by Lang Reid
A new Nick Stone adventure thriller has
just hit the Bookazine shelves, written by “Andy McNab”, purportedly the
most decorated SAS UK soldier, having won several medals during his time
with them. He has written 12 “Nick Stone” novels, and this is one of the
It is interesting to conjecture that
“Nick Stone” is the literary version of the author, but it should be taken
into account that “Andy McNab” is also an alias! However, the hero was an
abandoned child, as was McNab. There is an old adage which goes ‘write
about what you know’ and these Nick Stone novels are prime examples.
Zero Hour (ISBN
978-0-552-16259-3, Corgi Books, 2011) is concerned with human trafficking
from Eastern Europe, and sees the hero Nick Stone becoming heavily involved
in a hunt for a young woman who they thought had been trafficked, whose
family was important, and at the request of the British government.
Do not form the impression that this is
a James Bond style of novel complete with exploding pens and dinner plates
that fold up to become helicopters. Nick Stone is an earthy hero, who gets
beaten up several times in the 500 pages. He does do his fair share of
beating others too, but he is a really human hero who bleeds, especially
when he has just been stabbed with a knife. He also is given the news that
he has an inoperable brain tumor, and with six months to live, decides he
would make this his last sortie.
One literary procedure to give weight
and veracity to a work of fiction, is to introduce ‘real’ items amongst the
imagined. McNab even mentions Viktor Bout, the arms dealer who was
‘detained’ in Thailand for many months and insinuates him amongst the
international underworld from the old Russian federation. Another item was
the North Korean nuclear reactor, complete with detail of its construction
and the number of fuel rods it used.
Nick Stone takes you through the Baltic
States, Amsterdam and London as he pursues the human traffickers, and then
in turn, finds himself being pursued. He describes in minute detail the
agony of being stabbed and kicked, and you believe him, even though not many
of the readers will have been stabbed and kicked. This is a fairly violent
A few weeks ago I reviewed a book which
had 25 “thriller” short stories and I commented on the fact that the
“thriller” genre does not sit well in a short story format. This is really
shown in this book, where the author takes the reader through an adventure,
building up the suspense, and in this book leading to what is almost a
double denouement. The build-up is gradual, then the pace quickens, and you
are eagerly looking forward to the next page. Thriller to the core. I keep
my contention that thrillers cannot be short stories.
At B. 360 for over 500 pages, this is a
cheap read for a long weekend. You will enjoy it. Your heart will quicken
at times, and you will be surprised. You have my word on this.
The Age of Deception
During the lead-up to George W Bush’s
Iraq war (the war we were going to get, whether we liked it or not), one man
stood out as the sole purveyor of reason and who was prepared to speak that
reason, in the face of the American protagonists. That man was Mohamed
ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency
The Age of Deception (ISBN
978-1-4088-1700-1, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) is ElBaradei’s discussions
on Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and more, and gives the reader some ‘real’
facts in the investigations into the likelihood of there being Weapons of
Mass Destruction (WMD) being held by the various regimes.
In fact, some of the documentation
linking Saddam Hussein and uranium purchases were forged and this was shown
by ElBaradei, but the US and the UK had already chosen their path, and that
was war. ElBaradei was told to pull his inspectors out of Iraq as the war
was about to begin.
There can be no doubting that ElBaradei
is a moral man where he states, “I cannot read such accounts (of the Iraq
war) without reflecting on the thousands of soldiers who have died, the
hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, the millions maimed or
displaced, the families disrupted, the lives ruined - and I am astonished
that there has not been more self-examination, more introspection on the
part of the principal players.”
As well as nations that are trying to
join the nuclear arms race, there are then the suppliers who can assist
these nations acquire the equipment necessary. The A. Q. Khan network was
one of those, with the principal player from India, but with a network all
over the globe, including some Pakistani army generals and even the
Musharraf government, and Dubai - more than just oil, it would seem. That
is while Pakistan was receiving enormous financial aid from the US. What a
wonderful web politicians can weave.
One very interesting chapter shows
America’s attempts to block ElBaradei’s re-election to the position of
Director General of the IEAE in 2005, including a smear campaign that had
been initiated by the CIA, which included bugging his phones and insinuating
he had large amounts of money in Swiss bank accounts. They failed, and
ElBaradei was re-elected.
In a chapter citing double standards
ElBaradei touches on the nuclear ambitions of some of the Middle East
countries, with behind the scenes duplicity rampant. It is difficult not to
get depressed reading of the machinations, but the words will make you even
more interested in what comes next.
On the Bookazine shelves at B. 630,
this is an absolutely fascinating book which reads like a detective thriller
- but unfortunately it is not fiction. That deceit is so prevalent, on a
subject that has the propensity to destroy the world as we know it, is a
frightening situation that we are living with. The Non-proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons Treaty was hoped to be the savior of mankind. However, with
countries such as India, Pakistan and Israel not party to it, and North
Korea having withdrawn, you can draw your own conclusions.
I hope they serve beer in hell
The book, I hope they serve beer in hell (ISBN
978-0-14-102945-0, Penguin Books, 2006) opens with a short story on how the
author Tucker Max challenges everyone in a bar to a drinkathon, monitoring
the progress with a portable alcohol breathalyzer. He revels in being the
center of attention, but then vomits into the bushes outside the
restaurant. He wakes in the morning sleeping in his car and his blood
alcohol concentration is .09, still over the limit to drive. A rather
juvenile story, but perhaps this was from when he was young (but since it
was three years after he graduated, he would have been in his mid 20’s,
which is not really “young”. “Immature” is a better adjective.).
The second story revolves around
getting drunk and baiting a bunch of rednecks. Tucker Max was the
designated driver but did not enjoy the experience. “Being the only sober
one in a group of retarded drunks is not fun. From now on, I’m drinking and
driving.” He was an undergraduate at that time, and uni undergrads are well
known for drunken antics; however, most would deplore Tucker Max’s decision.
The third story was, in essence, a list
of girls who had performed blow jobs on this incredibly juvenile author.
Come on (no pun intended), a blow job is a blow job is a blow job. By this
stage I was finding the book so boring I decided to skip a few chapters, so
I hope you’ll forgive me.
In about the fifth story in, where he
describes being sacked from a law firm for stupid behavior, “I acted like a
drunk retard and they couldn’t tolerate my potential liability. What could
I expect them to do? Pat me on the back and get me a hooker and some beer?
That would be pretty cool, though.”
The back cover has “Actual Reader
Feedback” such as, “I am completely baffled as to how you can congratulate
yourself for being a womanizer and a raging drunk, or think that anyone
cares about an idiot like you. Do you really think that exploiting the
insecurities of others while getting wasted is a legitimate thing to offer?”
Of course author Tucker Max does also
offer the other side of the coin. “I’ll stay with God as my lord, but you
are my savior. I just finished reading your brilliant stories, and I
laughed so hard I almost vomited. I want to bring that kind of joy to
people. You’re an artist of the highest order and a true humanitarian to
boot. I’m in both shock and awe at how much I want to be you.”
All I can say to that is “Let the
saints preserve you.”
At B. 460 it is not an expensive book,
detailing the drunken antics of some very juvenile quasi-adults, without the
decision making abilities that most young adults manage to develop. If you
have a table with unequal legs, this book might just be the answer, but
please don’t read it. I only did because I had to. Pulp prose at its
It was only as I fired up the scanner to get the cover of First Thrills
(ISBN 978-1-84887-1, Corvus Books, 2011) that I saw that this was not a new
Lee Child book, but was an anthology, and when I opened it, it became
evident that the number of pages written by Lee Child was actually only 11.
When you look at the front cover of this book you can be taken in by the
name “Lee Child” in large letters, below a line in a very small font
admitting that the book was “Edited by and with a brand new story from” (Lee
Child). Smart advertising or false advertising? It does not matter, but I
was annoyed, principally at my own gullibility. This is not the way to sit
down to begin to enjoy some good reading.
When I looked at this book in more
detail, it was apparent that First Thrills was 25 short stories, written by
11 “big names” and 13 “new names”. If I am to believe Mr. Child’s
introduction, his 11 big names (and himself) agreed to contribute to this
collection, in a communal fit of altruism to “help” the new names gain
exposure. I’m sorry, but I felt that he was probably being somewhat
economical with the truth.
The first story was by Gregg Hurwitz,
one of Mr. Child’s “big names”, with a very long CV and although the plot
was quite different from the usual, I am hard-pressed to say it was a
‘thriller’. Only 16 pages in length, it became rather evident what was
happening next by half way through.
I do not believe that thrillers fit
into the format of the short story. Thrillers build up the suspense, make
the reader try and work out who is the good guy, and who is the villain.
The characterization of the principal subject of the book takes time too, if
he or she is to be a believable person. I found this short story format
left me looking for more. Where was the next chapter in this story?
Unfortunately it wasn’t there, and never was going to be there. For that
reason alone, I felt like I had just consumed a Chinese meal, which always
seems to leave you vaguely dissatisfied. That feeling of dissatisfaction
was enough to make me stop reading before I had got half way through the
book. This does not happen often, especially with thrillers, so I have to
say that this book was certainly not for me. Jeremy Clarkson can produce a
wonderfully readable book made up of 52 short stories. But he is writing
humor. The 25 short stories in First Thrills were not humorous. They were
at best, mildly thrilling. But not satisfying. Sorry.
At only B. 385, this was not an
expensive book on the Bookazine shelves, and with 25 short stories to
consume, the group International Thriller Writers (ITW), on the surface,
look to have compiled something that might work. But it didn’t, and in
future, please do not try and trick people into believing they have found
another Lee Child book!