Sunday, February 19, 2017

Richard Lyon, First Navy SEAL To Become Admiral, Dies At 93

The Navy Times reports that Admiral Richard Lyon dies at 93.

SAN DIEGO — Richard Lyon, the first Navy SEAL to rise to the rank of admiral, has died at 93. 

Lyon served four decades in the Navy, including World War II and the Korean War, and was among the first U.S. troops to enter Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped. He went on to work as a Scout intelligence officer in northern China and later served in Korea.

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, called Lyon a legend who was honored with the title "Bullfrog" for being the oldest-serving SEAL. Lyon regularly attended the graduation ceremonies of SEALs. 

... Lyon died Friday surrounded by family and friends at his beachfront home in Oceanside, north of San Diego, said lifelong friend Kelly Sarber, who met Lyon as a child because her father was also a SEAL. 

Sarber recalled photos of Lyon and other SEALs swimming with knives during the elite military team's beginnings.

"He reminded me of James Bond," she said. "I never saw him lose his cool. I never saw him be nothing but kind and treat people with manners. He was a real class act."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Georges Simenon's Maigret Novels: A Game Of Pretend With A Gallic Soul

John Domini offers a review Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret released novels for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

When the bad news arrives, it's always with a kink. For Jules Maigret, chief inspector, a case might begin with a desperate call from a stranger. Before the Paris detective can get his name, the poor man's corpse has been dumped on the street. Then again, Maigret may hear his own name bandied about, unfathomably, in connection with a murder far to the south, on a Mediterranean island.

Whatever bizarre twist sets the inspector on a killer's trail, in these classic mysteries from Georges Simenon, Maigret won't go long without stopping into a bistro. "He knew," we're told in Dead Man, "he would not be able to resist the temptation of going for a drink in the Caves du Beaujolais." Oh, and he'll take a plate andouille, as well. Down on the Cote d'Azur, he'll have the bouillabaisse.

Naturally, the fine dining never interferes with the job. Just the opposite. While the detective savors his fish pie, his calvados, he's often struck by some revelation; he cracks the case. The Maigret novels can be thought of as "police procedurals," in that they take an officer through both discovery and bureaucracy - along with some serious chills - but that procedure seems worlds apart from the system in the States. An American cop reading these novels might find himself enthralled, like so many before him, but he'll wonder whether he's working in the wrong country and century.

Simenon polished off these three Maigrets in the late 1940s. Enjoying them now, among the first of Penguin Classic's series of new translations, a reader swings from nodding at familiar predators and prey, caught in familiar snares of love or money, to feeling as though he has landed on another planet.

You can read read the rest of the review via the below link:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Welcome To Hell: Omar Abdel-Rahman, 'Blind Sheikh,' Dies In Prison

Andrew Blake at the Washington Times reports that Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as the "Blind Sheikh" and the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, died in prison.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

On This Day In History Mark Twain Published 'The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn'

As notes, on this day in 1885 Mark Twain published his classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

You can read about Mark Twain and the novel via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-The-World Comedy Tour via the below link:

My Crime Beat Column: Bond Vs The Mob: A Look Back at Ian Fleming's Visit To Saratoga Springs To Research ‘Diamonds Are Forever’

In 1971 I was a 19-year-old sailor stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, which was home-ported in San Diego, California after a nearly year-long deployment to Southeast Asia and combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.

I was a "short-timer," eagerly awaiting my separation from the U.S. Navy when I and a couple of friends from the ship went to a movie theater in San Diego to see Sean Connery as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. 

Considering that George Lazenby had never acted before and he had the dubious honor of replacing Connery, I thought he had done a fine job as James Bond in the previous film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  But I was pleased that Connery was back as Bond in the new film.

Prior to seeing the film, I had read the novel, as well as all of Ian Fleming's novels, as I've been a Fleming aficionado since my early teens. I came away disappointed in the film, as it was not faithful to Fleming's novel, as On Her Majesty's Secret Service had been.

The producers made Diamonds Are Forever as an action-comedy rather than a thriller, and this led the way for the lighthearted and amusing Roger Moore-Bond films that followed throughout the 1970's and into the 1980's.

In Fleming's novel Diamonds Are Forever James Bond is pitted against American organized crime.

From London, Bond goes undercover as a diamond smuggler and he encounters American mobsters in New York and later in Las Vegas. And in between Bond visits Saratoga Springs, where the mob has arranged to pay off Bond via a crooked horse race.

Fleming's novel was influenced by Senator Estes Kefauver's committee hearings on organized crime in America. The hearings were televised in the early 1950's and America and the world got to see American gangsters such as Tony Accardo, the mob boss of Chicago who once worked for Al Capone, Frank Costello, known as the New York "Prime Minister of Crime," Meyer Lansky, and a sultry Virginia Hill, the former girlfriend of Ben "Bugsy" Siegal.  

In Saratoga Springs Fleming captured the atmosphere of the race track, the gambling fever that surrounds horse racing, and the presence and influence of organized crime. I recall vividly the brutal scene in the mud baths where the crooked jockey is tortured by mobsters.

I thought this was a great passage in a great thriller, and Raymond Chandler, perhaps our greatest crime novelist, agreed.

Unfortunately, the film didn't use any of this material. Perhaps one day the Bond producers will remake Diamonds Are Forever as a thriller and use Fleming's Saratoga Springs story.

All of this came to mind when I happened to come across a piece in the Saratogian (a newspaper Bond read in the novel) that covers Fleming's 1954 visit to Saratoga Springs to research his novel.

The piece offers generous passages from the novel:

“Saratoga Springs was the Coney Island of the underworld until the Kefauvers put their show on the television. It frightened the hicks and chased the hoodlums to Las Vegas. But the mobs exercised dominion over Saratoga for a long time. It was a colony of the national gangs and they ran it with pistols and baseball bats.”

The piece is also about a thoroughbred horse trainer by the name of H. James Bond.

You can read the piece via the below link:

The film Diamonds Are Forever is well-made and amusing, but if you're interested in a great thriller, I suggest you read Fleming's novel.

Note: You can also read two of my previous Crime Beat columns on Ian Fleming and James Bond via the below links:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

U.S. Navy Commander Charged As Part of Expanding "Fat Leonard" Navy Bribery Scandal

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A current U.S. Navy Commander was charged in a complaint unsealed today with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and services of prostitutes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis in exchange for classified and internal U.S. Navy information.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Director Dermot F. O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) made the announcement.
Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with interactions with Leonard Francis, the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contracting firm based in Singapore.  Herrera was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, this morning and is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in the Western District of Texas.  The United States will seek removal of Herrera to San Diego to face charges.
According to the complaint, Herrera participated in a bribery scheme with Francis in which he accepted luxury travel and entertainment expenses and the services of prostitutes in exchange for helping to steer lucrative U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA.  Herrera provided Francis with internal, proprietary U.S. Navy information and intervened on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes.  According the complaint, Herrera directed ships to take alternative routes that benefitted GDMA on two separate occasions, costing the U.S. Navy $3.6 million.    
To date, a total of 17 individuals have been charged in connection with the scheme; of those, 13 have pleaded guilty, including: Admiral Robert Gilbeau, Captain Michael Brooks, Commander Bobby Pitts, Captain Daniel Dusek, Commander Michael Misiewicz, Lt. Commander Todd Malaki, Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and U.S. Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug.
Brooks, Gilbeau and Sanchez await sentencing.  In May 2016, Pitts was charged and his case is currently pending.  On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and to pay a $15,000 fine.   On Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $15,000 fine.  On March 25, 2016, Dusek was sentenced to 46 months in prison and to pay $30,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $70,000 fine.  On April 29, 2016, Misiewicz was sentenced to 78 months in prison and to pay  $95,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $100,000 fine.  On Oct. 14, 2016, Beliveau was sentenced to 12 years in prison and to pay $20 million in restitution.  On Dec. 2, 2016, Simpkins was sentenced to 72 months in prison, to pay $450,000 in restitution, to forfeit $150,000 and pay a $50,000 fine.  
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation, and the accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
DCIS, NCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are investigating the case.  Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.  
Anyone with information relating to fraud or corruption should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at or the DOD Hotline at, or call (800) 424-9098.

Aircraft Carrier Gerald R. Ford Heads To Sea Next Month; Commissioning Later This Year

Megan Eckstein at USNI News offers a piece on the new aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

You can read the piece via the below link:

America's newest carrier is named after the late President Gerald R. Ford, who was a naval officer in World War II.

Lt. Commander Ford served aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) during the war.