It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card authors are:
and the book:
B&H Books (July 1, 2012)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, Inc for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jeff Struecker was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. At age 18, he enlisted the US Army as an infantryman and retired as a Chaplain with over 22 years of active federal service. He currently serves as Associate Pastor of Ministry Development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. Throughout his career Jeff has attended numerous professional military schools and has received many awards and commendations. His combat experience includes participation in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait, Operation Gothic Serpent, in Mogadishu, Somalia, and multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jeff holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a Bachelor of Science Degree and Associate of Science Degree from Troy University in Alabama. Jeff and his wife, Dawn, have five children: Aaron, Jacob, Joseph, Abigail and Lydia.
Visit the author's website.
Alton L. Gansky is the author of 23 novels and 7 nonfiction works, as well as principle writer of 7 novels and 2 nonfiction books. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies. He lives in central California with his wife.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Amelia Lennon no longer wears a uniform or carries a weapon. An Army trained Foreign Affairs Officer, she's negotiating a dispute with the Kyrgyzstan government that threatens to leave the U.S. without an airbase in that region. She traded her gun for the power of words, but now she needs both. While following her government contact-Jildiz Oskonbaeva, the lawyer daughter of Kyrgyzstan's president-Amelia witnesses an attempt to abduct her. She manages to prevent the kidnapping, but now the two women are on the run in a city that's erupting into chaos.
Master Sergeant J.J. Bartley is the Special Operations team leader tasked to rescue Amelia and Jildiz. With two new members in his unit-one with a secret that could endanger everyone's life-J.J. must soldier his unit through crazed mobs intent on overthrowing the government. Back home, his pregnant wife is misinformed that her husband and the team have been killed. But before this is over, Bartley will find out that's the least of his problems.
List Price: $14.99
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Center at Manas (formerly Manas Air Base), outside
The mess hall was deserted.
Master Sergeant J.J. Bartley sat alone at a long, well-worn table that had seen thousands of airmen, soldiers, and marines pause from their work long enough to pound down some grub before returning to their duties. On the table rested a chipped plastic coffee cup and two file folders. The expansive room seemed twice the size J.J. remembered the last time he passed through the air base. Of
course the room was full of hungry service men then, many headed to Afghanistan. That was Manas’s primary role
over the last decade: the jumping-off spot for troops headed to hostile country.
As an Army ranger he did two tours of duty in Afghanistan before being hand-selected by Sergeant Major Eric
Moyer to be part of a unique spec ops team.
He made several other missions into the country as part of that squad, including one he was sure would be his last moment on earth. As it turned out, a pair of F-18s came to the rescue of the six-man unit as they fought off
overwhelming numbers of Taliban fighters advanc-
ing on their position. The jet jockeys saved their lives by drop-
ping a pair of ICM bombs on their location. The (Improved
Conventional Munition) bombs exploded fifteen feet above
their heads leaving the ground littered with dead Taliban and a ringing in J.J.’s
ears that took a
week to go away.
seemed a lifetime ago. Since then, as the sniper
and explosives expert for his team, he traveled to a dozen different places on the planet, none of which he was allowed
to name and carried out missions he was forbidden to speak about.
you want, Boss, but that coffee ain’t going to do any tricks.”
J.J. didn’t have to look up to know
Jose “Doc” Medina was approaching. He raised his gaze anyway and
returned the med- ic’s smile. Jose was a solid man with a keen mind, quick humor,
and a admirable steadiness.
If the sky were to rip in half and a million aliens ships from another dimension appeared ready to take
over the world, J.J. was sure
Jose would look up and say,
“Well, look at that. A man doesn’t see that every day.” J.J. liked the man for another reason. In addition to his being a superior soldier he also saved J.J.’s life after a gun battle.
He owed the man several pizza’s
where you been?”
“They have a great rec. hall here. I was shooting pool with the Air Force guys.” He pulled out a chair and sat.
“All in the name of inter-service fun, no doubt.” J.J. lifted his cup. The coffee was cold.
know I believe we should respect all branches of the military, even
the inferior, less skilled ones.”
“You heard me.”
Jose shrugged. “Maybe a couple of twenties.”
“Each.” Jose pretended to look guilty.
“How many airmen did
“Oh, who keeps track of such things? I was just killing time.”
J.J. narrowed his eyes. “Okay, just four. My conscious was beginning to bother me.”
“Lucky for them.” He put the cup down. “Seen Pete and
“Not since Crispin gave his little demonstration.
He did a good job. I was impressed and I’ve seen his tech kung-fu in the field. All those itty-bitty surveillance drones were a hit. Left the local tech boys drooling.”
“Yeah, I was there, but I haven’t
seen them since.”
you need them. I’ll go round ‘em
Just as long as they’re front-and-center when the new
J.J. cocked his head. “What’s
“You look down, Boss, like you’ve
lost your favorite girl friend.”
“My favorite girlfriend. You know I’m married.
let me have girlfriends.”
Jose slumped in his chair. “Wives are funny that way. My
wife won’t let me date either.”
He paused to let the quip die before establishing a more somber tone. “I miss them too.”
say anything about missing anyone.”
“I was listening to your face.”
“Sometimes you confuse me,
Jose chuckled. “You know what they say about Hispanics: we’re
“I thought that referred to Asians in old movies.”
“Eh, Asians, Hispanics, whatever.” Another pause. “You’re
thinking about Boss and
home safe and sound. I’m not worried about them.”
Images of the team’s
former leader and second-in-com- mand strobed in his mind. Last he saw them, they looked well
He could hardly tell both were severely wounded and the latter lost an eye. Both
retired shortly after the mission in eastern Siberia and took jobs with a civilian security firm.
“I didn’t say you were worried about them. I think you’re
worried because they’re not here. You went from team mem-
ber to Boss in short order. There’s gotta be some psychological
whiplash in that.”
“Psychological whiplash? They teach
you that at Fort Sam Houston?”
“Nope. Medic training taught me many things but not much psychology. Life, on the other hand, has taught me a ton.”
“Okay, Doc. What’s
Jose sat up and leaned forward on the table. “Nothing bad, Boss. You’re
just being human.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being called Boss. Every
time someone calls me that I think of
“You’ll get the hang of it.”
Jose paused. “Can
we talk like a couple of old buddies?”
we are, Jose.”
“Well, at least in here. Anyone else walks in this
I’ll go back to being formal.”
The corner of J.J.’s mouth inched up. “You have a formal side?”
“I’m nothing if
Army decorum.” He inched closer to the table
if he were about to whisper a secret. His
volume remained the same. “Okay,
I see it. We are
training. We enlist
in service and experience lead
to promotions. We have a good
the ladder faster
“So now you’ve be selected to take over for a man
a one in a million. He’s
got it all: brains, courage, loyalty, and a soldier’s sixth sense.
He left under tough circumstances. Nearly lost his daughter to kidnappers trying to sway him in his mission. Took a beating. Nearly died.
To hear him tell it, he did die and came back. His cover was blown so his usefulness as field operative was gone and that’s all he ever
wanted to do.”
“He is a great man. Taught me more about soldiering than basic, AIT, and Ranger training combined.” A wave of sadness ran over J.J. “I can’t be
Eric Moyer, Doc. In my mind, he will always be Boss.”
was team leader. Now you’re
man. No one is asking you to be
Eric Moyer. The Army—the team—wants you to be
“Is that enough?”
Jose straightened and stared into J.J.’s
eyes. “It is in my book.”
not that I’m afraid—”
“You’d better be afraid. I don’t trust a man who says he’s not afraid. Such men are either liars or lunatics.”
J.J. raised an eyebrow. “Really? And which am I?”
“You’re neither. I’ve seen you afraid and you’ve never been braver. You can do this, J.J. I got
your six. You know that. Pete
danced a jig when he heard of your promotion.
At least I think it was a jig. The man has no rhythm.”
J.J. laughed. “You got that right.
First time I saw him bust a move I thought he was being electrocuted.”
Jose chuckled then the grin evaporated. “Seriously J.J., I’m
proud to follow you into battle. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t
doubt us. Besides, if
you screw up, Moyer will kick
your butt then turn on me for not straightening you out.”
a terrifying thought.” J.J. gazed into the black fluid in his cup.
More than self doubt was eating at him but he endured all the pep talk he could. Jose seemed to sense it.
“You happy with the new guys?” The medic motioned to the personnel jackets.
“Yeah, as much as I can be.
It’s hard to judge a man’s char- acter from notes on evaluation forms. Both are experienced and decorated.
Seen lots of action, mostly in the last half of Iraq and in the wind down of Afghanistan. Both Rangers. One
comes in at the same rank as me:
Master Sergeant. He’s got six months on me as well.”
matter, J.J., you’re
team leader. He’ll
“He’ll also know that I was frocked. I have the extra stripe
but not the official promotion
“It’s just a matter of time, J.J. You know once there’s some head room, you’ll
get the full promotion and maybe more.
all a numbers game. There are scores of soldiers work-
ing at a higher rank than the Army is allowed to give them. Functionally, you’re the man, and I’ll fight with any man who disagrees.”
“You’re a pal, but you may want to hold on to the boast for awhile.”
The door to the mess hall opened and a skinny airman stepped into the dim space, saw them, then walked to the table. “Master Sergeant Bartley. I’ve been asked to tell
you the transport plane you’ve been waiting for has touched down.
pulling to the tarmac now.”
J.J. glanced at the rank insignia on the man’s upper sleeve:
one strip and an Air
Force star in a circle. “Thank
you, Airman. I would like to meet the plane. Can you get me there?”
“I was told to have a
J.J. stood, lifted the cold coffee to his lips and drank. He
“Where did the Air Force learn to make coffee?”
“Figures.” He set the cup down. “Gather the team,
Alton, what was it like as a writer to work with a soldier and capture the stories for the new book Hide and Seek?
AG: It was enlightening. At first, I thought my biggest challenge would be learning the terms and tools of the contemporary soldier. As it turns out, the great challenge came in understanding the soldier's mind and heart. A novelist must be able to see through the eyes of others, to feel their joy and their pains, and then put it on paper. In writing this book and the others that came before it, I had to imagine what it was like to leap out of an airplane in the middle of the night, to be hunkered down under live fire, to see a comrade wounded and killed and to stand on a foreign field when my mind was home with my family. Doing so gave me the new insight into the work and the sacrifices made by the dedicated soldier.
Jeff exemplifies the qualities of the 21st-century soldier: intelligent, brave, sacrificial, but very human. In my discussions with him I came to understand the split loyalties that every soldier faces: duty, country, family.
I tried to take some of the admirable qualities I saw in Jeff and put them into the fictional soldiers who risk their lives and transfer all that to the printed page. I could come up with the plot and the twists and turns, but Jeff had to provide the realism. The series of books has been a real education. I am blessed for having been a part of them.
Jeff, now that you are retired from active service, do you reflect on some of the stories that developed differently than what you thought they would?
JS: I don't think that being retired from active duty in the US Army has changed the way that I reflect on these stories, but it has given me a greater appreciation for the quality of men and women in the military. Now that I am a private citizen (so to speak), I have the chance to compare the work ethic, the sense of duty and the patriotism of the men and women in the military with the rest of the US population. I never realized how different many warriors are from the citizens that they protect and serve. I am also seeing the selflessness and sacrifice of the military family compared to that of the average family in our country and am surprised by these differences.
Alton, did the process or the relationship change the way you view those in the military and what their families go through?
AG: Absolutely. I always knew there was great sacrifice involved in being a soldier. Coming from a Navy family I even knew the families of military made their share of sacrifices. Writing about them, however, made it real for me. One thing every novelist does is to insert himself or herself into their characters–good or bad. It can be an emotional roller coaster. Writing these books has tattooed the image of their sacrifice on my mind and heart. From the beginning, Jeff insisted that we show the heroism of those who remain home while their husbands and fathers face death in some foreign territory. In the case of our heroes, they did not even have the satisfaction of knowing where their loved ones served. In many ways, they waited in the dark.
I've always admired those who serve in the military, but now I admire their families just as much.
Jeff, what are your thoughts on this?
JS: Writing with Al has been eye opening for me personally. He really gets it. I have never known someone to be able to pick up the dedication and motivation of a warrior and their family as quickly as Al. On a couple of occasions, I commented to Al that he writes like someone who has been in the Army all his life. He has a great grasp on what a warrior's family goes through when the phone rings in the middle of the night and they have to say goodbye to a loved-one, knowing that they may never see them again. It takes a special kind of person to be a military family and Al depicts that as well as anyone I know.
Alton, do you have some funny stories about connecting with Jeff while he was still in active duty? Code language?
AG: Mostly I teased Jeff about the superiority of the Navy or the Army. I don't think I've been able to convince him yet. There were a few interesting times when we would exchange e-mail or talk on the phone and I had no idea where Jeff was. I would simply receive a quick note that he was going to be out of town on business. There were times when we spoke that I was pretty sure he was in some far-off part of the world. I still don't know.
In one of the previous books, I had written a scene that I was especially proud of. I struggled to get the details right, to create a believable scenario. When Jeff was reviewing the scene he called to say, “You can't use that.” I argued that it was a good scene, that it helped the plot, that it tied up some loose ends. He agreed then told me to take it out. When I asked why, he replied, “You aren't supposed to know that.” I protested that I didn't know it. I'd made the whole thing up. He sympathized with me and told me to take it out. I've often wondered what I got right.
Jeff, what are your writing goals now that you are not in active service? Do you have more leeway/freedom to pursue some things that you were not able to previously?
JS: My writing goals have become a bit more ambitious now that I am retired. For the rest of my life I will have to balance describing cutting-edge military technology and procedures without giving away national secrets. (Some of those secrets I have sworn to take to my grave.) At the same time, I think the reader deserves an accurate picture of what life is like for a warrior on a dangerous mission somewhere around the world tonight. I hope to be able to continue to paint that picture for readers.
I also had to balance a very difficult workload of trying to communicate with Al and writing some of these books while I was away in Afghanistan or in Iraq. (Needless to say, my mind and attention were a bit preoccupied at those times.) Now that I am retired from the Army, I hope to be able to dedicate more time to writing books that will exalt the great name of Jesus and inspire readers.
Alton Gansky is a Christy Award-nominated and Angel Award-winning author who writes to stimulate thinking about spiritual matters. He served as a pulpit minister for twenty years and has published nearly thirty books.
Chaplain (Major, Ret) Jeff Struecker is a decorated member of US Army Rangers, the Army’s most elite fighting corps. His personal experiences in Mogadishu, Somalia were documented in the New York Times bestseller and major motion picture Black Hawk Down. During his thirteen years of active duty, he also fought in Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait. As a chaplain Jeff has done multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now retired from military service, Struecker currently serves as the associate pastor of ministry development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia.