll be born in the spring.

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Book Review: Pacific Glory: A Novel

P.T. Deutermann is a Naval Academy grad who commanded a destroyer and has written several successful thriller novels, so when he writes of the surface navy in the Pacific during World War II, you expect a lot. This is a thrilling story about three Annapolis grads from the Class of ’32, and Glory, the navy nurse they all loved. That may sound like the setup for a romance novel, and there is some personal drama, but this is war as real as you can get from the printed page.

Told as a flashback by a retired officer to his stepson, the tale begins with the changing of the Officer of the Deck at the beginning of the midwatch on a heavy cruiser off Guadalcanal in August, 1942. If you know your history you get goosebumps right there. Within minutes that ship is sinking, and our primary protagonist, Lieutenant Marsh Vincent barely escapes going down with her. The details, from a personal perspective, as Japanese cruisers and destroyers clobber the ship, and the sights and sounds of her sinking remain with me yet.

One of the friends, husband of Glory, the navy nurse, has gone down with the Arizona before the story starts. The third friend is a dive bomber pilot; brash, fearless, and flawed, who sinks a Japanese carrier at Midway. We live through Guadalcanal, Midway, and the savage but little known naval battle at Samar. Marsh and McCarty are there when the Yamato, the largest battleship ever built, attacks a group of small escort carriers providing air support for the American landing in the Philippines.

The tale jumps between action in the Pacific and recovery back at Pearl Harbor. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the last 100 pages. You will too.

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Fighter Pilot: A Book Review of the Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

Every fighter pilot after Robin Olds is a wannabe. The game is changed. America only has a thousand fighters in operation, and the new ones cost $200 Million. They will fly themselves if the pilot asks them to. Olds came along when we lost more planes and pilots from mechanical failure, weather, or pilot error than combat.

Fighters are very hard to fly, and only a lucky SOB could have survived what Robin Olds survived. He bridged the gap from the World War II piston engine fighters through the jets of Viet Nam. His father was Lieutenant General Robert Olds, a WW I fighter pilot and friend of the greats of early aviation; Billy Mitchell, Hap Arnold, Tooey Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and Eddie Rickenbacker.

Robin Olds got some breaks. Family ties got him into West Point at the beginning of World War II, where his size and athletic ability allowed him to excel on the football field. His brash ways pissed off some people who would have derailed the average pilot into bombers or transports; contacts got him into fighters. He was a natural. He came into the European theater after most of the really tough German pilots were already gone. He became a double ace after the Normandy invasion. Olds was commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand during the early period of the Viet Nam war when Russian pilots flew the Migs protecting North Viet Nam. That was the last of the real dogfights; and Olds was the big dog. He was Commandant of the Air Force Academy; leaving a legacy that persists today.

The strength of this book is not Olds’ exploits, which are extraordinary, but his passionate descriptions of the conflicts of the times. He’s fighting something from his first application to West Point through his retirement, and it’s a journey through history, military life and culture. If you’re a fighter pilot wannabe, like me, or you’re just curious what it’s all about; this is the book.

This is a well written book, ostensibly written by his daughter Christina and a ghost writer, Ed Rasimus, but the narrator is Robin Olds; you can feel his passion. Christina gathered his memoirs and worked with Robin during his final months. He was adamant that he would tell his story, and he did.

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Islands of Destiny, by John Prados: Book Review

This is a strong book. Written by an accomplished and experienced historian after exhaustive research of source material not available to previous authors on World War II in the Pacific, Islands of Destiny is an entertaining read; if you like history. If you’re looking for a summer beach book, this isn’t it. I bought it for research for a historical novel I might write one day, and I wanted someone else to read the volumes of memoirs and histories published in English since WW II, then wade through the recently translated diaries and journals of the Imperial Japanese Navy and their sailors and airmen, screen through the inflated after action reports each side produced after battles to count how many planes and ships were actually lost, lay out in reasonably concise terms the perspective of the various combatants, and tie it all together with maps, technical analysis of ships, planes, radar, secret codes and Japanese and American doctrine. Here it is. Other reviewers have criticized author Prados as providing excessive detail and not enough personal drama; get a romance novel, I say! This is the best chance we arm chair admirals will have to understand how it all went down.

The Solomons form the eastern edge of the Coral Sea, which borders Australia. At the beginning of WW II the Japanese took Rabaul, in the Bismarck Archipelago, which is just to the north of the Coral Sea. When they landed on Guadalcanal and began building an airfield, they threatened to encircle Australia and cut her supply route to the US. In July, 1942 American Marines landed on Guadalcanal. Thus begins this story of two mighty nations locked in mortal combat at the end of their supply chains. It went on for a year.

Every book review needs some quibbling. John Prados is positively toxic on the subject of General George Kenney and the Army Air Corps’ contribution to the Solomons Campaign. True, the Solomons was a Navy show, and the Navy did the bulk of the fighting and dying there, but the Army Air Corps held the eastern flank while protecting Australia from imminent invasion through New Guinea, and they did it on a shoestring compared with the firepower the Navy could muster. There are a lot of Japanese names in this book and I couldn’t keep them straight. The addition of their source material is critical to this document, but it made for some tough cross checking. Perhaps a graphic with the Japanese hierarchy could have been added.

Contrary to some reviewers, author Prados gives us many personal vignettes and human profiles drawn from diaries and published memoirs to personalize this tale. I don’t fault him a bit for being too dry. Insights I gained from this story include how our cracking of the Japanese code affected virtually every battle. It wasn’t just the strategic movements but the actual routes and timing of ship movements, and the fact that we maintained that secret until 1978! Both American and Japanese dive bomber pilots experienced 80% attrition during major battles; put yourself in that cockpit as the engine warms up.

This book, in its paper form for the maps, pictures, and reference materials, belongs in the library of all descendants, American and Japanese, of the brave men who fought The Solomons Campaign. They changed the world.  http://www.amazon.com/Islands-Destiny-Solomons-Campaign-Eclipse/dp/B00D9T9QA4

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Book Expo America: Oh, The Irony!

I just got back from Book Expo America at the Javits Convention Center in New York.  It was a hectic, exhausting, revealing four days.  Twenty five years ago the Book Expo consisted mostly of the big publishing companies, I’ll call them Big P, pitching new books to buyers from independent and chain bookstores, and there is a lot of that going on still.  Huge banners with book covers on them hung all over the center.  Each of the Big P houses had a block of floor space with sales people pitching books.  The problem is, there aren’t many independent bookstores left.  Hell, there aren’t many bookstores left.  It’s going online, and Amazon has the lion’s share of that.  The discount they offer is the money that used to go to warehouse and distribute books and to cover the higher operating cost of small bookstores.  Books are cheaper.

One whole wall of the convention center was devoted to desks of authors giving away and signing their books.   Lines for some famous authors snaked clear across the building.  Most of those lined up were young women with shopping bags full of free books.  But, some of those famous authors are self published.  The Indie Press section covered about 20% of the floor space.  Another third was taken up by start-up companies offering publicity, marketing, formatting, printing, distributing, design, and editing for Indie presses and self-publishers.

Away from the exhibition hall there were lectures; a dozen going on at all times from 9:30 to 5:00 daily.  I went to the ones on promoting books using social media; Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+.  Big P offered up data they’ve gathered showing where the publishing business is going.  With a collective sigh of relief they revealed that paper book sales were flat from last year, after three years of decline.  Ebook sales are still increasing; 45% this year, but at least it wasn’t triple digits like last year.  One of their slides showed the sale of ebooks increased by $780 Million, while paper book sales remained flat.  But, that same slide showed textbooks in the K-12 market down $800 Million!  I asked what was happening and was told it was because of the the states are broke and they aren’t buying textbooks.  Not so!  The school my grandchildren will attend just announced they got a federal grant to equip all students with Ipads.  A whole industry; the K-12 textbook industry, is going to go digital.  College too.

Statistics were skewed by the new marketplace.  Fifty Shades of Grey (a Romance novel) and Hunger Games (a Young Adults novel) padded their genres making both look like big growth areas.  Many ebooks sold at $.99 or were given away free, so there were many more books acquired than the dollar figures would indicate.  Many of those cheap ebooks will never be read.  Romance novels comprise a gigantic market of voracious readers who are also active in social media and want to know everything about their favorite authors.  I don’t think that carries over into non-fiction or other genres. There is a growing number of readers who have become very sophisticated in finding just the kind of books they like to read,.  Blogs and web sites are catering to that market by offering book reviews, chats, and giveaways.  It’s a game millions of people are playing.

Publishers Weekly, the indispensable magazine of the industry was sold by a Big P conglomerate and is now enabling Indie presses and ebooks.  Oh, the irony!

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Book Expo America: The Revolution!

Book Expo America is the premier convention in book publishing. It’s next week in New York City. In the past it was publishers pitching their new books to bookstore owners, but now there aren’t any independent bookstores any longer. Well, a few, and more power to them. The industry consolidated, and now it’s fragmenting again. Just when all the publishers were consolidated by a few multinational corporations and the booksellers all became big box stores, Amazon fostered the Indie movement and waves of Indie presses and self published books resulted. Publishing is about whose voice is heard, and it’s a free for all. The BEA this year has seminars on marketing with social media, panel discussions on how the ebook is changing publishing, and a whole day on how to self publish. There are hundreds of authors paying big bucks to autograph books for half an hour on the convention floor. Some of them are pillars of the novel, and some of them are first timers. There are vendors of all types catering to Indie publishers; marketing, formatting, art, public relations, printing, distribution. The little guy has a chance again.

I’ll be there from gavel to gavel; reveling in the revolution, savoring the panic as the big boys struggle to remain profitable when Indie presses can make money selling ebooks for a buck. These are exciting times. Stay tuned.

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Book Review: City of Promises

A story about Mexico, written by an American who lives in Canada; odd, but interesting.  Let me explain.  D. Grant Fitter has studied and worked in Mexico long enough to know and understand that place, which is very different from the United States, as we will learn.  He says he thinks he must have been Mexican in another life.  In his tale Arturo Fuentes, a young businessman moves to Mexico City in 1943 and opens a glass bottle factory using sand from his native region.  In short order he falls in with a famous Mexican dancer and some shady characters from the totally corrupt government of that nation.  The story winds through the headlines of the 1940’s as Perez Prado becomes internationally popular and the rumba sweeps the nation’s dance floors.  In the meantime corrupt politicians deal themselves in on every business transaction of consequence, with Fuentes swept along and becoming wealthy in the process.

This story reads like Gabriel Garcia Marquez was given a stack of old newspapers from 1943-1948 and told to write a mystery/thriller.  It has dreamy descriptions of rich coffee and aged rum served up in restaurants and night clubs of the period, then business deals, the development of Mexico City bus service, the presidential election of Miguel  Aleman, and the development of Acapulco.  It’s told in linear, first person prose eliciting more curiosity than tension or suspense until the end when it finishes up tidy.

So, interesting but not literature.  It’s a primer in how government corruption infects every part of life, and it isn’t unique to Mexico.  It’s happening in Egypt as we speak, and it’s always trying to happen in the United States.  That’s why our two party political system has stood the test of time.  Mexico now has a two party political system, and they’re a better nation for it.

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