Review: Poker Face is entertaining, but . . .

The first episode of #Pokerface sets up the premise of the series and sets the protagonist in motion so she can go to various places while being chased.

We have the set up of an over-arcing plot and individual episodes that can be watched on their own. They even pay homage to Burn Notice in the dialogue, which was cute.

I found it fun, but had two serious problems with the episode. Spoilers ahead.

First, if you’re going to plant multiple secret cameras in a room you pretty much negate the need for “Poker Face”. Just set them so they can look at the guy’s cards. They tried getting around that half-heartedly with saying he always sits with his back to the glass door to the terrace. But, really, you can’t put those same cameras in the ceiling above that door or even out on the terrace looking in. It just jarred me that it seemed the plan was dumb. Then again, the character coming up with the plan was dumb, so . . .

Second, when “Poker Face” confronts the bad guy, Frost, how did she expect that to play out? She isolates herself in a room with the antagonist and his henchman who she knows killed two people and she then shows them proof of their guilt. And then? Did she expect them to call the police and surrender? How exactly was that going to turn out well?

Then again, as above, even she says she’d kind of dumb about things.

Here is what’s difficult to do as a writer. Those two things work when you accept the two characters are making these bad choices. Not you, the screenwriter. Wrap your brain around that.

So Poker Face is fun entertainment with dumb choices being made.

SAS Rogue Heroes Review: Surprisingly Accurate

Rogue Heroes

This series from the BBC and on Epix is amazingly true to history, although you might not believe it when you watch it. At the beginning is the blurb “based on a true story“, and that “the events depicted which seem most unbelievable… are mostly true“.

And that’s accurate. I knew a lot of the history of the founding of the SAS but still had to occasionally double-check and yes, those most crazy moments are true.

It’s from the creator of Peaky Blinders which had its ups and down but overall was a solid series. I think this is better.

There are several moments that will click with any special operator. I was pleasantly surprised watching the first season because special operations tend to get blurred into some sort of James Bond thing of super-human creatures with no humanity or flaws. These men are definitely human, warts and all. But we also recognize those we served with who had more than a few screws loose, but are exactly what you want in this type of unit.

Dominic West appears every so often as the twisted British spy master in Cairo. The rest of the cast is excellent, but be warned. Due to the real, bloody history, don’t grow attached to any character. They are all expendedable.

There are times when the series get very deep into the psyche of soldiers who do terrible things. Because it is war and war is terrible. William Tecumseh Sherman would approve.

Recommended.

A Year After Kennedy Was Killed, His Mistress Was Murdered. The Next Day, Khrushchev Resigned.

Mary Meyer and JFK

I love writing fiction that finds amazing fact and “coincidences” of history and weaves them together into a thriller. These are facts:

On the 25th of November, as Kennedy’s body lay in state at the Rotunda in Washington, Anastas Mikyoan, Khrushchev’s top adviser, presented the Premier’s condolences to Jacqueline Kennedy. She took Mikoyan’s hand in both hers and told him: “I am sure that Chairman Khrushchev and my husband could have been successful in the search for peace, and they were really striving for that. Now the Chairman must continue the agreed upon endeavor and bring it to completion.”

What was that endeavor?

On 12 October 1964, a Washington socialite named Mary Meyer was shot in the back of the head and through the heart at point-blank range. She had been married to a high-ranking CIA agent. More importantly, she had been carrying on an affair with President John F. Kennedy and was one of his most trusted friends, at his side through the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

On 13 October 1964, the day after Mary Meyer’s murder, the Soviet Politburo forced Nikita Khrushchev to resign from power and put him under house arrest.

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear Sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.” John F. Kennedy

Today, Paul Ducharme and Evie Tolliver unveil a Fail-Safe type scenario brokered by President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev, lost to history, and race against time before the archaic Sword of Damocles initiates World War III.


For a thriller steeped in history, enjoy The Kennedy Endeavor, part of the Presidential Series.

Warfare To The Virtual Level: Based On A Real Program In Special Operations

Psychic Warrior

When I was with the 10th Special Forces we initiated a program initially called, believe it or not, Jedi Warrior. That was changed to Trojan Warrior, as the Trojan Horse is part of a unit crest and perhaps because someone objected to copyright infringement?

It was a program to make a better soldier out of already elite Special Forces soldiers. Two A-Teams were selected for the training. My A-Team had the misfortune of being selected not to get the training, but to do all the same testing as the baseline to see if the program actually worked.

The movie Men Who Stare At Goats was partially based on the same program.

As an author, I can take fact and spin it into fiction so I wondered what would the next evolution of the Trojan Warrior program be?

Psychic Warrior is the result.


The Russians sink the submarine USS Thresher in 1963 using their classified psychic project, but something goes awry and all are killed. Except one scientist who plans to take the project to a higher level. Decades later, the Russians unleash Chyort, also known as the ‘Devil’. Chyort is a cyborg that can project into the virtual world with almost limitless power and reassemble his avatar anywhere in real world to wreak havoc. When the Russian mafia steals 20 nuclear warheads to auction them to the highest bidder, Chyort implements his own plan of revenge.

Sergeant Major Jimmy Dalton and a small team of US Green Berets who were originally trained in the classified Trojan Warrior program are thrust into the Psychic Warrior program. The team must battle the Russian avatar on the virtual plane and then take their own avatars into the real world. Their mission seems simple. Stop Chyort. If they fail? World War III.

Psychic Warrior takes warfare into the virtual plane through avatars and then reinserts the covert operatives into the real world. The results can be devastating. I use my real military experience in the then-classified Special Forces Trojan Warrior program and wrote a novel about the new frontier of warfare: the mind.

If you notice, many of my books are about the possibilities of the frontier of the mind.

This is the future of Special Operations Warfare.

A nice review from Library Journal: “A heart-pounding thriller about the emergence of a deadly avatar. The panorama of modern warfare and the details of hand-to-hand combat encounters add excitement. Inventive, entertaining, and realistic adventure. Highly recommended.”

Enjoy! Psychic Warrior

Which is free today through Tuesday, 10 January!

Slow Horses: Classic Spy Versus Spy. A Review

Slow Horses

Gary Oldman reprises his Smiley character, albeit with a different name and a different time, in the series Slow Horses.

The title refers to the rejects from MI-5 who are shuffled off to Oldman’s supervision in Slough House, an old building where they are given the jobs no one else wants and also are used in others machinations in order to take the fall for their more elite brethren.

Strong characters and twists and turns in the plot make for enjoyable viewing. Oldman brings humor and snark to his character to make a dark story, where deaths along the way are taken in stride, to make it enjoyable.

The power plays with Kristin Scott Thomas as the #2 chair at MI-5 show spy bureaucracy at its worst. And best. Oldman’s character, Jackson Lamb, is a legend in MI-5 and he more than holds his own with her.

If you are into the devious nature of a good espionage story with a dash of action thrown in, this series is highly recommended.

Start the New Year Out Right—Biggest Sale ever from Bob Mayer

Success

I’ve got a lot of free and discounted books—the most ever, but let’s focus on what your priorities should be for 2023.

First, real basic, get 2 cases of water per person in your household and stick them somewhere dark and dry. We’re seeing water shortages from a dizzying array of events, no one is safe.

Second, I’d recommend a basic grab-n-go bag. You can build your own using my Survival Guide, or a free slideshow, or simply buy a prepackaged one from Amazon. This is the one I bought for my son and he has it in the trunk of his car. Remember, it can help you get through a disaster in your house or on the road. The Area Study Workbook is free today and it will help you fine tune a kit if you want to build a personalized one.

Doing those two things will help you have peace of mind because you prepare for three reasons:

  1. To be prepared if the bad thing happens.
  2. To prevent the bad thing from happening.
  3. To have peace of mind.

Now the free and discounted books on this PAGE:

Shane and the Hitwoman is free until the 5th

Synbat (The Green Berets) is free until the 2nd.

The Green Beret Area Study Workbook is only .99 or kindle unlimited until the 5th

The Green Beret Guide for Success is free until the 5th

Atlantis Bermuda Triangle is free until the 5th

Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol) is .99 or kindle unlimited until the 5th

Military Science Fiction bundle is $1.99 or kindle unlimited until the 5th

Nightstalkers is $1.99 or kindle unlimited all month

Black Tuesday (Time Patrol) is $1.99 or kindle unlimited all month

Eyes of the Hammer (Green Berets) is always free

Duty (first book in Duty, Honor, Countt series) is always free

Whew. Okay. That’s plenty to get you started on 2023.

Al books HERE.

Stay healthy and stay safe!

Bob

And Maggie and Scout

Am I the Only Person Who Didn’t Care For Andor?

Andor

As a caveat, I’ve never been into the Star Wars universe. Saw the first one in 1977 and I think that’s it. I enjoyed it but I was 17, about to go to West Point. My life got blurry after that. I saw bits and pieces of the various follow-on movies, but none really grabbed me.

It’s entertainment that doesn’t make you think. Mind candy. Then there were prequels and sequels and who knows what. The first one is now what, number 4?

Everyone has been raving about this new series, a prequel to a prequel movie(??), Andor, so I tried it. I gave up around episode 5.

Why, you ask? Okay, you didn’t. But anyway:

First, the antagonist is a cold-blooded murderer in Episode 1. I guess we’re just supposed to be black and white about bad guys and good guys but he shoots an unarmed person begging for his life so he can escape. What do you call it? One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.

And his acting range is from scowling to more scowling. And walking around in the mud with lots of extras in the background and a grim looking industrial background. Like Louisiana around the oil industry?

Second, the plot moves so SLOWLY. He’s looking for his sister. Why now? What’s he been doing all these years? He needs to run and hide because he, oh no, killed two people, while looking for his sister. One accidently and one in cold blood. I guess he did that to hide his identity. BTW—they don’t have any version of CCTV on that walkway to where the ships land. Or anywhere? And it doesn’t matter anyway because they figure out who he is quickly anyway. So that was a needless death. But it’s okay to kill bad guys which is anyone working for the Empire, even on contract?

The dichotomy between the supposedly advanced interstellar civilization that interacts with aliens and the clunkiness of the technology is jarring to me. If those guns are firing plasma, whatever kind of bolts at the speed of light, how can we see them? Ever see a bullet in flight?

They always miss, btw. It appears to be a staple of Star Wars that no bad guy can hit a good guy. I noticed one bad guy with a long scope on his blaster, but he never looks through the scope when firing. And the rebels have the interstellar version of the AK-47??? Seriously? We’ve got remote fired .50 caliber machine guns on vehicles that aim better than these people.

I didn’t get all the stuff falling in the warehouse fight scene other than it looked cool. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I can see CGI people having fun and hooting and hollering as they did it, but???  And really, those bad guys don’t know how to fast rope in on the target but have to land far away and hoof it in through a hostile population while splitting into thirds (they never studied Custer  and his escapade at Little Big Horn apparently).

And why did the one element of the assault force suddenly grab the key female character running by them and ignore all the others running around and then stop their mission to stand around her? I suppose so they could shoot the poor sucker, aka her new boyfriend, who out of jealousy called in Andor’s location? Yep. He had to die so they did that. But it made absolutely no sense action-wise.

We get flashbacks to the hero’s childhood. Where he and the others watch a ship burn in. One that somehow, when they get to the crash site, is remarkably intact with survivors. Guess none of the writers ever saw what happens when even a chopper gets shot down.

Then there is the trope of a bad guy, the security guy who is determined to track down the killer. He’s so one-dimensional, he even ends up going home to mama and getting slapped on the face. They put out a casting call for spoiled, bratty adult and he turned up. Also, stupid, since he doesn’t follow the orders he’s left with.

We don’t find out until around Episode 4 or 5 that it’s about– of all things– a payroll robbery. Say what? Even the Marine Corps does direct deposit these days. You mean an empire with faster than light travel and flying cars needs to haul around a payroll?????? Where’s Butch and Sundance? At least get it on the way back. Or something. Okay, Firefly did a payroll robbery but at least they’re doing a Western set in Space as concept, so it works. And they have fun doing it. This series is so damn grim. No humor. Empire bad. Rebels good. Okay.

Then as they talk about the plan it requires our hero to fly a spacecraft into, you guessed it, a small, narrow tunnel. Hmm. I’ve not seen much Star Wars, but really. Is that all you’ve got?

I just felt a lack of imagination in character development and plot. I know they’re restricted by the canon, but still???

And I didn’t watch the last episodes so I’m sure it all paid off and all the plot points looped and I’m an idiot.

And I do shortcuts in my science fiction. My time patrol agents travel through time in a sentence—they were here and now and then they’re there and then. Sort of. Except I use the technique of these time portals being opened by the enemy who know something we don’t. I’m fine with looking past the plot problems any analysis will yield if we delve deep enough into any story. But you have to engage the viewer and this protagonist had nothing that engaged me. Nor did the arguing rebels. Nor the corporate type Empire people in their spotless white uniforms. The backstory was a yawn.

Overall, the glaring inconsistencies kept stopping me from enjoying the story, which was mostly a bunch of people arguing with each other. About empire bad, rebels good, which is what its all based on.

This is personal preference and I’m obviously out of the loop. I don’t view Star Wars as science fiction. It’s more fantasy and that’s fine. For example, The Peripheral blows me away. Tight plotting, lots of plot loops with intriguing characters based on premises that you have to really think about. You want a pilot episode that will spin your mind? Watch the pilot of Westworld reboot (Peripheral is by the creators of the Westworld reboot BTW). So much is packed in there in terms of idea, plot and character. Yes, it went a bit off the tracks in later seasons but the start was great. And, yes, I liked the ending of the reboot of Battlestar.

So, yeah. I’m just not a Star Wars guy. What can I say? Sorry. Shoot at me with your blaster.

The Volcano: A Documentary and a Warning—Do An Area Study!

Volcano

In 2019 the Whakaari Volcano erupted. Briefly. For just a couple of minutes.

22 people died. Tourists. Visiting an active volcano that had erupted twice in the last nine years.

The documentary now on Netflix is a minute-by-minute account of what happened that day. There was plenty of cell phone imagery and first-hand accounts from survivors. It’s a riveting documentary and well worth watching. Interestingly it was directed by Rory Kennedy. One wonders at her interest in disaster given it was her wedding the JFK Jr was flying to when his plane went down.

The stories are heart-rending as is the loss of life and the pain and suffering of those survivors who are still undergoing surgeries due to the burns they sustained.

The senior guide was on his 1,111th  trip to the island. He’d been doing it for ten years. Which means the volcano had erupted twice before, at night, during his tenure.

While some might decry it as Monday morning quarterbacking, even one of the survivors felt this way before the eruption as she was there, very reluctantly, with her husband on their honeymoon. Why do you go to an active volcano that has a known record of recent eruptions? You are basically rolling the dice. Yes, the odds are with you. But are they necessary odds to take?

I’ve done numerous dangerous things in my life in the military, but as I always said about them, it was for mission. It was my duty. There are a couple of times when I should have died and frankly was just lucky.

I’ve done some daring things while out in nature, but I try very hard to err on the side of caution. I’ve gotten out my Jeep while off-roading and walked a trail far ahead to make sure I can turn around and get out rather than get stuck. I’ve backed off from a lot of dangerous routes others have taken.

Going to an active volcano with known recent eruptions that is an hour and a half from help would be a non-starter. Several survivors expressed surprise about the prior eruptions. Even a rudimentary Area Study would have informed them of that. They thought the tours would mention it. Really?

An Area Study not only points out dangers, it also shows opportunities. I keep a binder of planned Jeep trips with stuff I download about the locations. When I went out to Monument Valley this year, I did searches for various things including remote camping sites. That’s where I learned about Valley of the Gods. I wouldn’t have turned off at the tiny sign on the highway to Monument Valley if I hadn’t done that research. And I really loved driving through there and spent the night.

With the Internet we have more access to information than any other time in history. You can do a basic Area Study in minutes and a detailed one for preparation in a day. Why not do it?

The Green Beret Area Study Workbook

Happy Holidays—Life’s Little Black Book is Free

Life’s Little Black Book

As we went the “we’ll circle back to that next year” time of year, I’m giving away a free book many have found useful. Life’s Little Black Book is full of things I’ve picked up over the years.

There are, as usual, other freebies, including I, Judas: The Fifth Gospel.

I’m feeling great, four weeks after my little expedition to the hospital. Not back at 100% but I’m not pushing it. Took the dogs to the woods yesterday and hiked some hills but no backpack. I’m biking but not too hard. Plus, I’ve noticed its gotten cold out. My Winter Warfare days are not looked back at with fond memories.

Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays!

Bob, and Scout, and Maggie

Scout and Maggie

What Was the Staten Island Peace Conference

A conference held on the southwestern tip of Staten Island, New York on 11 September 1776 A.D. in the Billop House, which still stands. This was the day Benjamin Franklin, Edward Rutledge and John Adams met Admiral Lord Howe to discuss the possibility of peace between Britain & the Colonies. Unfortunately, neither Admiral Howe nor Franklin and Adams, had any real authority from their respective governments to negotiate.

Billop House Public Doman

In the painting below, Admiral Howe is on the right. On the left are John Adamas, Edward Rutledge and Benjamin Franklin.

Staten Island Peace Conference. Courtesy Wikimedia, Creative Commons by Alonzo Chappel (1828-1887)

The strategic situation in September 1776 was dire for the rebelling colonists. George Washington has just been defeated on Long Island (covered elsewhere in New York City Little Black Book), and his army was being threatened across the Hudson on York (Manhattan) Island.

“They met, they talked, they parted. And now nothing remains but to fight it out.” — British report after the Staten Island Peace Conference

As a sidenote: What of the legend of a ghost in Billopp House, where the meeting was held, on the southwestern corner of Staten Island? Is there a ghost of a servant girl killed by the owner who believed she betrayed him to the Colonists?

I used this event as a mission in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol) because in that series, I have an outside entity trying to wipe us out by changing our timeline. So, I ask the question: what if someone wants those peace talks to succeed?

And who exactly is that ghost?