Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review+Excerpt: Dangerous Past by A. F. Ebbers

Suspense / Thriller
Title: Dangerous Past
Author: A.F. Ebbers

Date Published: 9/11/12 - ebook version

Airline Captain Frank Braden and his wife Nicole are suddenly stalked by professional assassins who have a deadline to make their deaths look like an accident or a suicide. And the couple doesn't know why they are being targeted. They don't realize that they stand in the way of a deadly conspiracy. Little by little they are pulled into a dangerous web of intrigue by a murderous criminal network that deceptvely offers the pilot his wife's life if he will concede to their demands. This is a thriller that rocks the highest levels of Washington.

First of all, I love suspense/thriller genre so I immediately thought I would like this book. The book started out intense as you shall see when you read part of the excerpt below. I enjoyed reading the book since I was trying to figure out what was going to happen next. But at times I found that I was waiting too long for more information to be revealed. *brain cramp* At parts I was so engaged that I was left breathless but some parts I felt left out. I really enjoyed reading the parts about Vietnam (especially since I am a fan of history). Oh which reminds me, A. E. did a good job weaving the historical and the present actions. I did notice development for Frank (the main character). It was nice to see an action book with good character development. A. E wrote those parts well that I felt I was in Vietnam. I think the book was a great first book from A. E.

Excerpt: Part of the Prologue


Vietnam 1967.

     Water poured from dirty clouds as though the South China Sea was overhead. An American army sergeant crouched in a 6-foot thicket of elephant grass and ferns ignored the raindrops cascading off the bill of his cap. He stiffened when he heard the distant sound of a vehicle engine. Reaching down to his webbed belt, he unsnapped the leather cover to a Colt .45-caliber pistol.
     A quarter mile away, the skinny imposter behind the wheel of the three-quarter ton Army truck never gave a thought to slowing down even though the downpour obstructed his vision and the underbrush threatened to swallow his only pathway.
     He bounced along the muddy trail in perpetual motion, much like his lifestyle, savoring the chameleon roles he played.
     Abruptly the trail ended, causing the driver to brake hard. The vehicle skidded on the wet ground into a clearing the size of a tennis court.  Several feet away a circular pond of black liquid stood out like a dark blotch on a green carpet. He had found the deep bomb crater four miles north of the Nha Trang airbase where his unit has been illegally dumping used aviation oil.
     Only three months ago as an Army CID agent, Jack Braden had posed as a dining facility sergeant at Ft. Benningflushing out details of a mysterious mess hall fire half a year earlier. It had been his best performance yet. Nobody had been happier than the cooks when the Army had to build an updated mess facility to replace the burned out ruins. But few would talk about it. So he stole a pickle jar containing $101 from a freezer. Military police were called in to investigate the theft of the party funds. The kitchen workers were more than willing to take lie detector tests to show that they didn’t steal the money.  
     The tests got results, especially when the lie detector operator asked, “Were you involved in the mess hall fire? Within the hour the arson case was solved. Now he was assigned to Vietnam, impersonating an enlisted aviation company clerk named Pat Burnside.  
     But he wasn’t within the safe confines of orderly room office now, and Jack hesitated before leaving the truck cab, looking carefully around the area. The last thing he wanted to see was another human face.  As he peered out the windshield at the desolation, his right heel tapped rapidly against the floorboard. He knew there were no sanctuaries in Vietnam and to him this locale looked about as safe as an isolated footpath in New York’s Central Park at midnight.
     In the dense foliage several feet from where Jack sat in his truck, a figure watched silently.
     After determining that he was alone, Jack turned off his engine, grabbed his M16 rifle and stepped down from the cab. The steady downpour had finally yielded to a clinging drizzle. He walked quickly to the rear of the vehicle and lowered the tailgate. Laying his weapon inside the truck body, he pulled several five-gallon metal cans from the canvas-covered interior and carried them two at a time to the edge of the pond. He was careful where he placed his feet. The crater, he was told was 10 to 12 feet deep and slipping into it would be like falling into quicksand.
     In a few minutes he carried the final two cans to the edge of the pond. Jack knew he could get the unit cited for improper disposal of used oil. But that would be inconsequential when compared to the real transgression he had uncovered. He reflected that not only the company but the whole damn country was the perfect place for those on the take.
     The concealed sergeant edged his big frame forward in a semi-crouch until the elephant grass snapped in protest. He froze, waiting for a reaction from Jack. There was none. Then he started moving again, violating the stillness of the area.
     To Jack, the initial noise had resembled wind rustling through leaves. Only there wasn’t any breeze at the moment.  The sound repeated itself.  Phillips dropped the oil cans and jerked upright. Heart pounding, he whirled and scanned the area. He listened intently, hearing only his own heavy breathing. Maybe it was a monkey, a bird or one of those fat-as-a-cat rodents that populated the country. The hair on his arms rose when he heard the sound again. Before he could dash back to the safety of his rifle, a familiar voice commanded, “Burnside.”
     The vegetation parted and he saw the maintenance sergeant who had ordered him to dispose of the oil. Beyond the path that the sergeant had made through the underbrush, Jack saw the silhouette of another figure sitting in a jeep. Since he had not heard the jeep motor he knew that they had arrived before him.
     “Jesus, you scared me.” Jack took a deep breath. “What brings you out here?”
     The sergeant stepped out into the open. His clothing clung to him like wet fur. He looked towards Jack but not directly at him. His eyes, devoid of expression, were focused on the agent’s forehead or perhaps just beyond. It was hard to tell.
     Jack started wiping his hands with an oil rag rapidly. The man standing before him, one of the suspects in his investigation and the most dangerous one, had once called Jack the most efficient clerk in the Army. Now he acted as if he knew Jack’s true identity.
     The sergeant, rigid, silent, thin lips remaining tight under a protruding nose, eyes still vacant, resembled a drenched, skin-covered robot.
      Jack snapped his fingers, “Dammit, I left a can in the truck.” But he got no further than his first step when the sergeant withdrew the pistol from his holster and mechanically slid the metallic housing on top of the barrel back and forth, chambering a round. Waving the pistol, he motioned for Jack to stop.
     In desperation, Jack looked toward the other figure in the jeep. He could faintly make out captain’s bars on the man’s uniform. But the officer turned his head away, leaving Jack as queasy as if he had inhaled a cheap cigar on an empty stomach. He again tried to make eye contact with the sergeant. “Hey, let’s talk. We can work something out.”
     The sergeant didn’t respond as he raised the pistol head-high, moving closer to Jack, trapping his victim between the pond and himself.
     “Think --- Don’t use that on me…” Jack spoke rapidly now, beseechingly, backing toward the oil pit and holding his arms out to ward off the assassin who was taking aim at Jack’s head. “DON’T SHOO-.”
     Jack’s words, hopes and future became history as the first of the two big slugs sent pieces of his skull flying.

A. F. Ebbers, a journalism graduate of Ohio University was a reporter/writer for major newspapers, ad agencies, and in public relations for Cessna Aircraft Company.  He also graduated from Army Flight School and flew for the Ohio and Kansas Army National Guards. Later he was called to active duty and served two flying tours in Vietnam. After retirement from the military, he flew for corporations and for regional airlines. A dual rated ATP pilot, he has written for numerous national magazines, Sunday supplements and trade and travel magazines and has written screenplays and short stories. Today he lives with his wife in the Austin, Texas area and, when not writing, enjoys tennis, flying and piano. Dangerous Past is his debut novel.

About writing.  I write realistically about what I have experienced.  Most of the places in this novel are real because I’ve been there: from Vietnam to Europe to Asia to Washington to Texas and most places in-between.  I create characters using a combination of real and imaginary personalities.  My motto for writing fiction is always write what you know.

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