The movie FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER will air on the Military Channel on Saturday, May 5, at 8 pm Eastern. This is part of An Officer and A Movie series, and I will co-host. The film will air again on May 20th at noon, May 26th at 8 PM, and June 15th at 8 PM.
Discovery’s Military Channel will air many good flicks this year on An Officer and A Movie, including Kelly’s Heroes, PT-109, The Bridge at Remagen, Tora Tora Tora, Courage Under Fire, 633 Squadron, the Thousand Plane Raid, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Dirty Dozen and many more. Each will be co-hosted by a special guest.
Check them out…
People often ask, Who are your favorite living writers? I got lots of favorites, many dead, some above ground, but I’d like to tell you about three still scribbling merrily: Stephen Hunter, Lee Child and Michael Connelly. In my opinion they are the top three pros writing popular fiction today.
Michael Connelly: This guy is the king of the police procedural, a sub-genre of mystery fiction. He isn’t just the king, he owns the space these days, and has for about twenty years. He has written at least twenty-three published novels. Some feature one-off characters. The books of his that I like best are a series starring Harry Bosch, LAPD homicide detective. Harry’s life sure has its ups and downs, with girlfriends, a wife, then the wife gone, more girlfriends, trouble with his superiors, the press, colleagues screwing up or selling him out… Amid all this setting are some really good mysteries, and Harry peels the onions slowly. New cases, old cases (including his mother’s murder) with a zillion unexpected twists, at least five per novel, and lots of suspense make these books riveting. Michael Connelly. Do yourself a favor–read this guy.
Stephen Hunter was a film critic for many years for The Washington Post. You’d think a guy who spent his days watching movies and writing about them would relish the real world after dark, wouldn’t write fiction, but Hunter does. Writes it extraordinarily well. Another surprise, this staffer for one of the most politically correct newspaper in the country has a hobby: rifles. Now he isn’t just any gun nut. He knows as much ballistics as your average expert witness, and he knows how to write about snipers. His novels are perhaps best described as a saga of the Swagger family. His first creation was a Vietnam sniper named Bob Lee Swagger, but he has written a novel about Bob Lee’s dad, his son, and how Bob Lee solves his pop’s murder, among others. Hunter is a craftsman of the first order: suspense, great plot, terrific, plausible shooting, and the good guys win in the end. I love his books.
Lee Child is the author of the Jack Reacher series. Reacher, a former Army MP, gets my vote for the most improbable hero in fiction today. He is a loner whose only possession is a toothbrush, which he carries in his shirt pocket. He rides around the country on buses or hitchhiking, a man going slowly no where, with the rest of his life to get there. Sometimes Child’s character is so real I wonder what in the world he thinks about as he looks out bus windows and watches the world go by. A man without a future or a dream. Still, he manages to get into deep and serious trouble in every book. Reacher is big, fearless, and when he wants to be, brutal and ruthless. This only works if the villains are really nasty, and Child’s are. Absolute scum. It’s an new twist on an old formula and, you will be amazed to see, really works. Lee Child.
These three are my favorites still above ground. I watch for their books, grab them while the ink is still wet. You should too.
Christmas Eve, and once again the newspapers are full of commentary about the “separation of church and state”, which, they say, is enshrined in the United States Constitution.
Perhaps this Christmas Eve is a good time to actually read what is in the U.S. Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Most folks, reading this amendment, will agree with the authors of the Federalist Papers that the language explicitly forbids Congress from establishing a state religion, such as the Church of England, or Islam, or Shintoism, or the Church of the United States. Nor can Congress ban a religion.
Somehow this plain statement got transformed into “the separation of church and state” by various court decisions, some wise, some not. Under this doctrine, courts have banned school prayer and nativity scenes. Various politicians anxious to get re-elected have gone a great deal further and banned Christmas trees, wreathes, decorations, and so on, all in the name of political correctness. People urge Congress to abandon the morning prayer. They want “In God We Trust” taken off the U.S. currency. They want “under God” taken out of the pledge of allegiance. None of this is required by the language of the constitution, and on this Christmas Eve, it might be well to reflect on this fact.
Also not required by the language of the First Amendment is the tax exemption on church funds and real property which has somehow become traditional at every level of government in the United States, no doubt because generations of politicians wished to curry favor with and get votes from various church groups. Repeal of this exemption would probably balance the budgets of a great many local and state governments.
Note also, the First Amendment’s prohibition is directed at Congress, not state or local governments. If a state constitution did not prohibit it, one suspects that a state could indeed establish a state religion and fund it from tax coffers, as several did when the constitution was adopted. Imagine the Church of California, with Governor Moonbeam as High Priest. Or, in Nevada, The Church of the Seven Virgins. Or in Utah, the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. The Supreme Court put a stop to all this with Everson v. Board of Education (1947) which extended the prohibition to the states.
The court, in subsequent cases, did indeed began to interpret the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the constitution in such a manner as to lead to the present day doctrine of “separation of church and state.” It was Justice David Souter, writing for the majority in Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District b. Grumet (1994) who said, “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”
The truth of the matter is that western democracy, political philosophy and our ideas of justice are indeed derived from, or founded upon, Christian precepts. People who deny this basic fact are ignorant, or fools, or anti-religionists, or all three. Sorry Justice Souter, but our entire American civilization is founded on the principles you refuse to prefer, one over another.
Merry Christmas to you, and the joys of the season.
The Sea Witch is a collection of short fiction by Stephen Coonts which was first published in anthologies from 1999 to 2003. The first story, a novella, which gives its title to the collection, is the story of a Black Cat squadron in the western Pacific in the desperate days of 1943. Flying PBY Catalinas painted flat black, the squadrons ranged the night oceans hunting Japanese shipping, which they attacked.
The second story, The 17th Day, is a World War I flying story that was first published in 1999 in a collection edited by the late Martin Greenberg entitled First To FIght. Only the most hard-core Stephen Coonts fans have read this one.
The third story, a novella, is entitled al-Jihad, which means, the Jihad or holy war. You will be amazed to discover who is fighting the holy war in this tale of murder, terrorism and revenge.
The Sea Witch will be published in hardcover by Tor Books on May 22, 2012. Look for it in your favorite bookstore, or order it on-line at one of the usual places. Happy Reading.
In The Disciple, my novel published in December, 2009, I had a subplot about the fundamental Muslims’ view of God, set forth by a religious scholar, Dr. Ishar Murad, who writes a manuscript setting forth his vision of God, a large God, one who created all living things.
Dr. Murad leaves us with his conclusion that we should, “Be kind, compassionate, merciful to your fellow man. There are all manner of ways of saying it, but they all amount to the same thing. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love thy neighbor as theyself. Judge not that you be not judged. Treat everyone as if he were a true believer.”
Imagine my surprise today, March 7, when I found an article in the Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal by Matthew Kaminski about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a currently imprisoned leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Yousef currently resides in the Peoples Republic of California, a refugee from the insanity of the Middle East.
Yousef was raised the son of a devout, traditional Palestine Muslim, and decided to become a Christian and spy for Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security force. In 2006, he chucked it all and left for California. Kaminski quotes Yousef as saying, “I’m not trying to convert the nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but you can’t deny they came from Christianity as well.”
Yousef is futher quoted as saying, “(My father) is not a fanatic. He’s a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God… The problem is not in Muslims. The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to.”
Dr. Murad didn’t put it quite so bluntly, but I think he made the same point.
A recent article in Newsweek magazine by Mark Hosenball stated that the CIA is about to issue a new assessment of Iran’s nuclear program. This assessment, according to Newsweek, will say that Iran has “resumed research on nuclear weapons–theoretical work on how to design and construct a weapon–but Tehran is not engaged in development–actually trying to build a weapon.” Never mind that the Israeli Mossad, Germany’s BND and Britain’s MI-6 all think Iran is “pursuing” a nuclear weapon.
The article also points out that the Obama administration’s cautious policy on Iran is unlikely to change. Sigh. Washington is in a dither over a 41st Republican senator; the prospect of Islamic Nazis armed with nukes is way down on their priority list.
Am really looking forward to signing books with Stephen Hunter at the Poison Pen bookstore in Scottsdale on January 13, at 7 PM. Hunter’s newest tale, I, SNIPER is a dilly of a read. I devoured it in one sitting. Hunter and Lee Child are undoubtedly the top two thriller writers being published today. Hunter’s Swagger saga continues to amaze. Coming up with new, original plots that have a conflict that the hero can plausibly solve, with plenty of action and suspense, populated with characters the reader finds interesting, and to somehow pace it properly and write it well is an art form.
I, SNIPER contains a loosely disguised Ted Turner character that worked extremely well in the novel. Two other major characters are loosely based on the great Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock (Hunter has used this character before) and Hanoi Jane. Doubt seriously if I would have had the gonads to cast those characters, but Hunter pulls it off with delightful aplomb. If you are a thriller fan, or even if you just enjoy being entertained by a master, you owe yourself this read.