BRAVO ROMEO by Ralph Peters


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Despite a familiar revenge plot, some artsy prose, and a hero whose particular snarl (Vietnam-vet, macho, disillusioned) has long since become a clichÉ, this is nonetheless a good, sharp, fast-paced suspense debut. Nearing age 40, Jack Thorne is a US Army intelligence agent in Greece, undercover as a bitter Viet-vet poet, when he gets a tip about perking leftwing terrorism at the US Army base at Bad Sickingen, Germany. And sure enough, almost immediately comes news of 22 fatalities from a bombing at the Bad Sickingen commissary. So off goes Thorne to mingle with the local young German leftists: he hooks up with plump, plain Maria and quickly finds himself on the run with her--""the biggest manhunt in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany""--after her lover has been killed in a bloody frame-up by the local German cops. Is it possible, Thorne wonders, that those vicious fascist cops also set the Army base bomb--to stir up anti-leftist feelings? He vows ""to come back here and fucking well crucify the sonsabitches,"" has sex on the road with Maria (""he gave his wonderpain answer to the shuddering of her liquid-velvet belly""), and reaffirms his vengeance vow--""It's not over, cocksucker""--when the Germans kill Maria but send him back to Greece. The book's second half, then, is Thorne's mission to kill those German cops, who are indeed part of a rightwing plot to turn Germany against leftwingers: there's a circuitous path back into Germany via Istanbul (a sex-and-dope interlude); the discovery of a dead body; and the realization that those same rightwing cops are about to fake another leftist atrocity--the assassination of NATO's Chief, which a badly wounded Thorne manages to prevent. . . even though he hates the Chief (clearly a portrait of Alexander Haig). No, you won't find much originality in the plotting here. And you'll wince once every couple of pages at Peters' strainings for poetic verbiage or at Thorne's tedious polemics (""Fuck being a soldier, fuck the Chief, fuck all politics and countries""). But when he isn't trying too hard, Peters writes with lean vividness and has a natural feel for international action; a flawed but vigorous first novel of suspense, then, with promise of better things to come.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1981
Publisher: Marek--dist. by Putnam