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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Task Force Desperate by Peter Nealen

Hello again, Two-Fisted Blogees! As you can see, I'm running late, or I would have had this review up on Veteran's Day. Oh well, most days are Veteran's Day here on the Two-Fisted Blog and at Virtual Pulp Press, anyway.

I have good news for you: I have more competition, which means we have more guns-blazing fiction to consume. I'm officially announcing the debut of two-fisted novelist Peter Nealen, who has just burst on the scene with the military thriller Task Force Desperate. Here's Nealen's pitch:

Written by a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Task Force Desperate is the gritty, fast-paced beginning of a new series of military thrillers.

Jeff Stone and his team of Praetorian Security contractors are marking time on counter-piracy duty aboard a freighter in the Gulf of Aden when the boredom ends abruptly. A major US base on the Horn of Africa is overrun in a well-coordinated terrorist attack, and those base personnel who survive are taken hostage. With the world economy tanked, and most of the Western militaries dangerously thinned, the Praetorian operators find themselves to be the hostages' only hope of rescue.
The mission wasn't going to be simple, or easy. But as events in East Africa accelerate, and outside players start to show their hand, the Praetorian shooters start to realize just what a desperate gamble they are embarked upon, and what this particular job is going to cost...

One unique aspect of this novel is that it's narrated in first-person. Not much military fiction I can think of does that. Well, not any, to tell the truth. And since I've drawn attention to the writing itself already, I'll add that this is a very well-written book--way, way, way above average in this age of self-publishing. Jeff Stone (call sign: "Hillbilly"), the narrator/main character, has a voice well-suited for this sort of tale.

The good guys in this novel are mercs; the bad guys are pirates and terrorists (which can be said for my novel-in-progress, too, sort of. Here I was gloating that I'd get a modernday pirate story published before Jack Murphy does, then out of nowhere comes this Nealen dude and beats me to the punch. Ahem). Jeff is a contractor in a PMC working in the third world's hottest spot, along with some other seasoned professionals. The story takes place in the near future, after the collapse of the US dollar, and the chaos in North Africa and the Middle East is probably no worse than it is back in the US. You get the idea that the Praetorian Security shooters are orphans of a sort; men without a country. They choose to live by the sword because they like the warrior life, but also because there's nothing to go back to...nothing else left for them. It bonds them into a tightly-knit unit...almost a family. That's the impression I got.

You won't be disappointed in the action. There is tension on every page from cover to cover and it only gets higher as the plot drives on. Through no fault of the book, I had to read it piecemeal over a period of weeks, and yet I consider it a fast read. And the details were right.

When I wrote my debut novel, also a military thriller, I was shooting for the feel of the old paramilitary paperbacks, combined with believable characters, accurate details and plausible action (none of which was evident in most of those novels from the heyday of men's fiction), told at grunt's-eye-view. I had never found any such book up to that point, and believe me, I tried! Looking at the new wave of military fiction, however, this very form of hybrid I described seems to be a trend growing in popularity--possibly because so many of the new action/adventure authors are veterans. They want to make a buck just as much as the old cigar-smoking mid-list genre writers banging at their typewriters in a Manhattan efficiency apartment did, but there remains a level of pride in their former profession which compels them to sweat the details.

They want to get it right.

Pete Nealen strikes me as just such an author; and he did get it right. I recommend Task Force Desperate to everyone who likes military fiction.


  1. I can't wait to read Peter's book! Don't worry Hank, I won't be getting to pirates for years if at all. I got a couple books planned after Target Deck, no pirates!

  2. MUAHAHAHAHA! First I will corner the market on anti-pirate paramilitary fiction; and then...and then...ah, nevermind.

    I think you'll enjoy this one, Jack.

    Are your post-Target Deck projects more Deckard novels?

    1. Definitely, PROMIS: Lebanon and then the third Deckard novel. Right now I'm writing this non-fiction book about what went down in Libya.


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