Teheran nukes Baghdad; Kabul eyes Teheran; Soviet expansionism revives; an admiral wimps out; American paratroopers plummet; and a for-hire air force takes off. It's another day in the Middle East. Okay, Baghdad may be the bully rather than the victim in real life, but the rest of the local southwestern Asian politics is depressingly possible. Here, first-novelist Skinner casts a power-hungry Soviet air-force general as the subversive mastermind who moves the pieces around the chessboard as he plots to dismember a drastically weakened post-Ayatollah Iran. His secret weapon is hideously scarred air-ace Col. Paranov. Paranov's ambition, before becoming king of a bit of old Persia, is to shoot out of the sky Mr. Bobby Dragon, the American whose missile found Paranov's plane over the skies of Vietnam years ago. And it looks as if he will have his chance. Dragon has helped to organize--and is about to lead a flight of--the Free World's best pilots against the Afghan and Soviet jets controlling the skies over Iran. For political reasons, First Air, Dragon's air force, is off the books and is supposed to be a deep, dark secret, but everybody including Paranov knows what's up as the air battle looms. Before the missiles fly again between the two aces, however, Dragon needs to find out why it is his megabazillionaire Middle Eastern host, a Persian-Arabian island pirate prince, seems to be hiding his own secret nuclear weapon. Zoom. Bang. Pow. Blooey. No mushy stuff.