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The Ninth Day – Review

 
 by: Freveletti, Jamie

 Publisher: HaperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St New York, NY

 Copyright: 2011

 reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 12/5/2011

 

 

 

Summary: Continuing adventure of bio-chemist Emma Caldrige and the people in the Darkview protective agency. Highly enjoyable adventure with a few brain teasers.

A fun read. Would not want to do it too often, but it’s quick, painless, and highly entertaining.

So, you are out late one evening on foot near the American-Mexican border looking for plants to use in your biochemisty research. You get chased by a group of men, accidently stumbling into an underground tunnel. You get captured by the men and realize they are human traffickers who also work for a drug trafficking kingpin. Your day could not possible get any worst, right? Wrong.

On the bright side, you work for a global security outfit called Darkview and, though a biochemist, you are a well-trained long distance runner and have had some training in self-defense. In fact, you carry around a little plastic explosive in the form of a wrist braclette for situtations just like the one you are now caught in. The “you” of course is Emma Caldrige.

While I have not read the other two Emma Caldrige novels (RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL and RUNNING DARK), based on THE NINTH DAY, they are probably just as entertaining because they are written from a standard formula: beautiful, smart, professional woman caught in a threatening situation just out of range of resources that could help her.

In THE NINTH DAY, Caldrige must solve the riddle of a disease that seemed to have been given life by a combination of herbicides sprayed on marijuana plants and something indigenous to the Mexican soil in which the plant grow. The plants belong to Eduardo La Valle. La Valle, after capturing Caldrige and finding out that she is a biochemist [talk about your serendipity, right] spares her life because he thinks she can solve the riddle of the contaminated majrijuana which even threatens the life of his girlfriend.

What makes this book so entertaining is that we, as readers know intuitively, that Caldrige has the ability to escape the clutches of La Valle and his gang. She comes across as a superhero tittered by conscience. After learning that the field workers who cultivated the contaminated marijuana lye dying in a make-shift, “migrant hut” hosptial, Caldrige becomes determined to find a cure. The farm’s medicine man and veternarian Luisa Perez who are treating the men said that the men usually died nine days after contacting the diesase. She also meets La Valle’s girlfriend who is also inficted by the diease.

The author lays a firm foundation for what develops later in the story. If you are familiar with exotic dieases you will probably be able to figure out what is going on with the contamindated marijuana from the information provided in the make-shift hospital scenes. This is what makes this a fun read. Not only is it an adventure tale, but a hazardous bio-diease mystery. There is also a bit of covert entertainment as well.

In an exciting scence in which Caldrige has escaped from La Valle’s compound and returned to recuse what we thought might be her love interest, a wimpy character called OZ (short for Oswald Kroger), we are primed for a continuation of the shoot-and-chase that thwart her escape plans. The SUV in which she has escaped from the Mexican army, driven by the Veternarian Luisa Perez, is stopped and surrounded by La Valle’s goons. Caldrige surreptitiously stuffs a revolver into her waistband at the small of her back before getting out of the car. More shoot-and-chase? No. After being stuffed into her waistband, the revolver is not seen again.

Once you run into a blip in expectations such as this, you start looking for others.

There are some situtations, such as a character jumping into an Escalade in which Caldrige has “hit the gas”, that strains credibility. Despite the “story quarks”, THE NINTH DAY holds interest because we are intrigued by the main character and are curious as to exactly what this strange diease really is. Every word in this novel is practically non-stop action. A lot of implausibility. But it is fun.

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Dancing With The Devil – Review

  by: Diaz, Louis & Neal Hirschfeld

  Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Pocket Start Books, New York

  Copyright: 2010, ISBN: [1439148821]

  reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 12/31/2011

Summary: Former ATF and DEA Special Agent Louis Diaz recounts his January 1972 to February 1996 career as a federal law enforcement officer and his life as an undercover agent. The definitive memoir of a federal law enforcement officer.

Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Louis Diaz recounts his life in federal law enforcement.

A second generation American of Spanish heritage, Diaz grew up under a dominating father in Brooklyn, New York. He stumbled into law enforcement after being discharged form the Army and working as a counselor with the New York State Addiction Services Agency at the Williamsburg Youth Center in Brooklyn. He was rejected as a New York Policeman because he missed the minimum height requirement by one inch. He was rejected by the Federal Narcotics Bureau (predecessor of the Drug Enforcement Administration) after admitting that he smoked marijuana a couple of times while in the Army. After graduating from Queens Community College with an Associates degree and getting a job with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as an investigator, Diaz met Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau “special investigator” Joe Blaise. He attributes his entrance into federal law enforcement to the influence of Blaise. Diaz became an ATF agent.

Diaz was to spend three years as an ATF agent. He relates details of some of the cases he worked and the success he had as an undercover agent.

From the very opening pages of DANCING WITH THE DEVIL, you know you are not about to meet the federal special agent who saved America from drugs. In fact, you are not sure you are meeting a federal law enforcement agent at all. What kind of federal agent would punch a local policeman in the gut in a petty act of revenge? This is precisely what Diaz admits to doing after being stopped while undercover during a gun investigation.

Like every institution, especially a federal agency, the DEA undergoes incremental “cultural” changes from one administration to another. The 1973 DEA of Louis Diaz was a hodgepodge of “cultures” from an almost countless mix of alphabet agencies in addition to the two merging agencies form which it was formed, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) and Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE). Expanding from 1,470 agents in 1973 to 2,231 agents in 1974, enforcement officers from other federal agencies, especially those with Diaz’s experience in ATF, were prime for acquisition by an “empire” in the making. Not only did agents from ATF transfer into DEA, but agents from IRS, CIA and FDA also transferred in. The only alphabet soup missing in significant numbers were FBI agents. Good reason for that. A lot of the enforcement personnel joining the early DEA were in essence if not substance a lot like Louis Diaz. Despite never having been a street cop, he had a street cop mentality. That’s where the drugs were–on the streets. As DEA continued to expand and these agents went into supervisory and management positions, DEA became more an enforcement agency than in investigatory agency. By the time S/A Louis Diaz retired in February 1996, DEA was shifting away from a federal “policing” enforcement agency to an “investigative” intelligence agency. Nothing exemplifies the change more than the career of S/A Diaz.

Diaz recounts his role in a number of DEA investigations, primarily as an undercover agent fluent in Spanish. He goes into cursory detail regarding two significant DEA investigations and mentions a few less significant. The effect provides an earnest assessment of the challenges and dangers he and other agents faced in navigating the world of illicit drugs and money.

He cites as his first significant DEA investigation the take-down of drug trafficker Leroy Nicholas “Nicky” Barnes. Barnes was the kingpin of heroin trafficking in Harlem, New York in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Diaz’s recounting of the investigation is an authoritative history of the investigation though it skimps on the minutia.

After transferring from the DEA-NYPD (New York Police Department) Joint Task Force to the DEA Office in Santa Ana, California, Diaz participated in another significant DEA investigation. Again he started an undercover role, this time as a money launderer, in which he contributed to U. S. law enforcement efforts to define the means and methods of a large drug trafficking organization. The Chicago investigation, titled OPERATION BLAST FURNANCE, involved a Colombian drug trafficker’s purchase of a 1,300 55-gallon drum order of ether for converting coca paste into cocaine. DEA Special Agents Mel Schabilion and his partner, Harry Fullett were the agents running the investigation, setting up a store front in Elk Grove near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport . This was one of those pivotal investigations in which investigative innovation, technology and street smarts allowed DEA to take a giant leap ahead of the traffickers.

Recounting the ups, downs, mishaps and triumphs of law enforcement investigations is typical in these bio-histories. What is not typical is Diaz himself. He comes across very clearly in this work. DANCING WITH THE DEVIL is extraordinary in that Louis Diaz presents himself as a cog in the wheel–not a superhero nor a “special” man. The fact that his job was a federal law enforcement officer was happenstance. From happenstance, he managed to live a life with purpose and commitment. In short, what comes across most clearly is character. The reader is left to wonder whether it was the martinet father, the development at an early age in boxing (apparently becoming quit good at it, advancing to the Golden Gloves by the time he was seventeen), or his basic sense of fairness that lead Diaz into a high risk life of law enforcement. In the end of course, the answer to the question is irrelevant. Deeds speak louder than words. Like the vast majority of federal law enforcement officers, Diaz dedicated himself to a principle and strived mightily to adhere to it. It is this “revealing” that makes DANCING WITH THE DEVIL well worth reading.

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UFOs in Wartime – Review

  by: Maloney, Mack
  Publisher: Berkly Publishing Group Inc, www.penguin.com New York
  Copyright: 2011
  reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 12/16/2011
Summary: A compilation of stories about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) found in other literature and on the internet.
If you are familiar with UFO literature, there is nothing new to be found in UFOs IN WARTIME. There are however a couple of major conclusions derived form reading this book.
First, the number of “erratic lights in the sky” episodes passing as UFO sightings becomes a rather stark element of UFO sightings in general. The 7 November 2006 UFO citing above O’Hare Airport in Chicago (not mentioned in this book) was reportedly a dark grey metallic disk, not a light. Solid objects as UFOs are rarely mentioned in UFOs IN WARTIME. So you come away from this book with the impression that any light in the sky could be a UFO. Too bad.
The “foo fighters” reports of pilots in World War II fit into this category of “lights in the sky”. Lights in the sky are nothing new for anyone who even occasionally glance at the sky. That “lights” behave erratically in the sky can be expected. Some instances cited in UFOS IN WARTIME where the lights move at 90 degree angles at incredible speeds are difficult to explain. Difficult but no impossible. Putting optical receptacles (eyes) in a three pound encasement of pulsating blood and tissue (a human head) angled toward the sky is bound to produce some odd results. This is not to say that “erratic lights in the sky” could be explained by examining the physiology of eye, brain and mind. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt a search for an explanation. Author Maloney does not offer any possible explanations for the sightings in his compilation of UFOs.
In a somewhat intriguing twist (though it has been done elsewhere), Maloney lumps into these episodes of “erratic lights” the Marian event which took place on October 13, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal (see our April, 1995 review of FATIMA PROPHECY by Ray Stanford). Thousands of people saw the Sun behave erratically in the sky after gathering to witness the present of the Virgin Mary. The sighting at Fatima has traditionally been viewed as a religious experience by those examining it and regulated to the realm of mass hysteria. But Maloney, by lumping it into the same category as common UFO sightings, suggests the possibility that it was just another example of UFOs in the sky. While a stretch, the similarities do raise the possibility that the same inherent, heuristic approach of human psychology are used to “explain” any unusual occurrences in physics. The observation explains nothing of course, but does offer a new approach to arriving at explanations.
Are UFOs real? Well, of course they are. But beyond that we have no explanation of what they are. They are Unidentified Flying Objects after all. To say that UFOs are under intelligent control is a supreme paradox-assuming that we as observers are “intelligent”. Going farther and saying that UFOs are evidence of extraterrestrial life visiting earth is a cosmic stretch. A shorter stretch, one within our grasp, is to say that we, as
intelligent creatures, have depths we have not even began to explore. The author Jacques F. Vallee, in his 1991 book REVELATIONS: ALIEN CONTACT AND HUMAN DECEPTION, pretty much sums up the current state of affairs. Nothing much has change.
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