May 27, 2010, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Since the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, was forced to submit his resignation letter last week, the government is seeking a suitable replacement to fill the top spy position. Blair's replacement will be the fourth intelligence director in five years. I think it a bit coincidental that I just finished reading Vince Flynn's Separation of Power. It is such an appropriate novel for the times. As a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist, I believe there is much more going on behind the scenes than the average American wants to admit. But to be fair, I only dabble in conspiracy theory as a hobby rather than as a way of life. The term "resignation" has always seemed to carry with it such negative connotations. Resignations are rarely, if ever, good. The resignation is either forced by the employer for wrong-doings, corruption, misguided political ambition or chosen by the employee for much of the same reasons. Should the end of one's career come under favorable conditions, the event would be called a "retirement" vice "resignation". Retirements are much more respectable and are usually agreed upon by both parties. They involve awards, ceremonies, parties, pats on the back, jerseys hung in gymnasiums, parking garages named after the retiree, and so on. Resignations on the other hand make the front page of the newspaper and are usually shrouded in controversy - except for mine of course, but we'll save that for another blog.
Separation of Power is Vince Flynn's 4th novel in a series of political intrigue masterpieces. This book is not about the resignation of politicians, but the replacement of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. A genuine "good vs. evil" political thriller with a cast of high-profile international characters! Although not as good as Term Limits or Transfer of Power, the book is still a nail-biter and difficult to put down. It is fast-paced and chocked full of implications that will have your blood boiling in no time. Being the 4th in the series, it helps if the reader has read the previous three novels; however, it is not required. Flynn does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed so as to keep everything in context. I am a big Nelson Demille fan. Having read most of his books (The Charm School twice), I didn't think books on espionage and political intrigue could get much better. That is until a friend of mine introduced me to Vince Flynn. Ironically, Flynn respectfully mentions Demille on occasion in his novels!
After the death of long-time intelligence director and mentor Thomas Stansfield, the political hyenas see their opportunity to place their pawn into the much coveted seat of power in order to promote their own corrupt agendas and bring an early end to the president's term. At the same time, the Commander in Chief and his national security council are battling another crisis - Saddam Hussein is about to enter the nuclear arms race. Having dodged an assassination attempt on his life, the superhero character of Mitch Rapp, a deep cover CIA operative, is once again thrust into the vicious circle of Washington's crime and politics all the while being tasked with the most important mission of his career. As the bodies and clues start to pile up, Rapp is forced to help protect his long-time friend and boss, Dr. Irene Kennedy, and ensure she takes her rightful spot as the new director of the CIA, meanwhile singlehandedly preventing the start of WWIII.
Do yourself a favor and pick up Separation of Power, or start at the beginning of the series with Term Limits and get ready for a thrill ride. It is a great way to lose yourself in fiction while the real actors continue to botch things up on Capitol Hill.
Other novels by Vince Flynn include: Term Limits, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect and Defend, and Extreme Measures.
May 24, 2010, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
A Journey Amongst the Good and the Great - by Alex "Andy" Kerr
A Book Review
Never in a million years would I have ever seen myself picking this book off the bookstore shelf. I have never feigned an interest in law and those who know me know that I loathe politics more than anyone. Nevertheless, as fate would have it, a signed copy of this book was given to me by our good friend Susan Kerr. Susan was Andy's second wife and his companion to the end. Susan and Andy were the first owners of our boat Andiamo III as mentioned in his book. Soon after our first meeting in 2008, Susan began to share stories about her late husband and the wonderful life he led. It was then that she gave us a copy of this book. Now I must admit that I was excited to have an autographed copy to add to our library but I took it more out of obligation than genuine interest (forgive me, Susan). Since that time, Susan has asked me on more than one occasion if I had read Andy's book. The question usually came after I had asked her something about Andy or about their life together. Embarrassed, I said "not yet" and tried to create some excuse as to why I put the book on the shelf without even giving it a once-over. I was guilty of judging the book by its cover. Without fail, Susan's kindhearted response was simply "read Andy's book". This is not the type of book I normally read, but because of the unusual connection to the author and the wonderful circumstances by which I obtained a copy, I feel that I owed it to Andy and Susan to read it and share my review.
A Journey Amongst the Good and the Great, published by the Naval Institute Press, was written by Captain Alex "Andy" Kerr (RET) while sailing in the South Pacific during the mid-1980s. The book is an autobiography that recounts his life, his career, and his intimate relationship with some of the nation's most influential military leaders, politicians, and presidents of the mid 20th century. Captain Kerr emigrated from Australia as a child, graduated from the US Naval Academy, served as a surface warfare officer during the final days of WWII and as a submarine officer after that. After being disqualified for service on the line due to a hearing problem, Captain Kerr completed the Naval Law Program and served the remainder of his career as an attorney and chief counsel for some of the most influential men in US history. His direct involvement in such events as General MacArthur's return to the Philippines, the Tonkin Gulf incidents, the TFX fighter plane debates, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even the assassination of JFK are almost unbelievable. The book serves as a very qualified source of US and naval history from the unique perspective of someone on the inside. Historians, attorneys, and readers from all backgrounds will gain some much needed insight by reading this book.
Despite the legal and political context, the book is an easy read. It is rich in history, anecdotes, and facts that would cause even the staunchest skeptic to waiver in their biases towards the events of the past. Captain Kerr's storytelling ability makes the book difficult to put down. Though an autobiography, the reader is likely to learn more about the colorful lives of the individual characters of the book than the author himself. I feel this reflects the character and dedication to excellence of Captain Kerr. The mere fact that he served as chief counsel for these great men, which included four Secretaries of the Navy, is a testament to his qualifications and reputation. Had it not been for Captain Kerr's influence and sage counsel, the individuals in this book would never have been as good or as great. Without a doubt, he made them better than they ever could have been without him. His humble recount of some of these great men unintentionally places him as one of their equals as opposed to just an employee. Captain Kerr was one of the greats!
I still loathe politics, but recognize it as a necessary evil. I wouldn't last a day in that environment. Perhaps that is one reason my military career has taken the turn that it has. Captain Kerr's attitude toward his responsibilities and duties will humble even the most dedicated individual. His tireless work ethic was beyond reproach. He tried to do the right thing and poured every ounce of effort into everything he did. I would love to have met Andy Kerr. I think he would have made an excellent mentor and friend. I regret that it has taken me this long to read his autobiography.
The prologue alone tempts the taste buds of even the most skeptical reader. While serving as chief counsel for Secretary of the Navy John Connally, Captain Kerr was assigned to staff a letter received by the secretary's office from none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald had been unfavorably discharged from the Marine Corps and was requesting that the secretary change his discharge status to a more favorable one. After much research, Captain Kerr recommended no change to the discharge status of Mr. Oswald stating that he indeed had been a lousy marine. Secretary Connally agreed and sent his response to Mr. Oswald. Oswald was not amused. On November 22nd, 1963, while riding in the back of his limo, President Kennedy was struck in the head by a bullet fired from Oswald's gun. What many Americans don't know is that Secretary Connelly was sitting next to President Kennedy and was also struck by a bullet. Unlike Kennedy, he survived the incident. To this day most of us think that President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Even the Warren commission focused on the assassination of the president. Captain Kerr, on the other hand, knew based on his research and testimony from other marines that Oswald was a horrible marksman and shares personal insight with the reader that would lead one to believe that Secretary Connally was the primary target that day. President Kennedy was simply the unfortunate recipient of a stray bullet from a poorly aimed shot or simply a target of opportunity. Either way, no motive was ever established for the assassination of President Kennedy. Kerr believes, however, that Oswald had plenty of motive to shoot the Secretary of the Navy. This is only one example of the significant historical events in which Captain Kerr was so intimately involved.