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Showing posts by: Chris Wolak click to see Chris Wolak's profile
Nov 30 2017 1:00pm

Review: Hunter Killer by David Poyer

World War with China explodes in Hunter Killer, David Poyer's powerful, all-too-believable novel about how the next world war might unfold.

This novel is full of movement and the chaos of wartime. As a result, it’s difficult to write about, but at its most basic, it follows the storylines of five people: Dan Lenson, Admiral, USN; Teddy Oberg, POW and Navy SEAL; Cheryl Staurulakis, Commander, USN; Hector Ramos, recruit/Marine, USMC; and Blair Titus, military advisor, Washington, D.C.

The book opens with Captain Lenson being summoned to a Naval command bunker on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The United States is at war with China. Country after country is falling to the People’s Republic, and the U.S. has had some crushing losses—including the vaporization of an entire U.S. Battle Group by a nuclear warhead.

Poyer adds some insider humor to the opening scene with a little inter-service swipe at the Army, “Dan nodded to Army personnel—they tended to sulk if ignored in passageways—but didn’t to Navy or Air Force unless they greeted him first.” Poyer’s series, after all, celebrates the Navy and Marine Corps. Oohrah! But I digress.

[Read Chris Wolak's review of Hunter Killer...]

Sep 21 2017 2:00pm

Review: OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman’s Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd

OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd is the story of a remarkable woman, Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh, who fought World War II on the front lines of psychological warfare.

OSS Operation Black Mail is the story of Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh and so much more. The bulk of this book concerns McIntosh’s experience in World War II and how the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operated against the Japanese in China-Burma-India. Along the way, we learn about how the U.S. intelligence community rapidly formed during WWII, the gender obstacles that women agents faced, interagency bickering, tensions between allies, and how agents operated on the ground, all from a very different theater of war—one that hasn’t been written about as much as the war effort in Europe or the Pacific. The book also touches on the early years of the Cold War, Hoover’s investigations into communist activities, and McCarthy’s fanatical assault on American citizens.

McIntosh was recruited into the OSS in 1943 due to her background as a reporter and her personal interest in Japanese language and culture. She was also not afraid of taking risks, as attested by her hike up an active volcano as multiple pairs of shoes melted under her feet.

[Read Chris Wolak's review of OSS Operation Black Mail...]

Sep 7 2017 3:30pm

Review: Idyll Fears by Stephanie Gayle

Idyll Fears by Stephanie Gayle is the second book in the Thomas Lynch series, where the gay Chief of Police must deal with homophobic opposition as well as a frantic search for a missing six-year-old with a rare, life-threatening medical condition.

Idyll Fears is the second entry in Stephanie Gayle’s Thomas Lynch series. Thomas Lynch is the Chief of Police in Idyll, a small fictional town in Connecticut. Part of the drama in Idyll Threats—the first book in the series—was Lynch being outed as gay. While still a big deal today, back in 1997—when this book is set—it was an even bigger deal for a high-ranking public figure to be gay. Particularly in a small town. It was big news, it was scandalous, and not everyone wanted (or wants) to be a poster child or role model for underrepresented groups.

Chief Lynch is now dealing with the fall out of being outed, and he’s not sure if he’ll stay in Idyll. The town is still buzzing, and Lynch is still getting to know the town, the men on the police force, and his formidable secretary, Mrs. Dunsmore, an older woman who has been in her position for a long, long time. Anonymous, homophobic phone calls are being made both to his home number and the police station. The calls are logged, complete with the caller’s phone number thanks to the new technology of *69, which the callers aren’t sophisticated enough to realize is being used. “Homo,” “Queer,” “We don’t want your kind here.” Happy Holidays, Chief!

[Read Chris Wolak's review of Idyll Fears...]

Aug 1 2017 2:15pm

Review: Stasi Child by David Young

STASI CHILD by David YoungStasi Child by David Young is the first book in the Karin Müller series, set in East Berlin in 1975 (available August 1, 2017).

This is a Cold War thriller that has nothing to do with nuclear annihilation or international espionage. The focus is on a murder investigation in East Berlin, and all the players are East Germans.

Readers familiar with Cold War novels set in Communist East Germany will feel at home in the setting and tone that Young creates. Readers new to the genre will quickly feel the bleakness of life in East Germany, from the pollution to inadequate winter clothing to the construction of monolithic Soviet block apartments.

Nothing is quite straight forward. Everyone has something to hide and/or some kind of damage that’s a weak spot that can be manipulated by those in power. Citizens have to walk a straight line to avoid suspicion. These threats are bad, but worst of all is the corrosive force of relentless propaganda and paranoia that wears people down. Everyone is a potential informer spying on everyone else, even family members.

[Read Chris Wolak's review of Stasi Child...]