Lest We Forget

I cannot let 9/11 go by unremarked.  It is the single event that defined my adult life.  While I knew no one who died that day, much of my life after was dedicated to the pursuit of those 19 hijackers’ fellow fanatics, and I have buried friends in the course of that war.

It is a war that began long before any of us were born, and will likely continue.  It is unpopular to say that there is a war between Islam and the West.  Islam, truly devoted Islam, has been at war with all and sundry for 1300 years.  Are many Muslims not at war?  Of course.  Far more Muslims have died to crush ISIS than Americans.  But the historical record remains.  Even when we are at peace, sooner or later, that peace will end.

The hijackers did not choose September the 11th at random.  It was not a date that simply came up in the course of planning and logistics.  Like all fanatics, they sought to make a deeper statement in their act of mass murder.

September 11 was the day before the anniversary of the Battle of Vienna.  In 1683, the Ottoman Empire, then the Muslim Caliphate on the face of the planet, laid siege to the city of Vienna.  On September 12, the combined forces of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth broke the siege, and in so doing, broke the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, beginning a decline in Ottoman (and therefore Muslim) power and influence that would culminate in the utter destruction of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

Jan Sobieski’s charge, with his Polish Winged Hussars, was one of the largest cavalry charges in history, with eighteen thousand horsemen descending from the hills onto the Ottoman forces.

The war is older than any of us.

Never forget.

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Soldiers for Hire

Tim Lynch, over on Free Range International, which I’ve read off and on for years now, makes some points related to not only the recent kerfuffle over the Erik Prince/DynCorp proposal for privatizing the war in Afghanistan, but about professional soldiers in general.  It is a point that I’ve tried to make, in different ways, with both the American Praetorian series and Kill Yuan.

Have you not heard about this? Of course not because it counters the legacy media narrative about so -called “mercenaries” while illustrating the uselessness of the United Nations in combating terrorism. Eeben Barrlow and his men are not mercenaries in any sense of the word. There is not a snow ball’s chance in hell that Joseph Kony or any other terrorist organization could hire them no matter how much money they paid. They are former military professionals who, although retired, remain military professionals willing to endure primitive conditions for months on end to teach their expertise to appropriate clientele.

The concepts that Prince is talking about and that Feral Jundi and I have been writing about for years work. All of us know that because all of us have done it. The only question regarding the concept of a Viceroy for Afghanistan heading a mostly Private Military Corporation effort to move Afghanistan toward peace is who heads the effort.

Read the rest on Free Range International.

Best Review of “Lex Talionis” Yet

Lex Talionis is now up to eleven reviews on Amazon, and still hovering somewhere in the 300s-400s in its category.  This review in particular caught my eye.  This is the kind of thing authors like to hear; it means we did our job and put the reader into the middle of the action.

If you haven’t checked the book out yet, hopefully that will convince you to give it a shot.  And if you have, be sure to leave a review!

LTUE 2017 After Action

The 35th Life, The Universe, and Everything conference, my second, has come and gone, and it was a blast.  I got to sit on a few panels, hang out with Larry Correia, Jim Curtis (OldNFO online), and a few others, chat briefly with James Minz (executive editor at Baen), and along the way let the gears turn, leading to several new ideas, refinements of old ones, and possibly get some new, or new-ish projects rolling.  (There should be audio of Kill Yuan forthcoming in the next few months, for instance.)

Most of the panels I was attending (as opposed to being a panelist), I was sort of half-listening, half letting the gears turn.  That’s how the back-cover byline for Lex Talionis changed halfway through the “Hook” panel.  Originally intended to be “The Hunters Have Become The Hunted,” which fits, but has been used before, it will now be “War And Politics Have Consequences.”

There were a couple of weird parts.  There was a member of the “Writing Action Scenes” panel, who will remain nameless, who asserted that video gaming provides the real experience of being in a fight.  (I may or may not have seen Larry twitch toward a double-handed facepalm at that one.)  Since I was in the audience and not on the panel, I can now say what I was thinking at the time: No, there is no corellation between videogaming and real-world violence.  No one should think that Call of Duty experience equates to being in a real firefight.

Such moments aside, it was still a great time.  And thanks to Larry, again, I now have to find reasons to use the term, “Skin suit full of lizards…”

Why I’m Branching Out

Some reflections on this subject have started, in part because of how long it’s taken me to get into Lex Talionis, in part because of a few of the reactions I’ve gotten to the announcement that the fifth book in the Praetorians series will also be the final one.  After all, my primary audience seems to be focused on the Praetorians, so why not keep telling stories about Jeff and Co.?

There are a few reasons.  For one, when I started the Jed Horn series with A Silver Cross and a Winchester, I found that I just needed a break, a different outlet for my mind.  That need hasn’t gone away, which is why I’ve been alternating between series and genres for the last couple of years.

I’ve also made the statement that I’ve put Jeff and his boys through some pretty harrowing stuff over the last four books.  I was starting to touch on how it was wearing on Jeff as a man (not a Mack Bolan superman) in The Devil You Don’t Know.  That’s coming out in spades in Lex Talionis.  Most real-world shooters only have so many years of running and gunning before they either go contract (which in real life tends to be far less eventful and far more comfortable than what the Praetorians have been up to), or get promoted into more administrative and logistical jobs.  Even before that, far more time is spent in training than in actual combat.  I’ve developed a (admittedly small) reputation for realism, if compressed realism, as Dave Reeder put it, and to not show the toll that the high-risk, low-support operations have put on these guys would be straining that realism to its breaking point.

The fact is also there that the Praetorian series was born of a particular mindset, coming out of the Marine Corps.  Not to compare myself to David Drake (The man is a grand-master.  I am an apprentice.), but Drake once said that the Hammer’s Slammers series was born of a mindset post-Vietnam that he really didn’t want to go back to.  I’m not quite entirely in the same boat, but I increasingly find myself thinking along somewhat different lines than I used to.  Some of this will be reflected in Jeff’s own internal journey through Lex Talionis.

I have found in recent months that there are some themes that I can explore through somewhat more fantastical and speculative genres and settings that are harder to get into in the military action thriller business.  I have found my muse drawn in that direction more and more lately.

Also, from a purely mercenary standpoint, the mil thriller market is dominated by big names that I simply can’t compete with in the indie market.  The likes of Tom Clancy (and his posthumous ghost-writers), Brad Thor, and Vince Flynn (again, posthumous ghost writers included) are the sure-money bets that Big Publishing will back, and they are the sure bets that most readers are going to pick up.  The indie thriller market is a very niche one, and it’s hard to get noticed in the shadow of the rest.  So, diversification offers more options and a broader audience.

None of this means that I’m abandoning the shooter genre.  There are more near-future war stories on the horizon, albeit with new characters and new problems that need to be solved through speed, surprise, and violence of action.

There just might be more stories coming out in other, less familiar settings.

Memorial Day

Presented without further comment, a poem by my Recon Brother, Bryan Moulton.

Dedicated to those who have given all that they can in the defense of our nation, I offer my own humble tribute:

Morning rays, a golden hue, give to your pale visage
Shadows, banished by the day, lurk in angled lines and draws
I lie in peace amidst dew-dropped curves and blades on which you lie
A blanket, born of heavenly breath, warm and safe beneath the sky

An echo, a mourn, not seen but felt, a memory long ago
A flash of light, a flash of sound, age-faded but crisp and bold
Loving assault upon senses, dulled, these memories to the fore
O’ershadow the triumphant trumpets’ call to a friend in need no more

Eyes lift from the green to the playful draught, teasing brilliant stripes with ease
Starry night turns starry day, watched by timeless guardians, freed
A dance in the wind, the fabric plays, with its furl and snap of cloth
Watched over by beams of radiant gold, free of want and grief and wroth

Wondrous gaze falls to alabaster skin, in blessed relief, stark
By warmed touch, your closed eyes have kept me through the dark
A spot of color, here and there, my eye is drawn toward
As light’s embrace engulfs the forms lying there upon the sward

In it forms remembered touch, a soft caress of fabric bold
Nevermore to be prepared, to put hot iron to patch and fold
Hang up your cartridge belt, my friend, stow horn and save your shot
I recite familiar phrase, echoed in time, “I have the watch”

A duty ends, a soul at rest, I stand after the night
And turn my gaze to hallowed rows
Of marble ranks of white

My Review Of The First Ten Minutes of “Sicario”

It’s taken a while, but given the milieu of The Devil You Don’t Know, I’ve been interested in seeing Sicario.  (It usually takes a while for me to get around to actually seeing a movie.)  I’d heard mixed reviews, but given that the trailers for Sicario, Narcos, and Ghost Recon Wildlands, all of which deal with Latin American Narcos, came out right about the same time as The Devil You Don’t Know was released, it got on my radar.  I’m not well-known enough to be able to say I set a trend with talking about the Mexican Drug War again, but the coincidental timing was interesting.

Anyway, the other night, I gave Sicario a shot.  And, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I didn’t make it very far.  It’s bad.

The movie opens with an FBI raid on a house in Arizona.  Now, the CQB tactics and weapons handling are atrocious, but it’s Hollywood, so that’s kind of to be expected.  Annoying, but not necessarily a deal-breaker.

It’s the rest of the scenario where the wheels really start to fall off.  For all the little cinematography tricks that they use to build up how ominous the whole thing is, none of it makes any sense.  The inner walls of the house are lined with corpses, all with plastic bags over their heads, shut up inside the drywall.  There’s an IED under the shed out back that goes off and kills two officers when they cut the lock and open it.

Why would there be bodies in the walls in a house in Arizona?  Not only is it an enormously labor-intensive way to hide bodies, it’s not even a particularly effective one.  You can smell a dead rodent in the walls of a residential house, never mind about fifty human corpses.  The cartels don’t work like that.  Where have the bodies in Iguala been found?  In the landfills.  Landfills, mass graves, or even barrels of acid are better choices for disposing of bodies, and these are all things the cartels have really done.  These people might be sick bastards, but they’re not stupid.  The scenario in Sicario was stupid.

After that, I couldn’t keep going.  The scenario was nonsensical, and everything about the writing and the cinematography just seemed to be trying too hard, while simultaneously not trying hard enough.