Little Bit of Research

Doing research for the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series can get interesting.  Since most of my experience has been in the Middle East, sometimes I’ve got to dig to figure stuff out for other regions.  As I point out at one point in Frozen Conflict, much of combat tactics boil down to common sense, and therefore there are certain common factors in good tactics.

But sometimes, groups and nations don’t necessarily teach good tactics.  So, trying to figure out what Transnistrian Army soldiers would do when trying to clear a structure, I had to dig for some regular Russian Army footage (not the carefully tailored, backflipping hatchet attack Spetsnaz stuff; these are regular grunts).  It’s still going to be an approximation, but I found a bit of urban warfare footage in the above video, mostly starting at about 2:20.

It’s a doozy, too.  Lets just say that we’d have had the snot bubbles thrashed out of us at Bn for the kind of fire discipline (or lack thereof) these guys show…

Sucks to be a hostage…

Advertisements

Cheah Reviews American Praetorians

Over on Steemit, Ben Cheah has posted his review of the entirety of the American Praetorians series.  It’s mostly praise, with some critiques.

Read it here.

I can’t say I disagree with any of his critiques, though I’ve seen the opposite comments on the Jeff-Mia thing.  Needless to say, there’s a reason I’m not a romance author.  But I learned a lot writing that series, and they are lessons that I hope I’m applying well to the Brannigan’s Blackhearts series.

On Gun Porn

No, this isn’t about InRangeTV opening an account on PornHub.  (Yes, apparently that’s a thing.  No, I haven’t gone looking for it, nor will I.)  This is about the facet of much Action Adventure writing known colloquially as “Gun Porn,” wherein the author includes (and often lovingly describes) various cool and interesting firearms in the story.

This isn’t particularly new; a lot of Louis L’Amour westerns describe interesting (and sometimes obscure) weapons that aren’t commonly found in the run-of-the-mill western (particularly on screen).  But as with any element of storytelling, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Continue reading “On Gun Porn”

Rest Is For The Dead

That’s right.  I’m already hammering away at Brannigan’s Blackhearts #4 – Frozen Conflict.  If you’ve finished Enemy Unidentified, you might have a bit of a hint of what this one’s about.

I’m trying a bit of an experiment this time around; I’m working on this one simultaneously with working on The Unity Wars.  Write Frozen Conflict four days a week, work on The Unity Wars two days a week.  We’ll see how it works out.

Now, back to the word mines.

It’s Release Day

Enemy Unidentified is live on Kindle and Paperback!  (Paperback edition doesn’t appear to be linked to the Kindle edition yet, so if you’re going for Kindle Matchbook, give it a day.)

Terror Out Of Nowhere

In a single, blood-soaked afternoon, hundreds are killed in a string of terrorist attacks across the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico. To top it off, the terrorists bomb an energy summit in Matamoros, taking hostages before fleeing to an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

They issue no demands. No known group has taken credit for the attack. All anyone knows is that VIPs from both North and South America are being held hostage. And the first wave of Mexican Marines has been repulsed by terrorists who are far more heavily armed and better prepared than anyone expected.

The Mexican government won’t ask for help. But there is a team that the US and Mexico can agree to send in, as they do not exist, as far as the public is concerned. Brannigan’s Blackhearts have another rescue mission. And it’s going to be the bloodiest yet.

Fury in the Gulf and Burmese Crossfire are also currently a Kindle Countdown deal for the next five days, as well, so if by chance you haven’t picked either of those up yet, now’s the time!

 

“Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 3

“Colonel Brannigan, I presume?”  Contralmirante Huerta stood up and extended his hand.  The Mexican officer was in mufti, a dark suit and shiny blue shirt.

Brannigan shook the proffered hand.  He towered over the Mexican admiral, who was showing a bit of gray in his slickly-parted hair and mustache, though not nearly as much as Brannigan was.

Brannigan had dressed up a little for the meeting; he was wearing khakis and a sport coat, in contrast to his usual “retired” outdoor wear.  He was still wearing boots, though, and the sport coat hid the Wilson Combat 1911 on his hip.  Even with Van Zandt and Gomez in the room, he didn’t trust this Mexican officer very far.  He knew too much about how much the bad guys had infiltrated the instruments of the Mexican government.

Van Zandt was in a suit, and was standing back to one side, watching the two men meet.  Gomez had posted himself up at the door, watching everything impassively with his hard, black eyes.

Gomez had become a Blackheart in the plus-up that Hancock and Santelli had conducted prior to the Burma job.  Nobody knew much about him.  He didn’t talk much.  In fact, getting more than a handful of words out of him on any particular subject was often an exercise in frustration, if not outright futility.  He was lean and hard, with short black hair that was almost as dark as Flanagan’s, and features that made him look like a younger version of Geronimo.  If he was an Apache, he never said as much, even when asked, but he sure looked the part.

He’d just shown up in Corpus Christi, unannounced, and had been waiting at the meetup when Brannigan had gotten there.  True to form, he hadn’t said much, but had simply taken up a position as Brannigan’s bodyguard.  Brannigan had just made out the outline of a pistol butt under his shirt when he’d moved just right at one point. Continue reading ““Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 3″

“Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 2

“No,” John Brannigan said.  “Not only no, but hell no.”

“John,” Hector Chavez started to remonstrate with him, “we’re not talking about some half-assed Pemex contract, here.”

The two men were facing each other across a table in the Rocking K, the best—and essentially only—diner in tiny Junction City.  It wasn’t the sort of place most people would immediately think of when it came to planning covert operations, but it was the closest meeting place to Brannigan’s mountain hideaway, and so Chavez had pegged it as their contact spot, more often than not.

John Brannigan was a towering, six-foot-four former Marine Colonel, his hair gone shaggy and gray on his head and his face.  He shaved his cheeks and his chin, but his handlebar mustache was bushier than ever.  He might have had a few more crow’s feet around his gray eyes, especially after his recent turn to mercenary commander.  Activities like a hair-raising mission on the island of Khadarkh in the Persian Gulf, followed by a jump into northern Burma to take down a North Korean liaison operation in the Golden Triangle, were not calculated to keep a man young.

Brannigan was dressed in his usual flannel shirt and jeans, his “going to town” clothes.  Chavez had dressed down since his first visit; he was wearing a leather jacket and jeans.  The third man at the table, however, stood out a bit more.

Mark Van Zandt, his hair still cut in a close military regulation cut, clean shaven and straight-backed, was dressed in his usual khakis and a polo shirt, and leaning back in his chair, wisely keeping out of the conversation.

Van Zandt had been one of Brannigan’s last commanding officers.  He’d also been the one to bear the news that Brannigan would be forced to retire from the Marine Corps.  There was little love lost between the two of them, even though they had entered each other’s orbits once again when Van Zandt had been looking for a deniable team to send in on the Burma operation.

“You want me to take my boys into Mexico,” Brannigan said, leaning back in his chair and folding his brawny arms across his chest.  “Mexico defines ‘non-permissive environment.’  Gringos are not welcome, particularly gringo contractors.  I’ve done my homework, Hector.  If you think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going to go into that killing field unarmed, relying on Mexicans of dubious loyalty for protection, you’ve got another think coming.”

“This isn’t that kind of contract, John,” Van Zandt snorted.  “Which should be abundantly obvious, since we’re coming to you.  The guys who blew up Khadarkh and jumped into northern Burma aren’t exactly the go-to for a petroleum security operation, now are they?”  Acid sarcasm dripped from his voice.  Brannigan turned his glare on the retired general.

“Not the point,” Brannigan retorted.  “We get spotted down there, there’s gonna be hell to pay.”

“Which is different from your last two jobs how?” Van Zandt pointed out.  “Come on, John, now you’re just being difficult.”

“Why us?” Brannigan asked, after taking a deep breath.  He really didn’t want to go into Mexico.  He knew too much about the horror-show that was the Mexican narco-war.  Khadarkh had been a simple in-and-out, on a tiny island, no less.  Burma had been different, but for all the atrocities happening in Burma—some of which his crew of mercenaries, the self-styled “Brannigan’s Blackhearts,” had witnessed first-hand—Mexico was an entirely different scale.  It had beaten out the Syrian Civil War for body count.

“The same reason I came to you for the Burma job,” Van Zandt said coolly.  “You’re deniable.  Which, I might add, is a huge selling point for Contralmirante Huerta right now, as well.”

“Who’s Huerta?” Brannigan asked.

“He’s the commander of the Mexican Marines who tried to retake the oil platform where our mysterious terrorists took their hostages,” Chavez said.  “He lost most of a company in a few minutes, has been getting stonewalled by Mexico City, and wants payback.”

“So he’ll cover for us?”

“He’s assured me that he will,” Van Zandt said.  “He’s under strict orders that no US military forces, including DEVGRU or Delta—who are about the only ones who could handle this otherwise; we don’t exactly have a MEU in the vicinity—are to be called upon.  The platform is technically in Mexican waters, and therefore it is a Mexican affair.  They don’t want help.  Well, the PRI doesn’t want help.  Huerta does.”

“And if he sells us down the river as soon as the job’s done?” Brannigan asked quietly.

Van Zandt shook his head.  “It’s a possibility, but I’ve talked to the man.  I think he’s on the level.  And I made it clear that if anything goes wrong that he might have prevented, recordings of all our conversations would somehow reach the President.”

Brannigan nodded.  “I expect that’s a pretty good deterrent, all things considered.”

“It should be,” Chavez said.  “The PRI’s so damned corrupt, they might not even bother to put him on trial.  At least not before they’ve disappeared his entire family.”

Brannigan looked down at the table, frowning.  It was true enough that he’d already started feeling the itch for another mission, another fight.  And his Blackhearts were the kind of mercenaries who went into impossible situations and managed to kill their way out.  They’d done it twice already, and Van Zandt wouldn’t even have considered them for the job if it had been anything else.

But he couldn’t shake the bad feeling that Mexico gave him.  He’d been there, many years before, before the narco wars really kicked off and the corpses started piling up.  He’d liked the country then.  But he’d watched as the violence, corruption, and increasingly brutal and sadistic killing had spread even to the tourist safe havens of the country.  Going into Mexico struck him as the equivalent to marching into a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

“With the level of sophistication and preparation the opposition has shown,” Van Zandt said quietly, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that you could well be those people’s only hope of getting out alive.  Especially with the Mexicans refusing official help.”

Brannigan blew out a sigh.  “What do we know about the opposition?” he asked.  The decision was made.  He’d go.  He knew his men would go, too, at least the original team.

Damn, I still haven’t recruited a new medic.  He’d avoided it after Doc Villareal had gone down in Burma.  Losing Doc already hurt bad enough, in addition to the guilt he felt for having taken the man back into combat, which had been his own personal hell ever since Zarghun.

“Next to nothing,” Van Zandt replied.  “In the first half hour or so, several of the attacks were claimed, piecemeal, by various jihadist splinter groups, but we’re pretty sure now that none of them were in on it.  It was too coordinated, and none of them had the foresight to wait until the dust settled and claim responsibility for the whole shooting match.  Whoever’s behind it still hasn’t uttered a word.

“The guys you’re after are the only lead we’ve got, and they left no witnesses at the golf course,” he continued.  “Their faces were covered, and they wore gloves, so we don’t even know what color they are.  They are packing some serious hardware, though; bullpup rifles and SAMs at the least.”

“Insert?” Brannigan asked.  He was already going over the logistics of the mission in his head.  It was his great skill and something of his curse; as soon as he knew he was doing something, he started planning it.

“Don’t know yet,” Van Zandt replied.  “Air appears to be out of the question; the Mexicans lost four Hips trying to take the platform back.  A surface approach at night might be possible, but if they’ve got night vision and thermals—and I suspect that they do—then that could be suicide, as well.  We’ll have to figure that out.  Preferably without bringing the Navy into it.”  He grimaced.

“The good news,” Hector Chavez put in, “is that Matamoros and the platform are both close enough to the border that you shouldn’t have to stage inside Mexico itself.  You should be able to stay in Texas until it’s time to go.”

“Small favors, I suppose,” Brannigan said absently.  His mind was working a mile a minute.  Then his eyes sharpened, focusing in on Van Zandt.  “Unless you’ve got any more intel for me, I need to get moving.  If you’re right, time is pressing.”

“Unfortunately,” Van Zandt said, “that’s it.  That’s part of the problem.”

“Fine,” Brannigan said, standing up.  “I’ll let you know if we find any intel on the platform.” Continue reading ““Enemy Unidentified” Chapter 2″