John Ross' review of Enemies Foreign And Domestic I have several complaints about most thriller novelists. First, their protagonists are too often 100% virtuous with no humanizing flaws. Second, the protagonists let their enemies live when you KNOW the bad guys are going to come back and murder their kids etc. Third, everything the government does (hi-tech weapons, military & police tactics, criminal investigations, etc.) functions flawlessly. Fourth, too many stories have all the brilliant thinking and brave actions done by government employees (Special Forces, policemen, Intelligence operatives, etc.) Lastly, some novels have a basic premise that is just not believable. (Clancy's RAINBOW SIX is a prime example.) Novelist Matthew Bracken has avoided these sins almost entirely in his excellent debut novel ENEMIES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC. It is a challenge for any writer to come up with a plot that is at once plausible enough to have the reader accept it but also unlikely enough that it has not actually happened yet in real life. EFAD's dramatic concept is this: Wally Malvone, a lone mid-level ATF executive, engineers (with one accomplice) a long-range shooting into a football stadium and successfully arranges for an addled, destitute veteran to take the blame and be killed in the process. Malvone does this because he needs an emergency that will encourage the President to embrace a plan he has put together: Forming a secret "hit squad" comprised of overaggressive ATF agents with disciplinary problems. This squad's duty is to be proactive: identify domestic terrorists ("militia members") and kill them during raids. The trial is in the media, when the cameras see the (planted) contraband retrieved from the slain terrorist's dwelling. Malvone wants to have this hit squad for the obvious reasons: funding, power, and prestige. Naturally, some of the victims drawn into Malvone's web of treachery decide they have no choice but to fight back. At each point in the storyline, as the good guys and bad guys acted and reacted, I kept asking myself if what was happening was plausible. How would *I* rewrite it to make it more believable? In some cases I thought that I would have had the parties react a bit differently, but I had to admit my alternate scenario was not necessarily more likely. The fact is that when you get into the realm of serious, institutionalized government abuse of power in an environment with lots of resourceful, angry, well-armed people and the near-instant information flow of the Internet, you're in uncharted waters. One critic said the female lead was an adolescent fantasy (21 years old, beautiful, motorcycle rider, expert shot, virgin) and I would have given her more edginess, but hey, a lot of readers like their heroes untainted. Anyway, EFAD is an action-packed read, with most of the skill and creativity being demonstrated by the private sector, which is IMO 100% realistic. Send a copy to your favorite Senator or Congressman... EFAD is also good inspiration for me to get back to work on DETOUR, the sequel to UC. No promises, except there should be something in it to offend just about everyone. John Ross, author of "Unintended Consequences" January 2004 --John Ross, author of "Unintended Consequences" January 2004
BULLETS RAIN DOWN UPON A PACKED FOOTBALL STADIUM, killing dozens, and triggering a panic stampede which leads to a thousand more deaths. A police marksman kills the sniper, a mentally unbalanced Desert Storm veteran holding a smoking assault rifle. It's an open and shut case, or so America is led to believe...
In the aftermath of the stadium massacre, an outraged public demands an end to the threat posed by assault rifles, and Congress passes emergency legislation banning their private possession. American gun owners have one week to turn in their semi-automatic rifles, or face mandatory five year federal prison terms.
Jimmy Shifflett, the alleged stadium sniper, is linked to a shadowy "gun club" in southeastern Virginia, which the FBI believes is a cover for a secret right wing militia terror group. Those who knew Shifflett the best don't believe he was a member of any militia, or that he was guilty of the horrific mass murder.
But if he didn't fire the "assault rifle" into the stadium, who did, and why?
A small band of Virginians, thrown together by fate, is forced to undertake a desperate odyssey through a minefield of government blackmail, official deception and covert death squads, to discover the truth behind the stadium massacre, and save their own lives.