Plodding retro thriller with a supervillainous Osama bin Laden—and an unintentionally funny supporting turn by the author himself.
After the slaughter of three valuable independent European agents for the US, National Security Advisor Dr. Simon Harrod recruits Major Peter Newman, a decorated Marine, for a new top-secret force of troubleshooters. It’s 1994 and the White House is overrun with Clinton types—soft ’60s leftists (Harrod himself is a “bloated and disheveled man in a two-thousand dollar Armani suit”). Harrod makes up his new team from a list of operatives with personal grievances against Middle Eastern terrorists—and Newman’s brother Jim, a Navy SEAL, was savagely killed in Mogadishu by followers of warlord Mohammed Aidid, whom he was pursuing. Appointing Newman jeopardizes Harrod’s already distant relationship with wife Rachel, who’s on the brink of an extramarital affair (but very guilty about it), but in he goes anyway to take up the old office of Oliver North and—and, after finding a secret file stashed inside the fireplace, contacts the exemplary North himself for advice. North discloses some eye-opening episodes from his time as alter ego William P. Goode. The targets of Newman’s special force, which includes spunky fighter pilot Major Jane Robinette, are Aidid, bin Laden, and other terrorists amassing nuclear arms. We learn that a cadre of Russians at the UN, led by gruff General Dimitri Komulakov, pulls the strings of these terrorist activities, even though Harrod unfortunately still thinks the Russians are our allies. Despite some eleventh-hour maneuvering by “William P. Goode,” Newman’s mission ends badly, though with acts of valor and the promise of two more volumes.
The vigor and candor of North’s memoir (Under Fire, 1991) are missing in this uneasy mix of fiction and fact, reducing both to predictable stereotypes and mainly offering summaries instead of action itself.