Internal Security

by: David Darracott
published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Sometimes when I review a book I'm inclined toward a "good/bad" profile, and that's the case here. It's typically true when the book has both features that I have found particularly good, well-done, even surprising or outstanding, particularly when contrasted against others that I find to be distracting, unfortunate, poorly chosen or downright, well, bad.

This is one of those good/bad, hot/cold books. One minute I was a loving it, for its creativity, its smoothly flowing prose, its intriguing characters, and its plot that grabbed you on the first page and rarely let go of you.

The next, I was tempted to drop it when I came across a paragraph like this: "Half the listeners (to talk radio - and we all know who they are - my parenthesis) were ignorant, the other half were true believers, all following the rants and insults of a fat guy making tens of millions of dollars a year, all because he was willing to say absolutely anything for ratings. Think of it, millions of dollars (a) year and a worshipful following all for saying outrageous things, for repeating lies and rumors, the more outrageous and irresponsible the better."

Now, granted, these are supposed to be the mullings of our hero, small-beat newspaper reporter Tom Darden, as he drives toward a hotel fire in the Daytona area. Still, I find this kind of preaching a) unnecessary and b) off-putting.

It is also true that the plot turns out to center on some evil-doing high up in the government, of which this hotel fire is but a small symptom. What was more interesting to me was that as much as the plot was about the shenanigans of covert ops, including enhanced methods of inquisition (i.e., waterboarding and the like), it could just as easily have been written apolitically and have been every bit as exciting and as convincing a thriller.

Come again?

Well, bad guys don't have to be "The War Hawk" (read: Dick Cheney) to be BAD.

In a recent gathering of a writers' group to which I belong, a writer submitted a chapter of his alternate history of the VietNam War novel. I've been enthusiastic about the book from his first submission. In this most recent chapter, however, he introduces us to a roomful of mustache-twirling politicians who snicker at the idea of women and children being killed. To a reviewer, we all agreed that the writer had spent far too much time gleefully pointing a finger at the bad guys and reminding us of how awfully, terribly, horribly evil they are, with no redeeming features, without a shred of humanity - and frankly, without an ounce of believability.

He admitted that he thought all politicians were a**holes. And his prose screamed it, loud and clear. He admitted that he had let his feelings get in the way of his writing.

What's wrong with that? Nothing, in real life. But in novels, readers are usually - unless they're reading fairy tales - looking for a little more complexity in their characters, good guys and bad guys. They want to see the good guys struggle against human flaws and frailty, and the bad guys struggle with a humane impulse or two. Believe it or not, it makes them all the more evil when they really have a choice to do right or do wrong, and they actively choose the wrong. It's hard to feel anything but sorry for a person who's so totally crazed he can only choose evil.

Moreover, if there really is a Cabal pulling the puppet strings of hidden world government, it's far more likely to be a group of people who don't much care about the Left-Right of politics - in Darracott's book it is predictably the Right/Conservatives who are the secret coven sniggering over the cauldron of poisonous power - than those who openly care about the outcome of elections and the direction of the visible government.

 Getting back to the writer's trick of labeling characters he wants us to recognize without naming names - he calls them The Great Man, or the aforementioned War Hawk, and other fairly easy to parse capitalized nicknames. Again, he knocks the legs out from under what is otherwise a truly exciting and intriguing story by making sure that we know he's implicating real people in a version of history that he's otherwise inventing.

And I return to my main point: the story could very easily have stood on its own.

Subtracting the references to real people and situations, Darracott has created a world situation in which one small-time reporter, armed with the double blades of honesty and duty to his dying father, has stumbled out of sheer desperation onto a plot that threatens to overwhelm him, not to mention the rest of the world. But at the same time, he falls into the company of a woman, Linda, who has as much pluck as she does beauty, and her belief in him, and the truth, keep him digging for the answers, even when his own life is on the line.

His investigations end up getting him exiled to the Middle East, which, as luck would have it, is exactly where he needs to be to get at the heart of the matter. Embedded with troops, he takes one too many risks and ends up jailed, but not before he discovers the atrocities that his own fellow countrymen have committed.  And there, he learns just how complicated the scheme of the power behind the power really is, and how many innocent pawns are being swept off the chessboard without understanding what's really at stake.

If you're already convinced that the Right is the source of all evil, and the Left is the keeper of the Truth, then you will enjoy this book without skipping a beat. If you're not so sure, you'll probably feel much as I did - it's a darn good yarn, smeared with just a little bit too much politicking for its own good.


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