The Guns of Doctors of Death

One of the fun parts about writing stories about a group of covert mercenaries is that they don’t have a standard loadout.  So, I get to include all sorts of weaponry for the Blackhearts themselves, as well as their adversaries, or just the locals they have to steer clear of.  Hence, we have the traditional gun porn post for each new volume, and Doctors of Death is indeed no slouch.

The team gets a little split up in this one, with one element in Africa, and the other having to operate Stateside.  Since the FN FAL is still in service with the Chadian National Army, Brannigan picks the FAL for their primary in Africa, though Van Zandt ends up getting the “Inch FAL,” the L1A1, for them instead.  The measurements are different, but the L1A1 and FAL both use the 7.62 NATO round, though the magazines are slightly different.  Fortunately, he included plenty of mags in the supply drop. Continue reading “The Guns of Doctors of Death”

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Doctors of Death Chapter 3

The sound of crying echoed through the house. The place wasn’t even fully furnished yet, and Carlo Santelli had to cringe a little at just how loud Carlo Junior could get, particularly in some of the emptier rooms.

He almost didn’t hear the phone. Part of that was because of Carlo Junior’s wails, part of it was his own deafness in the aftermath of trying to walk the little tyke to quiet again. He’d failed miserably, and Melissa had come and taken the baby, leaving Santelli feeling frustrated and helpless again.

So, he wasn’t in the best frame of mind when he snatched up the phone and answered it without looking at the screen. “What?”

“Rough day, Carlo?” Brannigan asked dryly.

Santelli pressed his lips together and cussed himself silently but thoroughly. He really wasn’t cut out for this family life, and it was taking its toll. Or so he told himself.

“Sorry, sir,” he said. “The baby’s colicky, and he’s being a royal…a handful.”

“You’re even trying to watch your language,” Brannigan said, sounding congratulatory. “You’re truly becoming a family man, Carlo.”

“I’m afraid I’m not doing that great a job at it, sir,” Santelli said.

“Knowing you, you’re doing a lot better than most,” Brannigan said. He paused. “I take it that this is a bad time?”

Santelli glanced toward the other room, where Melissa had disappeared with Carlo Junior. The baby was still crying, but sounded like he was finally starting to quiet down. Maybe he’d just worn himself out. He could hope.

The truth was, he desperately wanted to go on whatever job Brannigan had, even if it was—uncharacteristic for the band of under-the-table mercenaries who called themselves Brannigan’s Blackhearts—just guarding a compound for a couple weeks. He understood that work. He’d been a Marine for twenty-three years, and retired as a Sergeant Major. He was comfortable with it. This…being a husband and a father was turning out to be more than he’d bargained for, especially as his late forties were rapidly approaching. Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 3”

Doctors of Death Chapter 2

“You’ve been rather elusive lately, John.”

John Brannigan cupped his hands around his coffee mug and looked across the table levelly at Mark Van Zandt. General, USMC, Retired Mark Van Zandt.

“I live in the mountains, Mark,” he said. “It’s not like cell service is all that regular up there.”

Van Zandt didn’t react, at least not by much. He’d gotten better at that, but Brannigan could still read him like a book. He was pissed. It was written in every faint line of his movie-poster Marine face, above his usual polo shirt and khakis.

Unlike Van Zandt, Brannigan had shed most of the Marine Corps’ appearance upon his forcible retirement several years before. A forcible retirement, he remembered all over again, that had been enforced by the very man sitting across from him at the table in the Rocking K diner.

Still big and powerfully built, Brannigan had let his hair get shaggy and grown a thick, graying handlebar mustache. He looked more like a mountain man than a retired Marine Colonel, while Van Zandt looked like he’d just taken his uniform off to come to the diner.

“We’ve heard some…faintly disturbing things lately, John,” Hector Chavez said carefully. Brannigan’s old friend had been medically retired for heart problems, and his body had gone soft in the years since, though his mind was still keen. He was dressed down from when he’d first showed up in the Rocking K in a suit for the Khadarkh assignment, but not by that much.

“It’s a disturbing world, Hector,” Brannigan said. “You’re going to have to be more specific.”

“Let’s quit beating around the bush, John,” Van Zandt said sharply, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the table. The entire thing rocked, coffee sloshing a little in cups as it took his weight. “Mario Gomez’ family gets murdered. Next thing anyone knows, a whole bunch of Mexican gang-bangers get slaughtered, to include what has been reported as a balls-out firefight in the hills just over the Mexican border. Now, that sounds awfully coincidental to me. Especially when a bunch of you disappeared from Childress’ bedside at just about the same time.”

Brannigan sipped his coffee. “That does sound like an interesting coincidence,” he said mildly.

If you think I’m going to give you an inch, you’re sadly mistaken, Mark. I’ve been crucified by your type before, remember?

“Cut the crap, John,” Van Zandt all but exploded. “You know as well as I do that you went full vigilante on those assholes. I’ll admit, they probably deserved it.” When Brannigan’s face hardened, he amended, “Okay, they definitely deserved it. If the reports are true, the Espino-Gallo gang was as vicious as they come. The world’s better off without them. But dammit, you went way off the reservation on this one.”

“Oh, come off it, Mark,” Brannigan snarled, finally losing his patience. “Everything we’ve done since I agreed to go into Khadarkh has been off the reservation. You show me the Congressional authorization for any of these little operations, and then we can talk about staying on the reservation.” He all but slammed the mug on the table. “We do this because it has to be done, red tape be damned.” He stabbed a finger at Van Zandt. “And don’t try to fob this off on me alone. You knew we were going to do something, or else you wouldn’t have promised legal top cover when we talked before things kicked off. Now that the bodies are on the ground, you’re getting squeamish.” He snorted. “Not that I really should have expected anything else.”

Van Zandt actually sat back a little at that. He took a deep breath, looking down at the table. Brannigan knew he was right, and he knew that Van Zandt knew it, too. Whatever kind of legal trouble they could potentially be in if anyone went digging too deeply, he knew that the Espino-Gallos had needed killing, and that Sheriff Thomas wouldn’t be pressing charges anytime soon, either.

Having the men whom you had tried to drive off suddenly deliver your kidnapped daughter to your door with a curt, “You’re welcome,” could tend to make a man rethink his position a bit.

“Look me in the eye and tell me it was a righteous killing,” Van Zandt said.

Brannigan’s eyes narrowed at that. He didn’t need to justify his actions to Van Zandt. But he looked the former General in the eye and said, “They had it coming. They had a lot worse coming than we dished out. And if the local sheriff had done his job, we would have stood by and let him do it. You’ve got my word on that.”

His lips pressed tightly together, Van Zandt nodded, breathing a long sigh through his nose.

“Well,” Chavez said, “now that that’s out of the way, can we get down to the main reason we came here?” Continue reading “Doctors of Death Chapter 2”

High Desert Vengeance Chapter 2

With High Desert Vengeance going live tomorrow, here’s another sneak peak.  Things are starting to get tense in the aftermath of the massacre in Chapter 1.


Mario Gomez squinted in the sunlight.  It was cool at the moment, but it still felt warm after Transnistria in the winter.  He’d been home for a month, but most of that month had been spent watching over Sam Childress as he underwent multiple surgeries.  His wounds had been bad, and he still wasn’t ever going to walk again.

He rarely showed it, but Mario worried about his comrade.  He’d prayed every night for him, either for his recovery, or the strength to cope with whatever came next.  It wasn’t something he talked about much.  Mario Gomez wasn’t much of a talker.

He never had been.  He had always been more comfortable watching, listening, and acting than talking.  His tendency to silence had been a source of eternal aggravation to his gregarious younger sister, and his propensity for sudden, apparently impulsive action a matter of often grave concern to his more stolid, hard-working father.  Only his mother, Cocheta, had really understood him, and even that was an often-unspoken understanding.  She had been the only one who hadn’t objected when he’d joined the Marine Corps, simply telling him to keep their people’s honor intact.

His comfort with silence had been why he’d slipped away without telling the rest of his new comrades, the mercenaries who called themselves Brannigan’s Blackhearts when no one else was in earshot, without saying a word.  Nor had he explained what had made him almost miss the Transnistrian job.  His problems were his problems, not theirs.

He knew that his silence had separated him somewhat from the rest of the team, except maybe from Joe Flanagan, who was a quiet man, himself.  But it was just his way, and he was too set in it to change.

It had been a long drive from the airport in Silver City, but he was almost to Lordsburg.  Almost to the mortuary where the remains of his family were waiting. Continue reading “High Desert Vengeance Chapter 2”

Release Day

Frozen Conflict went live on Kindle at midnight.  It’s also been available in paperback for a few days now; I approved the proof a little early.  The plus side of that is that the Kindle and Paperback pages were linked by yesterday, so I don’t have to pester KDP about it, like I had to with the last two Brannigan’s Blackhearts books.

Manhunt In A Post-Soviet Hellhole

Transnistria.  A breakaway republic on the eastern border of Moldova, and a bolt-hole for notorious black-market arms dealer Eugen Codreanu.  Except that it’s suddenly turned from safe haven to prison for the man who was once rumored to be dealing in ex-Soviet backpack nukes.

A shadow facilitator reaches out to John Brannigan, former Marine Colonel turned mercenary.  The job: get Codreanu out of Transnistria, out from under the noses of the thousands of Russian peacekeepers swarming around the breakaway republic.  The hook: Codreanu might have information about the terrorist operation in the Gulf of Mexico a few months before.  The catch: there might be someone else trying to beat them to the punch.  The terrorists who seized the Tourmaline-Delta platform in the Gulf of Mexico might be trying to tie up loose ends.  And firefights in Transnistria could have wide-ranging consequences.

It’s a race against time in Eastern Europe.  And Brannigan’s Blackhearts might be going up against the Russian Bear to accomplish this mission.

This one was fun to write.  It certainly follows on from the events of Enemy Unidentified, while mixing things up quite a bit in terms of setting and bad guys.  I hadn’t really had a chance to tell a story in Eastern Europe (and in the winter) before.

Overtaken By Events

“Timeliness” is a temptation that I think most military/spy fiction writers have to deal with.  “Ripped from the headlines!” and “Prophetic!” are compliments that reviewers have used for works in the genre going back to Tom Clancy, at least.  Those same phrases have been applied to some of my own work, and I’ll admit that it can be somewhat affirming (though often in a grim sort of way) to see events move in a generally similar direction to that predicted in one of your novels.  It shows you that you read the situation fairly accurately. Continue reading “Overtaken By Events”