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When German sniper Dieter Rohde’s older brother is unjustly shot for desertion by the SS, he will stop at nothing to win the Iron Cross medal and redeem his family’s name by targeting as many Allied troops as possible.
Rohde’s deadly efforts bring him into direct confrontation with American sniper Caje Cole. Rohde may be driven by ambition, but he hasn’t encountered an adversary like Cole, the so-called hillbilly sniper who is as hard as the mountains he calls home and as wily as a backwoods fox.
As the final pitched battle for France takes place around them at the Falaise Pocket, these two snipers declare war on each other.
Red Sniper is the story of a rescue mission for American POWs held captive by the Russians at the end of World War II.
For these American POWs, the war is not over. Abandoned by their country, used as political pawns by Stalin, their last hope for getting home again is backwoods sniper Caje Cole and a team of combat veterans who undertake a daring rescue mission.
After a lovely Russian-American spy helps plot an escape from a Gulag prison, they must face the ruthless Red Sniper, starving wolves, and the snowy Russian taiga in a race for freedom.
December 1944. As German forces launch a massive surprise attack through the frozen Ardennes Forest, two snipers find themselves aiming for a rematch. Caje Cole is a backwoods hunter from the Appalachian Mountains of the American South, while Kurt Von Stenger is the deadly German “Ghost Sniper.”
Having been in each other’s crosshairs before, they fight a final duel during Germany’s desperate attempt to turn the tide of war in what will come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Can the hunter defeat the marksman?
Even in the midst of war, some battles are personal.
Writing for The Big Thrill is always a pleasure because it gives me an opportunity to a lot of wonderful authors and discuss writing with them. My latest interview was with Jeffrey Hess, a Florida-based writer. This was actually the second time that I have interviewed Jeff and I really enjoyed his novel, NO SALVATION. If you enjoy good military fiction focused on leadership with great plotting and suspense mixed in, this may be for you. Also, the novel portrays something a bit different, which is the Vietnam-era Navy.
This cover also features one of my favorite authors, John Sandford. I’ve been reading his Lucas Davenport novels for years and his newest novel is Neon Prey. He is the guest of honor at Thrillerfest this year.
NO SALVATION by Jeffery Hess
by David Healey
If there’s such a thing as navy noir, navy veteran and author Jeffery Hess has created just that atmosphere in his taught thriller NO SALVATION, set aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.
When Commander Robert Porter arrives aboard the USS Salvation, it is clearly a troubled ship. As the executive officer (XO) or second in command of the US Navy aircraft carrier, Porter soon encounters many challenges. First, he must juggle his own racial identity as an African-American officer against a white captain with antiquated ideas about black and white relations.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inspiring “Order of the Day” launched the D Day invasion on June 6, 1944. At the same time, he wrote a second message in case the operation involving 150,000 Allied troops failed. Seventy years later, Eisenhower’s words and his approach to communications management remain a model for public officials.
In the hours before D Day, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower considered his public words carefully. He sought just the right language to launch the Allied invasion of Europe with more than 150,000 troops. The resulting message was his often quoted “Order of the Day,” which stands today as an innovative and inspiring piece of writing. The tone was rousing without understating the grave risk being undertaken: “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. … I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”
Some scholars have singled out lines from this document to represent one of Eisenhower’s greatest speeches (Zongker, 2013): “The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory!”
At nearly the same time, he also composed a second note in which he accepted blame for failure of the invasion: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
It is interesting to compare the tone of these two messages and to examine them as examples of crisis management. The first message does not focus on Eisenhower’s role so much as the role of the individuals of the invading force. Although it makes use of first person, the language is very “you centered” in reaching and acknowledging his audience—the men bound for the beaches, manning the ships, or making parachute jumps behind enemy lines.
In the second document, which was handwritten and tucked into his billfold (Smith, 2012), Eisenhower takes full blame for the failure of the invasion. In that text, the responsibility for the setback falls squarely on his shoulders so that there can be no doubt that the troops did their part. Although the second message was never needed, it does reflect Eisenhower’s extreme self-doubt in the hours leading up to the attack. At one point after giving the order to launch the invasion, Eisenhower was actually overhead to say, “I hope to God I know what I’m doing” (Wukovits, 2006, p. 118).
D Day invasion news posted in Times Square, June 6, 1944. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PHOTO.
For a number of reasons, ranging from ego to superstition, a different general might deliberately avoid writing a message acknowledging defeat ahead of a major military operation. But the man who had overseen the planning of Operation Overlord liked to be prepared for all contingencies.
In these messages, it becomes clear that the general understood that the invasion of Europe required more than intense planning and favorable weather, but also effective public announcements to set the stage for success—or to accept the blame for defeat and a devastating number of casualties. The grandiloquent tone and language were not without precedent. After all, World War II was an era of powerful political rhetoric from democratic world leaders such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, both of whom were master orators. The chilling exhortations of fascist leaders had an equally powerful (and perhaps mesmerizing) impact on the populations of the Axis nations. While World War II was fought with planes and ships and guns, it can in many ways be framed as a war of words and ideals between vastly different world views.
Eisenhower took great care in crafting these historic public announcements (though one was held in reserve) and these written statements ultimately contributed to the success of the Normandy invasion, while also taking into account the possibility for failure. It is interesting that Eisenhower’s “Order of the Day” concludes by invoking God’s blessing, which in this case went beyond a bland public invocation to call attention to the fact that the outcome of the invasion was far from decided but would be left in many ways to fate. Certainly, Eisenhower’s formal rhetoric and self-aware language matched the importance of the event.
Years later, Eisenhower’s most famous presidential speech would be his warning against the military-industrial complex. It is a speech made with the luxury of hindsight that victory in World War II enabled. In comparison, his D Day message is freighted with the very real possibility of defeat, and it takes place at a time when the failure of the military would have dire consequences. He is not criticizing the military or warning against it, but placing the hopes of all in the success of the military in defeating Nazi Germany.
As a military and political document, some parallel can be made to a similar pronouncement made by Union President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” during the Civil War, which strikes a similar tone of humility while using grandiloquent language and calling attention to the individual sacrifices made on the battlefield.
Although the invasion of Normandy took place 75 years ago, Eisenhower’s understanding of the need for effective public communication (and his willingness to accept personal blame) set a standard that public figures may still be guided by today.
Smith, J. (2012). Eisenhower in war and peace. New York: Random House.
Wukovits, J. (2006). Eisenhower: A biography. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Zongker, B. (2013, June 7). Ike’s D-Day words draw new notice. Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from http://www.philly.com
The recently released film, “The Public,” dramatizes an imagined standoff between altruistic staff and patrons of the Cincinnati Public Library on one side and self-interested government officials on the other. The film brings some positive attention to libraries at a time when some might wonder why we need them at all in the age of the internet.
You won’t find Emilio Estevez or Alec Baldwin, two stars of that recent film, stamping due dates at the Cecil County Public Library system. However, you will find a few stories worth sharing. For me, working at the library has been an eye-opener about the way that libraries provide front-line public service to a population that is often vulnerable or unempowered — the unemployed or impoverished, the not-so-tech savvy, the very young or very old, and the homeless.
Landing a job at the library was serendipitous for me as a local author because I had already spent many hours researching there. Even so, there was a learning curve in stamping those due dates, finding the location of the nearest AA meeting, looking up the title of the third book in Laurell K. Hamilton’s new series, or cutting out paper fish for a children’s program — all at the same time. For a librarian, even a part-time one, juggling lots of tasks comes with the territory.
Chesapeake City’s connection with Showboat and the canal’s role in the Civil War
It was a pleasure to have a small part in this amazing documentary on the C&D Canal and Chesapeake City! I was able to talk about the canal’s interesting role in the Civil War. But for me, I really enjoyed the historical overview of the canal as well as learning more about the role it still plays today in commercial shipping as a vital link between Baltimore and points north (particularly Philadelphia and New York).
My own little part involved being filmed while chatting with author Karen Morgan on a waterfront bench in Chesapeake City. Karen is the co-author of Chesapeake City: The Canal Town Through the Years, a book that stands out for being not just an enjoyable read but also so visually engaging.
The skies threatened rain that day, but held out long enough for the film crew, Tim and David, to do their job. Director John Paulson put us through our paces. The sight of a small film crew downtown drew a knot of curious onlookers.
John did a great job of coaxing and coaching what we needed to say out of us and was also quite kind about it. Clearly, these guys love their jobs and are very skilled at documenting the people and places of Maryland. Their other recent effort was a documentary about the Conowingo Dam.
Something that stood out about this film was how the producers sped up the film of ships going through the canal, as well as the loading and unloading of cargo. Some of those massive ships are moving like Donzi speedboats! This technique actually adds some excitement and motion to the film.
Several people have pointed out that my name is misspelled in the film, but hey, I know who I am!
Chesapeake Writers: Literary legends from around the bay
Please join us for a Chesapeake Writers talk on May 7 at 6:30 pm at the North East branch library. Local author David Healey will introduce you to our own literary legends such as George Alfred Townsend, “Chesapeake” author James Michener, “Blue Max” author Jack D. Hunter, and Chesapeake City’s “Showboat” connection. Bring a notebook and pen because you will have an opportunity to explore your own voice as a Chesapeake writer as well as learn some tips and opportunities for local writers. Call 410-996-6269 to reserve your seat!
This video comes courtesy of the Cecil County Public Library, where the talk was given.
More than 100 years ago, the Spanish flu epidemic struck worldwide, leaving millions dead. Even the small towns of Maryland and Delaware were impacted by deaths and quarantine efforts. This talk provides an overview of the fight against the flu on the homefront during World War I.
High atop the Chesapeake City bridge, a pair of ospreys has returned to its nest, just as the birds have done each spring for the last several years.
These birds of prey have a hawk eye’s view of the town and canal below. Perched more than 200 feet above the water, they seem oblivious to the rush of traffic and boats below.
It’s an unusual place for these fish hawks to nest.Ospreys prefer dead trees along the waterfront, utility poles or even pilings rising the county’s tidal rivers. Their high perch had some onlookers confusing them with their more rare and famous cousins, the peregrine falcon.
More than 10 years ago, when the birds first appeared, I invited local bird expert over to the backyard to help identify the birds.
“Any bird of prey is a good bird,” said Charlie Gant, who had been watching birds and hawks in Cecil County for decades. On that visit, he was able to positively identify the birds as ospreys. The birds have returned each spring since then. We can usually tell because of the noise. They tend to screech a lot, as if they are annoyed. Once the baby birds appear, that screeching multiplies.
Home sweet home at the top of the arch.
He explained that ospreys are not that unusual in the area.At last count, he knew of seven osprey nests within a mile of his home on the Elk River.
Ospreys feed almost entirely on fish, although they might snag the occasional duckling or other small creature. In the canal, that means a steady diet of perch and catfish, perhaps with an eel or rockfish thrown in. The birds will hover over the water and then plunge down to spear fish in their sharp talons. They sometimes get carried away in their fishing, Gant said, latching onto a huge carp or rockfish that literally pulls the light-boned birds underwater.
This steady diet of fish was almost the undoing of the osprey. Not so long ago, these large raptors were a rare sight, much like eagles and falcons.The culprit was DDT, a pesticide that had entered the ecosystem with devastating effect. Once DDT built up in an osprey’s system from eating contaminated fish, the eggs it laid had thin shells that cracked ruinously. The birds were in danger of disappearing from the Chesapeake Bay area. Since the banning of DDT in 1972, ospreys and other raptors have made a steady comeback.
“They’re fairly plentiful here,” Gant said.
But no so plentiful as to be ignored.The ospreys on the bridge make constant hunting trips over the canal. Their nest is barely visible on the bridge’s highest arch as an untidy bundle of driftwood. One day last week, a bald eagle soared far above the bridge, causing the ospreys to swoop around their nest in alarm, making shrill cries.Bald eagles are known for stealing fish that the hard-working osprey have caught. The eagle flew on, leaving the smaller hawks alone. The ospreys then settled back into the nest, their heads just visible above the rim of the bridge arch. Motorists on Route 213 can get a distant glimpse of the nest as they approach the bridge from Elkton. The birds and their home are best seen from the levee road along the canal.
During his early spring visit, there were no young yet in the nest, but Gant expected young hawks by around June 1.The parents would then be busy feeding their young chicks.“They’re going to be looking for fish constantly.”
Neighbors have nicknamed the ospreys Del and CC, a sort of play on their chosen home above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Chesapeake City.
According to Gant, ospreys migrate to Florida or even South America each fall.They return to their nests in Cecil County around St. Patrick’s Day.(The birds have, in fact, returned each year almost on the same day.) Most return to the same nest year after year.
The nest on top of the busy bridge might be an unusual location, but it is a nice bit of real estate for an osprey.
“They want a view of the water where they will hunt,” Gant said. “You couldn’t ask for a better view than that.”
The new issue of The Big Thrill is out, and in it, there’s an interview by Your Correspondent with Math Bird, the Welsh crime writer. Math and I spent about 40 minutes back in September chatting by Skype about his writing. Something that stood out from that interview, besides getting a chance to know Math a bit better, was that he and his wife live on the Dee Estuary in Wales. This waterway creates a boundary between England and Wales.
Just a couple of days after interviewing Math, my wife and I were watching an episode of a BBC show called “Escape to the Country” on Netflix when the show focused on a couple looking to move to Wales to a house overlooking—the guess it—the Dee. Strange coincidence, considering that I’d never heard of the Dee until a couple of days before.
Math is a great writer, and you can read more about him—and Wales—in this article.
It seems like readers everywhere—or maybe that should be listeners—are really getting into audiobooks. Why is that? I think that a huge factor is technology. It’s so easy now to listen to an audiobook. Simply click on a title and download a sample or the book itself to your phone or tablet. Pop in your earbuds, and off you go to ancient Rome, or Nantucket, or heck, a WWII battlefield!
I have surprised myself by discovering that I also enjoy listening to books in this way, simply because it is so convenient.
I remember when listening to an audiobook wasn’t so easy. In fact, I distinctly recall listening to an Ed McBain novel while stripping wallpaper and then painting one of the upstairs bedrooms in our old house. This was a book on cassette tape, played over a boombox. It always seemed like when I was up on the ladder, the tape ended! I was always juggling tapes, trying to find the right order. If I missed some of the story due to the wallpaper steamer hissing too much, it was a pain to rewind and find that spot again.
CDs were a little better, but there was still the problem of juggling the 8 or 10 CDs in a typical audiobook. Also, CDs were OK for the car, but still not terribly portable.
With your smartphone, it’s all right there! One especially cool feature is that if I am reading a book using the Kindle app on my phone, and then I drive somewhere and listen to the audio version, the device magically syncs and picks up where I left off in the story, whether I am listening or reading.
Of course, it’s very easy to take along a book when out for a walk. However, I have to admit that I do love a good podcast when out for a walk. Podcasts may be a topic for another day!
Someone mentioned to me recently how he listens to books on planes and in coffee shops. These are both noisy places, but when he puts on those headphones, he is transported to another time and place.
As a writer, I find it interesting how the performance of the book can add a new dimension to the story. The way that a line is delivered, or the pacing of dialogue, can take me by surprise. It might not be how I would have read the story on the page. Of course, a good narrator can make or break a novel for listeners. It takes quite a talented person to perform a novel, for make no mistake, it is a performance. As a general rule, I don’t think that the authors themselves tend to do a very good job because they are not trained voice actors.
Three of my novels have received the audiobook treatment to date. Give them a listen at the links below!
One of my favorite recent listens has been the Jefferson Tayte series by Steve Robinson. The main character is a professional genealogist who solves mysteries by what the family tree reveals. He has a whole slew of these novels out now. Generally, Tayte’s cases take him to England. There are those who would rather that some family secrets stay in the past—that’s an example what puts Tayte in terrible danger. Who knew that genealogy could be so exciting? I have tried reading the books, but there is something about the delivery of the story in an audiobook that elevates the level of excitement.
Unfortunately, all of us occupy a busy world that doesn’t leave us much space or time for stretching out in the hammock and reading a proper book. Audiobooks are a way to absorb a novel or nonfiction book in new ways. Give them a try. You may surprise yourself by enjoying the experience. I know that I have!