Review: Command Authority by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney

Command Authority is a compelling read. It is the 14th novel comprising the Jack Ryan Sr./Jack Ryan Jr. franchise catalog, which began with The Hunt for Red October, published in 1984, and I have followed the series since that time.  This novel, Command Authority, as well as the previous two installments, were written by Mark Greaney, one of several authors Clancy has utilized to expand his franchise. Sadly, Clancy passed October 1, 2013. What this does to the Ryan escapades is anybody’s guess, but the estate may decide to follow what Ludlum’s has done with Jason Bourne and simply continue the series.

Command Authority Tom Clancy Mark GreaneyCommand Authority first takes us back 30 years, to a meeting between a GRU Special Forces Captain and a special member of the KGB.  The purpose of this meeting is not fully revealed until much later as events unfold, piece by piece.  Present day finds Jack Ryan Jr. in London working on not military or political but financial intelligence – and a case involving Russian intelligence and criminal elements that will ultimately lead him into the upcoming fray.  Meanwhile, Ryan Sr. meets with a former foe and now friend (a retired SVR chief) at the White House, who warns the president that the new Russian chief-of-state seeks to return his country to the days of old – just prior to dying due to being poisoned with a radioactive isotope.  In Moscow, a Croatian assassin takes the fall after pulling off a devastating bombing that takes out someone in addition to, and much more important than the “targeted” UK finance man (and former British agent) – the current head of the SVR.  Thus, the stage is set for another action-packed, political/espionage thriller in this series.

The new president of Russia has what most would call skeletons (literally) in his closet and he will do anything – everything – to keep those tucked away and out of sight as he continues executing his plans (and opposition) for what he envisions as Russia’s domination.  He will stop at nothing to achieve his agenda, including merging the separate FSB (internal) and SVR (foreign) intelligence agencies into one, under the leadership of his chosen man.  Meanwhile, in the UK,  Ryan Jr.’s investigation into the world of financial crimes gets him involved in some extremely close-calls that eventually leads him to reconnect with his team (the US off-the-books black ops group known as The Campus) after he uncovers a conflict that began three decades earlier, one that Ryan Sr. had investigated, when based in the UK as a CIA analyst.  This tale is detailed through the inter-woven backstory, and those events now threaten the world’s balance of power, unless Jr. can connect all the dots in time for his father, the president.  The action in the story shifts back and forth between the present, primarily in Russia and Ukraine (with ops planning in DC), and 30 years prior, in England, Switzerland and Germany.

Are there flaws?  Yes, a few.  One example is when the bad guys find out about and attempt to breech a CIA safe house in Sevastopol, Ukraine.  During the amount of time outlined in the story (between the start of the attack and the good guy’s escape) it seems highly unlikely that they could have survived, given the odds against them (manpower and fire power).  Does it take away from the story?  No.  And I have definitely read (and seen) much worse.

There is plenty of attention to detail, with outstanding narrative and it is, quite simply, highly entertaining.  From the technology and methods used by covert and black ops personnel, to the involvement and machinations of political, intelligence, financial and criminal factions, and everything in-between, this is a compelling read.  The writing kept leading me forward, page after page, into the plot and sub-plots and backstory.

I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys action, espionage, and political intrigue, with criminal elements and some high-tech thrown in for good measure, and, of course, to those who appreciate a good ole US vs. USSR tale.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

International Political Spy Thrillers – Authors Who Deliver The Goods

Thirty-one years ago Robert Ludlum published the first of his original “Bourne Series.” The three international bestsellers (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) follow the trials and tribulations of Jason Bourne, whose real name is David Webb, a military man who became an assassin and who, through a mission gone awry, becomes amnesic and an assassin gone horribly wrong. It took a few decades before Hollywood decided to take Bourne to the silver screen, casting Matt Damon as Bourne/Webb, with the three films being released in 2002, 2004, and 2007, respectively.

In 1984, Tom Clancy introduced CIA operative Jack Ryan in a series that would eventually land the hero, who endlessly and tirelessly had traveled the globe to put things right, in the White House, as President Ryan. The protagonist appeared in a dozen or so novels and four of those have made the big screen. The first was The Hunt For Red October, in 1990, starring Sean Alec Baldwin as Ryan, then two with Harrison Ford as Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). The Sum of All Fears (2002) starred Ben Affleck as Ryan.

Following years of writing successful thrillers Jack Higgins presented IRA activist Sean Dillon in Eye of the Storm (1992, the first of 17 or so adventures) who, eventually, becomes part of a quite secret, small and highly effective branch of undercover operatives whose boss reports directly to the Prime Minister of England. How one of the most-feared master terrorists becomes a member on the opposite side is intriguing and once Dillon is “recruited” the action and adventure only gets better with each succeeding book.

Transfer of Power, published in 1999 by Vince Flynn, introduced Mitch Rapp, a CIA counterterrorism operative who, through eleven novels, has traversed continent after continent (as well as working in the US), to bring a halt to terrorists bent on destroying cities, countries, even the world. Rapp flies directly into the bowels of hell, only to (somehow eventually) emerge successful, but not always in the best of health. His exploits are that of unknown legend.

In his 4th novel, The Kill Artist, published in 2000, Daniel Silva brings forth Gabriel Allon, an art restorer who is also a Mossad assassin, or vice versa. It is true, he really does restore art, very valuable old paintings to be exact. It is also very true, he is a deadly assassin. In the eleven books, to date, in which Allon has appeared, the agent has undertaken incredible assignments across the globe, with a returning cast of characters that add depth and outstanding interplay amongst and between them.

Though the movies are quite good, they cannot and do not capture all the detail contained in a novel. World-class storytellers Ludlum, Clancy, Higgins, Flynn and Silva have created larger-than-life, though all-too-human heroes, who get better with age, who find the ways and means to achieve their goals each and every time regardless of the odds, and who totally and completely satisfy the reader’s deep desire for entertainment and escapism at its absolute very best.

This post is not to slight other best-selling authors who have captivated millions of readers with international/political/spy thrillers, such as Len Deighton, John le Carre, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, to name a few, it is simply a viewpoint being shared concerning favorite authors of this particular blogger. After all, it is Certain Points of View™.

Over For Now.

Main Street One