Genre: Manly stuff
Read again? Yes
Warnings: You'll need wrist support. Damn book is heavy, even in paperback.
This is two, two, two books in one! Not because of the daunting 750-page count, but because of the double life of the main man, John Kelly, and the events that ultimately turn him into CIA agent John Clark. This is a sort of prequel to Clancy's Jack Ryan books, though Jack is only a supporting character here.
John Kelly is a trouble-shooter. In 'Nam his job was infiltration and extraction--if you had a pilot down in enemy territory, you sent Kelly in to get him back. If you needed something blown up, you sent Kelly to do it.
That wasn't very long ago, in the book's timeline--a couple of years, at most. It's never spelled out, but it's early in Tricky Dick's administration. Kelly retired from the Navy at a young age (he's in his late 20's), and now, back in the States, he works in demolitions. Stick with what you know, right? This is better because no one's shooting at him.
As the story opens, Kelly's just finishing up a job on a derelict oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, sending it to the bottom and garnering him a fat bonus. At about the same time as he's starting back ashore, his wife is killed in a horrible car crash.
Half a year goes by in the flick of a page. Kelly picks up a hitchhiker named Pam. She's pretty much what he needs at the moment--a warm body, someone to help him get past the memory of his wife's death. Eventually he finds out that Pam ran away from some really bad men running a drug and prostitution ring. He wants to help her put the baddies behind bars...but things go terribly wrong. She dies and he goes on a revenge kick that makes Steven Seagal look like Michael Jackson in a cage-match slap-fight with The Punisher. Actually, that's not saying much, because Seagal got asswhipped by an old man he picked a fight with on a movie set.
Kelly sticks with what he knows, using his Navy SEAL skills to gather intelligence on the enemy, infiltrate their area of operations, and kill the hell out of them till they're dead. And the bad men do die. One bad man dies very slowly and painfully after his interrogation in a decompression tank. The best thing is that there's none of that Hollywood crap where the Hero kills a bad guy and says some dumb-shit line. Killed him in a decompression chamber? "Crushing." Electricity? "Shocking." No, Kelly's more like Thomas Jane's "Punisher." Kill them and move on.
And this is all just the first half of two inches of novel.
The second half is where John Kelly becomes John Clark. The CIA and some some Pentagon guys have a mission of their own for him--another sneak-in-and-rescue job in North Vietnam. It'll be his job (as "Mr. Clark") to get into position, scope out the enemy camp, and call in the Marines. Twenty American pilots are depending on them. Everything goes to plan right up to Kelly giving the go-ahead for the assault. The Marines are minutes away from landing...and enemy reinforcements arrive. Kelly is forced to abort the plan and call for evac.
By simple stupid good luck, Kelly captures the Russian who's been interrogating those American pilots, picking their brains for military secrets. The Russian has considerately brought all his notes along.
Clancy makes this an easy--if long--read. Seven hundred and fifty pages. I've read a lot of long damn books recently, so maybe that's why the book seems to drag. I only took a half point, though, because of the great amusement I got from reading this uber-violent novel in several restaurants that had x-mas music playing.
Vernon, Florida (1981)
1 hour ago