Tuesday, August 31, 2010
North writes in his column that many beleaguered Americans on the border believe the fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico is only a "speed bump" for the drug couriers, killers, human smugglers and other criminals flooding our country.
You can read the column via the below link:
Monday, August 30, 2010
Unrequited love is often the theme of popular songs, so perhaps Stephen Stills' next song will be about Fidel Castro's lack of love for him and the other people who gathered at Woodstock in 1969.
Cuban-American Humberto Fontova reports that Fidel Castro (seen in the above photo) is quoting a favorite book that is highly critical of Woodstock.
Yet some the Woodstock performers, like Stills, visited Cuba and wrote glowingly supportive songs about Communist Cuba and the island's strongman Communist dictator, Fidel Castro.
The irony here is that while American rock performers like Stills (seen in the above photo), along with Kris Kristofferson and others, wrote loving songs about Cuba, Castro and Che Guevara, Cuban performers were suffering in Cuban prisons.
You can read Fontova's piece via the below link:
I interviewed Fontova a while back about his critical book on Che Guevara for Counterterrorism magazine.
You can read my piece via the below link:
Below is a photo of Humberto Fontova:
Saturday, August 28, 2010
You can read the column via the below link:
Below is a photo of a young Hemingway, looking like a latter-day Huckleberry Finn, fishing in Michigan.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2010 - An infected flash drive inserted into a Defense Department computer in 2008 caused "a significant compromise" of the department's classified computer networks and was a "wake-up call" for Pentagon officials to expedite cyber defense measures, the deputy secretary of defense revealed in a new magazine article.
The previously classified incident caused the most significant breach ever to U.S. military computers, William J. Lynn III wrote for an article appearing in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.
Titled "Defending a New Domain," the article outlines the evolution of computer network threats and measures the department has put into place to deal with them. The frequency and sophistication of intrusions into U.S. military networks have increased exponentially in the past 10 years, Lynn (seen in the below photo) wrote. They now are probed thousands of times and scanned millions of times, every day, he added.
Sometimes the adversaries are successful, Lynn said, and they have acquired thousands of files from Defense Department networks and those of the Pentagon's industry partners and U.S. allies, including weapons blueprints, operational plans and surveillance data.
To counter the threat, the Pentagon has built "layered and robust defenses" around military networks and created the new U.S. Cyber Command to integrate processes, Lynn said.
The Defense Department has 15,000 networks and 7 million computing devices in use in dozens of countries, with 90,000 people working to maintain them, Lynn said, and it depends heavily on commercial industry for its network operations.
"Information technology enables almost everything the U.S. military does," Lynn wrote, from logistical support and command and control to real-time intelligence and remote operations. Any future conflict will include cybersecurity, he has said.
In his article, Lynn outlines five pillars of the department's emerging cybersecurity policy:
-- Cyber must be recognized as a warfare domain equal to land, sea, and air;
-- Any defensive posture must go beyond "good hygiene" to include sophisticated and accurate operations that allow rapid response;
-- Cyber defenses must reach beyond the department's dot-mil world into commercial networks, as governed by Homeland Security;
-- Cyber defenses must be pursued with international allies for an effective "shared warning" of threats; and
-- The Defense Department must help to maintain and leverage U.S. technological dominance and improve the acquisitions process to keep up with the speed and agility of the information technology industry.
Pentagon officials are developing a cyber strategy document to be released in the fall. It will address, among other things, any statutory changes needed for cyber defense, and the capability for "automated defenses," such as the ability block malware at top speed, Lynn has said.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Happy 80th Birthday to actor Sean Connery. He was born on August 25, 1930.
Below are some birthday wishes, biographical information, photos, videos and stories about Connery from online publications:
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
A team of U.S. Navy SEALs huddles around a coffee urn at their firebase in Afghanistan after an exhausting firefight with the Taliban.
“How can you account for people doing something so … savage?” asks the team’s shocked and appalled medic.
“Easy,” replies the more jaded SEAL team leader. “They’re savages.”
Don Winslow’s crime thriller Savages (Simon and Schuster) opens with two words:
This is pretty much Chon’s attitude. But Chon, formerly known as John, a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, doesn’t have attitude, according to his friend Ophelia, he has “baditude.”
Chon, the son of one of the original California marijuana kings, was a bad kid, but he earned his GED, joined the Navy and became a SEAL.
“They taught him to do everything that a seriously crazy, crazily athletic man could do in H2O.
Then they sent him to Stanland.
You got sand, you got snow, you ain’t got no ocean.
The Taliban don’t surf.”
The above is the sort of free verse that Winslow sprinkles through out the novel.
(Note to author Winslow: The L in SEAL stands for land. The SEALs train and operate in the sea, in the air and on land — Sea Air Land — SEAL).
Chon is one of three good friends who live in Laguna Beach.
Ben is the second of the close-knit trio. Ben, the son of leftist, Jewish shrinks (both his mother and father have lucrative psychotherapy practices), is a wealthy environmentalist and philanthropist.
His good deeds are financed by his highly successful marijuana business. Chon, who provides the muscle, is Ben’s partner in the mostly mellow pot business.
Ophelia, known as O for her loud multiple orgasms, is the third friend. O is a slim, “pixie like’ slacker who lives to shop. She has serious issues with her mother, whom she calls “Paqu.” It’s an acronym, O explains, for Passive Aggressive Queen of the Universe.
Her mother is South Orange County rich and beautiful. “Blonde hair, blue eyes and BRMCB — Best Rack Money Can Buy (you have real boobs here, you’re, like, Amish)”
O is happily sleeping with both Chon and Ben and the three friends led an idyllic life on Laguna Beach.
And then the Mexican Baja Cartel made them an offer that they can’t refuse.
The notorious Mexican drug gang wants to take over Ben and Chon’s pot business and make them employees of the cartel. To help convince them of their serious intentions, the cartel sent along a video of several men being beheaded.
Chon wants to respond in the same manner in which he handled an earlier threat from an outlaw biker gang. He killed them.
Ben wants to negotiate with the cartel and he agrees to meet with them. The Mexicans don’t want to negotiate; they want to take over the pot business.
And this impasse begins the conflict in this fast-paced, violent, irreverent and very funny thriller.
I first became acquainted with Don Winslow when I read his crime novel The Winter of Frankie Machine.
In the novel Frank Machiano, known as “Frank the Bait Guy,” runs a bait shop and laundry service in San Diego, California. Machiano, who is known in other certain circles as ”Frankie Machine” for his cold-blooded killing ability, is a retired mob soldier.
He is drawn back into the world organized crime after someone orders a hit on the retired hitman.
Like Savages, The Winter of Frankie Machine is wickedly funny and a fast-paced thriller.
There is talk of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro making a film of the novel. The character of Machiano’s partner-in-crime would be a good role for Joe Pesci. I’d liked to see Scorsese once again team up with his Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino actors, De Niro and Pesci.
I enjoyed Savages but I have two problems with the thriller. My main beef is the character Chon being a former Navy SEAL.
Sure, there are one or two former SEALs who have gone bad in real life, but I’m old enough to recall when every psychotic killer and nut job in novels, on TV and in the movies during the 1960s and 1970s was a Vietnam veteran.
This trend began to wane when Magnum P.I. came on TV in 1980. Magnum offered not only one, but three positive characters who were Vietnam veterans. Thomas Magnum, portrayed by Tom Selleck, was a former Navy SEAL.
Magnum’s two friends, Rick and TC, were also Vietnam veterans. Higgins, the major domo of the Robin Master’s estate, was an honorable World War II veteran.
Magnum P.I., an amusing, lighthearted crime show, was very popular throughout the 1980s. I believe the pro-military show was instrumental in curtailing the veteran as killer and criminal stereotype in novels and on the big and small screen.
I would hate to see that stereotype begin to grow in popular fiction once again.
I also had a problem with the ending of Savages. Of course, I won’t reveal the ending here, but I thought the conclusion of the novel was too pat.
But otherwise I enjoyed the novel, and if you like humorous, irreverent and fast-paced crime thrillers, then you’ll like Savages as well.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Humorist P.J. O'Rourke wrote an amusing and insightful piece on Afghanistan for The Weekly Standard.
If you spend 72 hours in a place you’ve never been, talking to people whose language you don’t speak about social, political, and economic complexities you don’t understand, and you come back as the world’s biggest know-it-all, you’re a reporter. Either that or you’re President Obama. I called my wife. She said, no, she certainly is not vacationing at government expense in some jet-set hot spot with scads of her BFFs. Looks like I’m not President Obama. But I am a reporter, fresh from Kabul. What do you want to know about Afghanistan, past, present, or future? Ask me anything.
As all good reporters do, I prepared for my assignment with extensive research. I went to an Afghan restaurant in Prague. Getting a foretaste—as it were—of my subject, I asked the restaurant’s owner (an actual Afghan), “So what’s up with Afghanistan?”
You can read the rest of his piece via the below link:
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Comedian Jay Leno put on a benefit concert for the oil spill victims in Mississippi.
Leno (seen in the above photo) offered a check for $90, 336.31 from the ticket sales, and then he kicked in an additional $10,000 of his own money.
You can read more about the benefit concert via the below link:
Timoney has published a good book called Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities.
The book covers his more than 40 years in law enforcement. Prior to serving as Miami's Chief of Police, Timoney was the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and previous to that he was the New York First Deputy Police Commissioner.
Esquire magazine called Timoney "America's Top Cop."
You can read my interview with Timoney via the below links:
You can also read Tom Wolfe's terrific forward to Timoney's book via the below link:
Connecting the Dots at the Local Level: Fusion Centers Make Homeland Security a State, City and County Affair
Robert Riegle from the Department of Homeland Security describes fusion centers as force multipliers. "They leverage financial resources and the expertise of numerous public safety partners to increase information awareness and help our law enforcement agencies more effectively protect our communities."
My piece focuses on the new fusion center being built at the old Defense Department compound locally called the "Quartermaster" (seen in above photo).
According to Philadelphia's Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, Everett A. Gillison, the new fusion center will be called the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center.
"We are set up to begin our process of pulling all the assests together for counterterrorism, crime and all hazards," Gillison said.
You can read my magazine piece via the below links:
You can also read my earlier post on the history of the Philadelphia Quartermaster via the below link:
Friday, August 20, 2010
My Crime Beat Column: Spy Writer Vs. Spy Writer: John le Carre Calls Ian Fleming's Iconic James Bond Character a Neo-Fascist Gangster
Regarding John le Carre’s recent critical remarks about fellow thriller writer Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond, the author of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, is right about one thing.
Le Carre is correct in stating that the Bond films have overtaken the books. Its true that the general public’s image of the fictional secret agent is that of the often silly, superman-like film character, rather than the darker, more complex and more realistic Bond character in the novels.
Le Carre is wrong about everything else.
Le Carre, aka former British intelligence officer David Cornwell, upon reviewing a 1966 BBC broadcast in which he was highly critical of Ian Fleming, calling his character James Bond “a neo-fascist gangster,” noted that he would be “much kinder” in his remarks today.
The 78-year-old, bitter leftist spy novelist then went on to state that Bond “would have gone through the same antics for any country if the girls had been so pretty and the martinis so dry.”
So much for being kinder.
“I dislike Bond,” le Carre told the BBC in 1966. “I’m not sure that Bond is a spy. I think that it’s a great mistake if one’s talking about espionage literature to include Bond in that category.
“It seems to me he’s more some kind of international gangster with, as it is said, a license to kill… he’s a man entirely out of the political context. It’s no interest to Bond who, for instance, is president of the United States or the Union of Soviet Republics.”
It was a pity that Fleming, who died in August of 1964, was not alive to respond.
I suggest that le Carre, like millions of thriller readers around the world, re-read the Fleming stories.
Although Fleming stated that his James Bond thrillers were highly romanticized and he wrote them unabashedly for entertainment (the public’s as well as his own), the novels portray a character based on the secret agents and military commandos Fleming met while serving as a British naval commander attached to naval intelligence in World War II. He also added a good bit his own likes, dislikes and personality to the character.
The Bond character was driven primarily by a love of adventure and a strong sense of patriotism. He was all Queen and Country. He fought the good fight against communists, terrorists and criminals. He was a modern-day knight.
As for le Carre’s comment that Bond was not truly a spy, if he were to re-read the novels, he would discover that the character was a senior intelligence officer in the British Secret Service - the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), often referred to as MI6.
Although he did not perform traditional intelligence officer duties, such as recruiting and controlling agents, Bond was sent out on missions to “spy” on and take out enemies of the Crown. Bond was a operator who engaged in what they call in the trade "active measures."
Although the double-00 license to kill was a fictional device, there are in reality special operatives in the intelligence services of both the U.S. and the U.K who have special operations backgrounds and have skills in guns, knives, unarmed combat and explosives. These men, and some women, are hunting al Qaeda today.
“Everything I write has a precedent in truth,” Fleming said.
Although his thrillers had fantastic elements, many of his plots and characters were inspired by true events. A case in point is the plot of Goldfinger, in which a gold-crazed criminal mastermind plans to rob Fort Knox.
Ben Macintyre recently wrote a good piece for The London Times, in which he informs us that a German spy in WWII named Gustav Steinhauer planned to blow up the gold reserves of the Bank of England. Macintrye wrote that Fleming liked the interplay between truth and fiction.
In 1966, when le Carre recorded his disparaging remarks, Fleming was dead but the Bond-mania was in full bloom. Although le Carre’s novels sold well and he was critically acclaimed, Fleming’s thrillers were well on their way to selling 100 million copies world-wide. James Bond was a house-hold name around the world.
As for le Carre’s realism, I’ve interviewed a good number of former and current CIA and military intelligence officers who object strongly to the moral ambiguity found in his novels. Most Cold War intelligence officers were, like Bond, patriots who were dedicated to fighting communism.
British, American and other Western intelligence officers were certainly not like their utterly ruthless KGB and Eastern bloc counterparts who were defending a totalitarian, evil empire. There was a moral distinction between the Cold Warriors that you will not find not in a le Carre novel.
William F. Buckley Jr, the late conservative author, columnist and political talk show host, noted that films and novels in the 1960s and 1970s often portrayed CIA officers as no better than the KGB.
Having served briefly as a CIA officer, he objected.
Buckley, who wrote his own series of spy thrillers, believed the CIA and the Western intelligence services were a force for good in the Cold War. I agree.
Despite the moral ambiguity, I used to like le Carre’s novels. But his most recent novels have been marred by his increasing anti-Americanism and leftist opinions.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a first-rate spy thriller, and in it, I should note, le Carre offers a James Bond type of character with Peter Guillam, the tough guy head of the "Scalphunters." The Scalphunters were in le Carre's novels a group that performs the rough stuff one associates with James Bond.
And Peter Guillam was played in the TV mini-series by actor Michael Jayston, who was also considered for the role of James Bond at one point.
Yes, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a great Cold War thriller, but so is From Russia With Love
Lastly, it should be noted that Fleming lost his father in combat in World War I and his younger brother in World War II. Ian Fleming was a British patriot, as was his creation, James Bond.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
How Not to Fight a War: Good Advice From Our First President to the Current One - Thomas Fleming Channels George Washington
Fleming (seen in the below photo) interviews President Washington about the war in Afghanistan.
You can read the interesting piece via the below link:
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My column covers security cameras and how an integrated security system with cameras can curtail crime, solve crimes if and when they occur, and save lives.
You can read my column via the below link:
Monday, August 16, 2010
The book, written by Central Michigan Professor Michael R. Federspiel, is called Picturing Hemingway's Michigan.
You can read about the book, view some of the photos from the book, and learn a bit about Hemingway's time in Michigan via the link below:
You can also view other photos from Hemingway's life and link to my On Crime & Thrillers column on Hemingway and crime via an earlier post of mine:
Sunday, August 15, 2010
The Dangerous Life of a Thriller Writer: Two Interviews With Frederick Forsyth, Author of The Day of the Jackal and The Cobra
The newspaper mentions Forsyth's many brushes with danger while reporting on stories as a journalist and researching his fact-based thrillers, and states its all in a day's work for the 72-year-old writer who brought us The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and other stories about assassins, mercenaries, terrorists, drug barons, spies and kidnappers.
Forysth's latest thriller is called The Cobra.
You can read Stephenson's piece on Forsyth via the below link:
* The Press and Journal services Aberdeen and Inverness in the North of Scotland, places I recall fondly from my time there in the mid-1970s while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Below is a second interview with Frederick Forsyth. The British newspaper The Telegraph has Forsyth talking about his past as a 19-year-old RAF pilot, a young journalist and finally, a thriller writer.
Forsyth also talks about being swindled and his brief outing with a female spy.
You can read the piece via the below link:
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Legendary FBI Special Agent Joe Pistone, AKA Donnie Brasco, Spoke to Civic Group in El Paso About His Life Undercover in the New York Mob
Legendary FBI Special Agent Joe Pistone (seen in the above photo) recently spoke to an FBI civic group in El Paso, Texas about his time undercover in the Bonnano crime family in New York.
Known as "Donnie Brasco" or "Donnie the Jeweler," Pistone spent six years undercover and his testimony put more than 100 mobsters in jail. (The photo above is of Pistone undercover as Donnie Brasco).
Above is a photo of Sonny Black with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante. Below is a poster of the film Donnie Brasco.
Below is a photo of Johhny Depp as Pistone and Al Pacino as Ruggiero.
Below is a link to my review of Joe Pistone's book The Way of the Wiseguy, which appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I interviewed Joe Pistone a while back. Below is a link to my column about Pistone:
Hawaiian Spy: Former Northrop Engineer Convicted of Passing Classified Information to the Communist Chinese
A federal jury in Hawaii on Monday convicted Noshir S. Gowadia (seen in the above photo) of crimes related to passing classified information to the Communist Chinese.
Below is the Justice Department's release:
Hawaii Man Convicted of Providing Defense Information and Services to People’s Republic of China/Former B-2 Bomber Engineer Helped PRC Design a Stealthy Cruise Missile
WASHINGTON – A federal jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii today found Noshir S. Gowadia, age 66, of Maui, guilty of five criminal offenses relating to his design for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) of a low signature cruise missile exhaust system capable of rendering a PRC cruise missile resistant to detection by infrared missiles.
The jury also convicted Gowadia of illegally communicating classified information on three other occasions and unlawfully exporting technical information on those three occasions, illegally retaining defense information, and filing false tax returns for the years 2001 and 2002. The jury acquitted Gowadia of three other offenses alleging illegal communication of information to the PRC.
The verdict was announced by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Florence T. Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii. The verdict followed six days of deliberation and a 40-day trial in the District of Hawaii.
“Mr. Gowadia provided some of our country’s most sensitive weapons-related designs to the Chinese government for money. Today, he is being held accountable for his actions. This prosecution should serve as a warning to others who would compromise our nation’s military secrets for profit. I commend the many prosecutors, analysts, and agents - including those from the FBI and the Air Force - who were responsible for this investigation and prosecution,” said Assistant Attorney General Kris.
“The United States entrusts people with important and sensitive information critical to our nation’s defense. Today’s verdict demonstrates that there is a serious consequence to betraying that trust,” said U.S. Attorney Nakakuni.
“The FBI will continue to pursue anyone who treats America's national security as a commodity to be sold for personal enrichment,” said Charlene Thornton, Special Agent in Charge of the Honolulu Field Office of the FBI.
“This case is a superb example of interagency cooperation with one single goal in mind: to protect Americans from harm. The successful prosecution of Mr. Gowadia for espionage and other crimes highlights the many contributions of AFOSI personnel and our partner organizations worldwide,” said Colonel Keith Givens, Vice Commander, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Gowadia was first arrested in October 2005 on a criminal complaint alleging that he willfully communicated national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it. He was charged with additional violations in a 2005 indictment, a 2006 superseding indictment and a 2007 second superseding indictment.
According to information produced during the trial, Gowadia was an engineer with Northrop Grumman Corporation from approximately 1968 to 1986, during which time he contributed to the development of the unique propulsion system and low observable capabilities of the B-2 Spirit bomber (seen in the below photo), sometimes referred to as the “Stealth” bomber.
Gowadia also continued to work on classified matters as a contractor with the U.S. government until 1997, when his security clearance was terminated.
Evidence at the trial revealed that from July 2003 to June 2005, Gowadia took six trips to the PRC to provide defense services in the form of design, test support and test data analysis of technologies for the purpose of assisting the PRC with its cruise missile system by developing a stealthy exhaust nozzle and was paid at least $110,000 by the PRC.
The jury convicted Gowadia of two specific transmissions of classified information: a PowerPoint presentation concerning the exhaust nozzle of a PRC cruise missile project and an evaluation of the effectiveness of a redesigned nozzle, and a computer file providing his signature prediction of a PRC cruise missile outfitted with his modified exhaust nozzle and associated predictions in relation to a U.S. air-to-air missile.
The prosecution also produced evidence which documented Gowadia’s use of three foreign entities he controlled, including a Liechtenstein charity purportedly for the benefit of children, to disguise the income he received from foreign countries.
In addition to demonstrating that Gowadia under-reported his income and falsely denied having control over foreign bank accounts for the two tax years involved in his convictions, the evidence at trial revealed that Gowadia had not paid any income tax since from at least 1997 until 2005 when he was arrested.
Chief U.S. States District Judge Susan Oki Mollway set sentencing for Nov. 22, 2010. At that time, Gowadia faces the following maximum terms of imprisonment.
Life imprisonment for each of two counts of willfully communicating classified national defense information to the PRC with the intent that it be used to the advantage of the PRC or to the injury of the United States.
Ten years imprisonment for each of three counts of willfully communicating classified national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it in the PRC and elsewhere, and one count of illegally retaining defense systems information at his Maui residence.
Ten years imprisonment for each of four counts of exporting technical data related to a defense article without an export license (in violation of the Arms Export Control Act).
Five years imprisonment for one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act.
Ten years imprisonment for one money laundering charge based on proceeds from the Arms Export Control Act violations.
Three years imprisonment for each of two counts of filing false tax returns for the years 2001 and 2002.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth M. Sorenson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii and Senior Trial Attorney Robert E. Wallace Jr., of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
As I’ve noted here before, I believe thrillers are an art form. Thrillers are like jazz to literary fiction’s classical music.
I devoured thrillers when I was a teenager and I still read and love them today.
So I was very interested in reading Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads (Oceanview), edited by thriller writer David Morrell and critic Hank Wagner.
The book offers interesting essays by noted thriller writers on 100 selected thrillers deemed “must-reads” by the International Thriller Writers (ITW) organization. With each selection, the essayist offers a short biographical passage on the thriller’s author and provides an historical and literary perspective to the selected thriller.
Any list of best (or worst) of anything is open to debate, and this list of must-read thrillers is no exception. But the essays here are well written and thought provoking, even if I didn’t agree with the writer or the selection.
Storytellers were thrilling their audiences before we learned to write, David Hewson, a British thriller writer, notes in his introduction to the book.
“Today, thrillers provide a rich literary feast embracing a wide variety of worlds - the law, espionage, action-adventure, medicine, police and crime, romance, history, politics, high-tech, religion, and many more,” wrote Hewson in his introduction to Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads.
“But old or new — and this vibrant field never remains still — all thrillers share certain characteristics. Like Homer trying to keep his audience captive while telling his tale in ancient Greece, thriller authors are constantly aware that their readers want them to provide the sudden rush of emotions: the excitement, suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly, with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace. By definition, if a thriller does not thrill, it is not doing its job.
“But thrillers are also intensely human stories, allegories that find truths in fiction in order to tell us more about the world we inhabit and the kind of people we are,” Hewson explained. “The thriller is the oldest kind of story — rooted in our deepest hopes and fears, for ourselves, those we love, and the world around us.”
According to the editors, Morrell and Wagner, the 100 thrillers were chosen on the basis of the impact each had on the genre.
“Did the author contribute a new subject, direction, character, and/or technique that had a lasting effect?” the editors asked. “Did a work make such an impression that it had that it was frequently imitated?”
One may be surprised to see Homer or Shakespeare included in this book, but the essayists explain why the classics have all of the elements of a thriller. Some other selections, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes and H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, may also surprise the thriller reader.
I was pleased to see Rudyard Kipling’s Kim included, as this was perhaps the first spy thriller I read. My father had a bookcase in our living room that held many of the children’s classics. I read them all at a very young age, but Kim was a special favorite. This was a thriller that grabbed my young mind and imagination.
In the early 1960s I saw Sean Connery as James Bond in the film Dr No and I quickly read the Ian Fleming thrillers. I discovered that the novels were darker and more complex than the films and I remain a Fleming aficionado today.
I’m glad that the editors included Fleming’s great Cold War thriller From Russia With Love. Raymond Benson, who authored several of the Bond continuation novels, wrote the essay about the thriller.
Benson wrote that Fleming created a new genre with the “fantasy” spy novel. I don’t agree with this label. From Russia With Love is a realistic and hard-edged 1957 novel that I would stack up against any of the other Cold War thrillers.
A World War II naval intelligence officer and a journalist before and after the war, Fleming knew crime and espionage. Although he wrote unabashedly entertaining thrillers, most of his ideas were in fact based on true events. On occasion, Fleming noted, a news story would “lift a corner of the veil” and reveal the real world of espionage
“Everything I write has a precedent in truth,” Fleming wrote.
Although some of Fleming’s other thrillers included fantastic elements, his novels were always grounded in reality (unlike the silly films). For example, Goldfinger’s plot to rob Fort Knox of America’s gold reserves may seem fantastic, but then a story comes out that reveals that Gustav Steinhauer, a German spy before and during WWII, plotted to blow up the gold reserves at the Bank of England.
There are also essays on other Brit thriller writers and wonderful thrillers that I grew up with. There is an essay on Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios, an essay on Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden of the British Agent, and an essay on Graham Greene’s The Third Man.
On the American side, there is an essay on America’s answer to Graham Greene, Charles McCarry.
Hank Wagner wrote an essay on McCarry’s great thriller The Tears of Autumn. There is also an essay on Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate. The police thriller is represented here by Joseph Wambaugh’s great satiric novel, The Choir Boys.
I particularly enjoyed reading about several thrillers I knew only from the film adaptation. I have to now pick up copies of the thrillers these films were based on.
Of course, with 100 thrillers, I can’t list or comment on them all, but if you love thrillers, Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads: you will want to read and have in your library.
James Lee Burke's Cajun Cop, Dave Robicheaux, deals with a gusher of violence in the 18th installment in the series of crime thrillers featuring the New Iberia, Louisiana detective.
You can read my review in of the novel in The Philadelphia Inquirer via the below link:
Friday, August 6, 2010
Joseph C. Goulden, the author of The Death Merchant, wrote an interesting review of two spy thrillers in The Washington Times.
Goulden dismisses Olen Steinhauer's The Nearest Exit and calls the poor novel "a truly odious piece of political pornography."
Goulden laments Steinhauer's (and a good number of other spy thriller writers') lack of knowledge about the real world of espionage.
"Unfortunately for reality, publishers dote on writers adept at concocting off-the-wall "thrillers" that read like rantings from a psychiatric ward. Why? Nonsense sells," Goulden (seen in the below photo) wrote in his review.
There are, however, Goluden notes, writers in the intelligence genre who make a point of knowing something about their subject mater before siting down at the word processor.
A King of the pack is Frederick Forsyth (seen in the below photo).
"The difference between Mr. Forsyth and the aforementioned imaginative hacks is that he does his homework and relies on factual research, not simply whatever nutty conspiracy nonsense should waft his way," Goulden wrote.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
My On Crime & Security Column: From Dillinger to Modern Stick-Up Men, Armed Robbers are Truly Public Enemies
My column covers armed robbery, the Hollywood glamorization of this violent crime, and criminals, such as we saw in the film Public Enemies. I also offered some tips on how to prevent armed robbery.
You can read my column via the below link:
W. Thomas Smith at Guns & Patriots offers a frank and interesting interview with retired U.S. Army Lt. General William G. Boykin.
Boykin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and the former commander of the Army's super secret, elite special operations group, Delta Force, tells Smith that "Islam is not a religion, but a totalitarian way of life with a religious component."
You can read the interview via the below link:
I interviewed Lt. General Boykin a while back for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read my interview via the below link:
Sunday, August 1, 2010
The Weider History Group's web site http://www.historynet.com/ offers an interesting piece on Richard Sorge, the Soviet's spy in Japan in World War II. The piece was written by Stuart D. Goldman.
Working under the cover of a German journalist, the half-German, half-Russian Sorge reported to the GRU, Soviet military intelligence. His spy ring was eventually rolled up by the Japanese and he was hanged in 1944.
You can read the piece via the below link:
I read a good book on Sorge a while back called Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring by Gordon W. Prange. If you're interested in Sorge, espionage and World War II, you'll find this book fascinating.
Sorge has often been compared to Ian Fleming's fictional secret agent James Bond and some state that Fleming based Bond on Sorge.
Although Sorge, like Sidney Reilly, the British spy, was a womanizer and a somewhat glamorous spy, Fleming didn't base Bond on the communist agent.
Fleming based Bond on the British Navy commandos and secret agents he met while serving as a World War II British naval intelligence officer. Fleming also infused Bond with a good bit of his own personality.
Fleming, of course, knew of Sorge and his accomplishments as a wartime spy. Sorge is considered to be one of the greatest spies of the 20th Century.
In 1965 the Soviets declared Sorge a Hero of the Soviet Union and commemorated his life with stamp (see below).
You can read more about espionage (and crime) via the link below to my old blog at GreatHistory.com.