Books by Mark Berent

STORM FLIGHT by Mark Berent
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 14, 1993

American pilots languish in a secret Vietnamese prison as President Nixon and Henry Kissinger negotiate the end of US involvement in the war—in the fifth and concluding volume of Berent's highly detailed Air Force saga (Eagle Station, 1992, etc.). Vietnamization, the process that turned America's role in the war over to the natives, is nearly complete. Negotiations with the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese masters are proceeding, however slowly. American ground troops are being shipped back to the States by the thousands, but the air war continues, and North Vietnam continues to hold prisoners. And there is a disturbing new pattern in the segregation of American flyers in the North Vietnamese prison camps. Electronic Warfare Officers, the men who sit behind the pilots and run the radars and weapons systems, are disappearing from the downtown Hanoi jail known as the ``Hanoi Hilton.'' The word from the prisoners' underground message system is that the Soviets, advisors to the North Vietnam Army, plan to ship the flyers back to the motherland, where their brains will be picked clean of American strategy and tactics and from whence they will not return. After much political agonizing, Special Forces Col. Wolf Lochert, who's been something of a one-man army through the series, gets the assignment to drop into Hanoi, learn the whereabouts of the secret camp, take incriminating pictures, and get the evidence of Soviet involvement back to the President, who will use it in negotiations. Meanwhile, saga star Court Bannister works up new bombing tactics for the huge B52s that will be used to encourage North Vietnam to negotiate more seriously, and saga costar Toby Parker at last gets to strap on the fighters he was born to fly. Militarily true to life in its long stretches of unfortunately snoozy detail—stretches punctuated by terrifying action and heroism. Not the place to start this worthy series. Read full book review >
EAGLE STATION by Mark Berent
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 8, 1992

Berent's US Air Force saga (Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger, Phantom Leader) continues, taking his pilots and commandos into Laos and a late-1968 battle to protect a radar outpost. With only a few weeks to go before the presidential election, both the North Vietnamese and Lyndon Johnson are working on plans to swing the vote the way they want it to go. They both like Hubert Humphrey. President Johnson is getting ready to pull the plug on bombing north of the Demilitarized Zone, and the North Vietnamese are trying to choreograph the ``confession'' of a downed airman with a military action against the American radar base in Laos that controls much of the sky over their country. Recurring heroes Court Bannister and Wolf Lochert, pilot and supercommando, respectively, head for the threatened installation, pausing only for a little short, sweet, dalliance in Thailand. Meanwhile, fellow recurring hero and currently imprisoned pilot Algernon A. ``Flak'' Apple endures near-fatal beatings and psychological torture after almost escaping Hanoi. And Shawn Bannister, radical journalist, recurring villain and half-brother to Court Bannister, heads for Hanoi, unaware that he is being manipulated by Hanoi and Washington concurrently. If everything works out the way Hanoi plans, there will be dramatic revelations from the hospital in Hanoi at the very moment that either the North Vietnamese Army or their partners in socialist solidarity, the Soviets, overrun the radar. There is, by the way, a pretty but rather loose American lady hanging around the radar controls swilling gin and ogling the gents. Open your eyes for the flight and fight scenes, close them for the sex and politics. Read full book review >
PHANTOM LEADER by Mark Berent
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 9, 1991

Berent continues his highly detailed Vietnam War saga (Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger), taking his Air Force flyers into 1968 and the Tet offensive. Quotations from Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, which they would probably like everyone to forget, open this volume that covers fewer than eight weeks of the war—the period of the final buildup to, and execution of, the single most important countrywide offensive by North Vietnam against South Vietnam. Captain Toby Parker, the gifted flyer who washed out of fighter training in a drunken fog, now flies forward observer missions in small propeller planes. When his reported sightings of North Vietnamese tanks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail are discounted by his superiors, he goes in for a closer look and photographs but is brought down and captured by the enemy. It takes the Special Forces to free him and to start the trip back to his base with the news that a really big action is underway. Major Algernon ``Flak'' Apple, shot down over North Vietnam, has been less fortunate. He is a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton. Major Court Bannister, one shootdown short of becoming an ace (it takes five), has been pulled from the Hanoi bombing runs and sent to purgatory in South Vietnam after apparent violations of the Rules of Engagement. Lt. Colonel Wolf Lochert continues his one-man guerrilla war. And as the top brass continue to ignore the signs of a mammoth coordinated assault coming from the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, Lyndon Johnson hopes to deal with Ho Chi Minh like a fellow Texan. When the offensive finally comes, the surprised Americans and South Vietnamese stagger and then fight the enemy off. It's a military victory for the South—and a political and public-relations victory for the North. The high quality of Berent's reporting—as well as the professional insights that distinguished the earlier volumes— continues to make this one of the best Vietnam War fictional histories. Read full book review >
ROLLING THUNDER by Mark Berent
Released: May 22, 1989

Constrained by the peculiar restrictions of Lyndon Johnson's and Robert McNamara's rules of engagement, U.S. Air Force fighter pilots try to wage successful war in Vietnam in the middle of the 1960's—in this first novel from a combat veteran. In those days, just after Barry Goldwater had been laughed offstage for advocating large-scale bombing, President Johnson and his Secretary of Defense were attempting to cow Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese Army, and the Viet Cong with steadily advancing but highly restricted bombing raids. So involved was the President in the battle tactics that the bombing targets were designated by the Oval Office, having been selected one by one for political reasons. Here, the characters coping with this botched-up strategy are Courtland Bannister, a fighter pilot carving out a role for himself in the shadow of a very famous father; Toby Parker, something of a young Dan Quayle who stumbles on a passionate love for flying; and Wolf Lochert of the Special Forces, tough as nails and a superb soldier. Bannister has the political connections to shoot to the top, but he has postponed the glamour stuff for a tour of duty flying fighter missions out of Bien Hoa Air Base. The wealthy Parker could also have slipped out of any unpleasant duty, but curiosity has brought him to the front—where he attaches himself to the men flying forward air-control missions, guiding the fighters in on their combat runs from fragile little spotter planes. Lochert, a pure warrior with no Rambo excess, carries on his ground-level war, unaware that he is stalked by a fanatically devoted Viet Cong officer whose son Lochert executed without trial. There is a bit of romance when a charter flight is forced to spend the night at Bien Hoa, but it's believable enough; otherwise, this is all action. A fine effort. There is much detail, but the limited time (the book covers a single year of duty) and scope keep everything in sharp focus. With any luck this will be the first of a series. Read full book review >