Special Access

The ramblings and ruminations of suspense-thriller novelist, Mark A. Hewitt

Month: December 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

More Book Signing Questions–Bill McGee

In the Duncan Hunter books, Captain William McGee, U.S. Navy SEAL, retired, is a major composite character. I met a few Navy SEALs at the Naval War College but none were more impressive than our class president. We talked shop and careers and avoided operational stuff. We didn’t talk politics. We played a little racquetball–well, one of us did. I swear the man could do everything well, except play racquetball. His Schwarzenegger physique, culled from hours in the weight room, telegraphed his athletic prowess, his ability to survive in the most difficult of conditions, as well as his lethality. People would think he was Schwarzenegger’s Predator character without the make up and the crazy helmet. Nightmarish bad.

Readers of Special Access are introduced to my very special SEAL. As Duncan Hunter learned, Captain Bill McGee was the most decorated special operations warrior in special operations history. He was Special Operations Command 9-1-1 response. When America needed bad guys eliminated or neutralized, they’d call McGee. Finding and killing the enemies of America was his specialty. McGee has tremendous interest in airplanes as he was the son of one of the original WWII Tuskegee Airmen. McGee was disqualified from becoming a pilot because of poor color and distance vision, so he became a SEAL. He also liked to blow up stuff. An explosives expert.

I gave him tiny round eyeglass lenses to give him the air of being incredibly smart as if he were a scholar. There was nothing he couldn’t do, except one thing. When America needed him most, after 9/11, he couldn’t find the master terrorist Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan. When the CIA personally blamed him for failing to find Osama bin Laden, McGee was relieved of command and removed from Special Operations Command. No one really knew why the legendary Navy SEAL was sent packing to the Naval War College. The master of his profession, his 35-year career wasn’t supposed to end as a student. With his professional life in tatters, McGee invites Hunter to sit with him in the auditorium. In a business where he had few friends, he lowered his defenses and he and Hunter become fast friends. McGee didn’t know it then, but he couldn’t have found a truer friend. And friends always come running when there is trouble.

More to follow.

More Book Signing Questions–Greg Lynche

During book signings, I’m often asked, “Who are your characters?” After I describe the main protagonist in my books, I talk about Greg Lynche.

The genesis of the Greg Lynche character begins with some CIA aviation history. After the shoot down of Gary Powers’ U-2 over the Soviet Union in 1960, President Eisenhower first denied an American had been shot down and then was embarrassed when the pilot of the U-2 was alive and was paraded in front of the world. The head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, was forced to publically announce a prohibition of direct manned overflights over Russia. Satellite surveillance was still in its infancy and could only do so much, and the prohibition of manned surveillance flights complicated the nation’s ability to gather intelligence.
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The answer was unmanned aerial systems, or in today’s media-approved vernacular, “drones.” In the Duncan Hunter books, Greg Lynche is charged to develop better unmanned aerial surveillance systems up to the point of when he is required by law to retire. The Lynche character knows the state of unmanned systems development, and also knows there is a big, giant gaping hole between the state of technology to reliably operate unmanned systems over hostile territories and what was the “best demonstrated and available technology.” His estimation was there was a fifteen year gap; that he reported the information to the Director of Central Intelligence, who said words to the effect, “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.” In other words, Lynche hadn’t been helpful. With a change in the Administration (and a change in the DCI) a retired Greg Lynche pondered if the CIA would consider an “unsolicited proposal” from a contractor. The proposal highlighted the CIA’s growing need for intelligence gathering by overflights when satellites and ground surveillance were insufficient, and the contract would only run through until the CIA was able to develop and deploy their unmanned assets. With a growing need for intel and “drone technology” some 15 years away, the CIA awarded a contract to Greg Lynche and his little company.

Enter Duncan Hunter and the incredible Lockheed YO-3A, serial number 007. The little motorized glider had been saved from the scrapheap by Greg Lynche. Built under a top secret US Army program, the long-winged airplane is aurally stealthy and is able to do things that satellites are incapable of doing and is able to go places where unmanned systems cannot. Hunter is the pilot while Lynche functions as the sensor operator. Only those with a need to know are aware of 007’s existence and capabilities. And as I am fond of saying at book signings, if James Bond had been a pilot, the super-quiet YO-3A—number 007—would’ve been his airplane.
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More to follow.

More Book Signing Questions–Nazy Cunningham

During book signings, I’m often asked, “Who are your characters?” After I describe the main protagonist in my books, I talk about his love interest. Duncan Hunter’s number one girl is Nazy Cunningham. She was born in Amman, Jordan to a Jordanian lawyer and an Iranian royal, a close relative of the Shah of Iran. Like her mother, Nazy is a striking beauty with platinum green eyes, with “the best legs east of the Mississippi,” and smile that generates enough electricity to power Los Angeles. She grew up in Great Britain and is a Yale lawyer, like her father, and she has a little “dark side” to her. She’s described as a former Muslim apologist, previously married to a nasty Muslim man, and was forced to become a Muslim spy. I wanted her to be the female equivalent of Whittaker Chambers; someone who came to realize that they had embraced an ideology that was destructive and lethal. When Chambers realized he had to escape communism or be killed, he bundled up his family and ran away. Nazy had a similar epiphany with respect to Islam, she ran away from an abusive husband and worked to break the bonds of Islam. Whittaker Chambers not only broke the bonds of communism and essentially, defected, then he became a whistleblower, and worked for the government to expose the traitors working in government–in this case, the master spy, Alger Hiss.

Duncan Hunter and Nazy have had a complicated relationship. He “turned” the women who was sent to spy on him into one of the CIA’s most effective analysts and intelligence officers. She finds terrorists where no one would think to look for them. Nazy also becomes a master interrogator, and interrogates the nastiest of the GITMO detainees. After she is through with the worst of the worst, she leaves the captured al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders a sobbing and whimpering mess.

Her stunning swimsuit-model looks, British accent, and total focus on finding and eliminating Islamic extremists leaves the men with whom she works incoherent, stammering, and captivated fools. Hunter cannot let go of the woman who has proved to be the love of his life, despite her tendencies to get him into significant trouble without her realizing it. Nazy’s job is at CIA headquarters in Washington DC; Duncan lives in Texas. The two of them rarely share the secrets of the Agency for fear of losing their clearances. But they cannot live without each other. Whenever they get the opportunity to reunite, sparks fly.
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More to follow.

More Headlines–Man Dies After Being Sucked Into Aircraft Engine

NEW DELHI (AP) — Airport and airline authorities in India on Thursday began investigating the death of a technician who was sucked into an aircraft engine at an airport in Mumbai. The Air India chief said the accident happened when the plane was being moved from an airport gate. A pilot misinterpreted a signal and switched on the plane’s engine. A maintenance engineer was working on equipment used to push back the aircraft when he was sucked into the engine and killed instantly.

This is exactly the problem our hero Duncan Hunter and Bill McGee were trying to avoid. After rescuing an aircraft that had been hijacked, Hunter and McGee are scrambling to get off the jet.

From No Need to Know: They raced to get off the jet. A second engine was started and brought up to idle while the external position lights were turned on, floodlights illuminated the six-story tail. Hunter envisioned the pilot and copilot tearing through their checklists to get the Airbus off the ground as soon as they could.
After closing the emergency hatch and gathering their parachutes, Hunter and McGee ran amidships and slid down the fuselage and onto the wing. The inboard engine was started and rumbled to life under their feet as they scrambled across the left wing. When they reached the end of the wing, Hunter and McGee strung their parachutes over the wingtip and rappelled to the ground, shimmying down their canopies and shroud lines until their feet touched the reinforced asphalt. A flick of the lines and the canopies pulled away from the wingtip and fell to earth. As they gathered their parachutes, the engine closest to them began its start sequence. Hunter and McGee ran for their lives as the massive engines spooled to high power. The engine closest to them could have easily sucked the men off their feet and into its twelve-foot wide intake had they lingered in its danger zone.

Well clear of the aircraft, Hunter and McGee slowed to a walk and continued side by side toward the terminal. After a few dozen steps, Hunter stopped and turned toward the unmistakable sound of four Rolls-Royce turbofan engines being programmed to takeoff thrust. McGee followed his lead and they watched the airliner lumber down the remaining length of the 11,000-foot runway. With a light fuel load and a gentle headwind, The Nigerian Queen quickly lifted off, retracted the gear, and turned to the east. A minute after liftoff, the airport was again quiet and dark. Standing on the taxiway between the airport terminal and the runway, it was hot and muggy, and peaceful. The lights of the Airbus quickly disappeared over the horizon. McGee and Hunter stood stone still and silent. They realized they were sweating profusely.

As Hunter realized what they had accomplished, he turned to his friend and then looked skyward. He saw clear skies and the dizzying Milky Way in all of its glory. McGee joined him in scanning the skies, and after several moments, turned and pounded Hunter’s chest eagerly. With a broad smile and pride in his eyes he said, “I have to say, good sir, that was well done.”

More to follow.

Book Signing Questions

One question that comes up often is, “What is your book about?” To describe Special Access I say, “There is a CIA file that proves the President is not who he claims to be and the hero releases the file to Congress and the media.” That usually generates a sarcastic or a sly comment, and a book sale. For Shoot Down I usually say, “There’s a CIA file that proves the United States is being blackmailed by an unknown terrorist, that if the US doesn’t release some criminals in jail and pay a ransom, a commercial airliner will be shot out of the sky every 48 hours.” With a still-missing Malaysian airliner and an Russian aircraft recently shot down, more questions come my way. Women are drawn to the cover more than men. Then for No Need to Know, I offer, “There is an old pre-CIA file that has the locations of the missing Nazi artwork and gold, and there is a Russian billionaire that wants to make a trade–stolen suitcase nuclear devices for the missing artwork. Of course the CIA doesn’t know they have the locations and it’s a mad scramble to find the treasure before the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, finds it.” I get much positive feedback regarding the cover. The guys like it more than the gals.

Then I’m asked, “Who are your characters?” The main protagonist in my books is named Drew Duncan Hunter but everyone calls him Duncan. A few call him by his call sign: Maverick. Hunter was a poor smart kid with an uncanny knack for solving complex problems as well as being the luckiest man on the planet. When you are introduced to his love interest, you’ll know why. He rose through the ranks of the Marine Corps to become a top fighter pilot when one day he was forced to eject from a crippled jet. A shattered body and a lengthy rehabilitation removed him from the world of flying supersonic aircraft. He is still able to fly small general aviation aircraft. One day he meets a man who changes his life. He was bought into the fold of the CIA as a contract pilot, supporting some of the Agency’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions. His initial cover was serving with the US Border Patrol and as a university professor. He and his new business fly into the heart of where terrorists live, operate and flourish. He is driven to fight evil, whether his choice of ends and means be right or wrong. The experience and lessons learned from those who escaped communism and Islam as well as those who embrace liberalism have shaped his politics. He doesn’t suffer liberals (or communists) well, with the exception of the uber-liberal Lynche, whom he idolizes.

More to follow.

Book Review at the Book Signing

The most memorable book review I’ve received came from a nice lady that visited the International Spy Museum. She indicated she had read No Need to Know. She said she was very mad with me with my handling of Duncan Hunter.

From the synopsis: The political awakening of Duncan Hunter continues as he battles radical fundamentalists across the globe, he thwarts the terrorists’ best plans and eliminates their leaders. He survived their latest attempts to kill him when he’s finally cornered, captured, and dragged to an al-Qaeda lair. Inside lurks certain doom at the hand of his bitterest foe.

So Hunter is held prisoner in the al-Qaeda safe house, a place where beheading videos are produced. When she came to a particular related part in the book, she said she screamed “NOOOOOOO!” and threw the book to the floor. She said she curled up in her chair, recoiled from the horror, and didn’t pick it up for several minutes. She said she had never experienced such a visceral reaction when reading any other book. She shook my hand and told me, “You are a great writer. Can’t wait for the next one.” And then she said, “But don’t do that to me again!”

Absolutely made my day.

More to follow.

Book Review of No Need To Know

From the Midwest Book Review. Critique: Impressively well written, “No Need To Know” is a deftly crafted thriller from beginning to end and showcases author Mark A. Hewitt as an exceptionally talented writer of the first order. Very highly recommended for community library collections, “No Need To Know” will prove to be an enduringly popular addition. Simply stated, “No Need To Know” is the stuff of which block buster movies are made!

I think they liked it.
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More to follow.

Man Claims TSA Failed to Detect his Gun & Duncan Hunter

Man claims TSA failed to detect his gun, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A man says he discovered that his unloaded gun was in his backpack when he arrived in Chicago from Atlanta on Southwest Airlines. The Transportation Security Administration is investigating the incident. “If we find that standard procedures were not adhered to, we will retrain employees as necessary to ensure compliance with standard operating procedures,” the agency said in a statement.

From Shoot Down: Duncan Hunter had seen it all before and in the book, is lecturing his students. “Right. Now here’s a little known fact, you’re not going to read about it in any unclassified document. From 1994 up until the time the government federalized passenger screening—the Transportation Security Administration, TSA—a curious and unreported thing happened at airports all across the country. Let’s call them ‘Eastern looking’ men and women; they applied for jobs at the contracted airport security companies that provided the baggage screening—they were called pre-board screeners. These companies primarily provided people that worked the x-ray machines when you go through airport security. In addition to Kennedy and Boston Logan, ‘Eastern looking’ men and women were also working at the Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Miami, Memphis, and LAX airports providing airport security.”
Several students displayed shock or a painful expression at the information. Hunter had their attention.
“I have it on good authority,” Hunter continued, his voice more husky; becoming more serious, “That when the FBI confiscated the concourse security tapes of those eight airports on 9/11 they were astonished to see several of those ‘box cutters’ clearly visible on the x-ray tapes with ‘Eastern-looking’ men passing through the magnetometer at the same time as their carry-ons were being processed through the x-ray machines. And… no… one…stopped… them.” Hunter made quotation marks using his fingers when he said, “Eastern looking men.”
Every student sat subdued, incredulousness registered across their faces and demeanor. “Yeah, those tapes also showed something else. In every case, the tapes revealed there was an ‘Eastern looking’ man or woman, the women wore a hijab or a head scarf, as the x-ray machine operator. From the security tapes it was apparent those x-ray operators identified their buddies queued in the security line. Every one of them checked their watches at a certain time. When the x-ray machine operators identified ‘Eastern looking’ men queuing for the security line, every one of those x-ray machine operators began to focus very intently on their x-ray machines. They never looked up until after five ‘Eastern looking’ men had passed through the magnetometer, picked up their bags from the x-ray machine, and headed down the concourse. And, then the most amazing thing happened on 9/11.” Hunter continued to make quotation marks using his fingers every time he said, “Eastern looking men.”
“Within fifteen minutes after those ‘Eastern looking’ men passed through the magnetometer and picked up their bags, every one of those ‘Eastern looking’ x-ray machine operators asked to be relieved from their posts. Some just up and left their x-ray machine, and never returned to work.”

Maybe something to think about.

More to follow.

Last Book Signing of the Year

Another successful book signing at the International Spy Museum completed and in the can. Many copies of Special Access, Shoot Down, and No Need to Know were dedicated and autographed, and are going to be unwrapped for Christmas–and at least one birthday. Met a number of military men and women, the spouses of our guys and ladies in uniform, as well as a few police officers and a troop of Boy Scouts. All around, some good people and patriots, and fine Americans.

A hat tip to the Museum employees who helped make it all possible. They were always professional and helpful, and took great care of me. I never ran out of water but we did run out of books–it was a very good day. Again, thank you and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

More to follow.

Yes, there’s a little aviation history in my books, Part 2

By far the one post which received the most comments was, “Yes, there’s a little aviation history in my books….” I would have not ever expected this. I suppose my readers, like me, have always been nuts about airplanes, jets, and helicopters.

As an Air Force brat, I learned aviation history as I lived it. One of the first airplanes I saw and flew in was the venerable DC-3. It was 1962 and my family was on the move from Colorado to West Germany. PanAm 707 from New York to Europe. For a seven year old, that was an adventure. And then an East German MiG flew over our house, only to be chased back across the border by American fighters, and somehow I knew I was living in the greatest time of aviation. I built plastic models of WWI and WWII airplanes as a kid. Anything I could get my hands on. I would do anything to get my hands on a real airplane.

That was over 50 years ago and after 50 years later, I still think that period in my life was the greatest time to be in or be interested in aviation. Think U-2s, F-100s/F101s/F104s/F-4s, Boeing 707s. Before the decade was over America put a man on the moon, launched the SR-71, flew the X-15 to the edge of space, and rolled out the 747; while the French flew their Concorde and even the USSR put into the skies their SST version. And let’s not forget the astounding XB-70. Today’s kids are not interested in taking glider lessons to get their pilot’s license, instead they cannot wait to play with tiny remote control helicopters in the mall. It’s not the same.

Later on, some of my friends were more interested in sniffing model glue than using it to build airplane and car models. They went off to do stupid destructive things with their life, and I went off to the Marine Corps, to work on and fly inside helicopters (at first) and then some airplanes. Helicopters like the heavy-lift cargo CH-53, the nimble Search and Rescue UH-1N Huey; airplanes like the T-28 Trojan and the C-117D–think “Super DC-3.” I was purely apolitical. Aviation is apolitical, right?

My favorite aircraft is still the F-4 Phantom II fighter. I was struck dumb and mute at first sight of that jet. Up close it was huge, imposing, and intimidating. As long as a semi with a forty-foot trailer. I made a commitment to one day fly the magnificent aluminum animal with the funny bent wings. I was sure the men who flew them must have been some kind of gods. Every opportunity I had to see the big bad jets, I took it. And then on December 7, 1984 I received my wings of gold, those of a Naval Aviator, and I was off to get my F-4 Phantom ticket punched. My friends from high school refused to believe the guy they hung out with at school was flying a jet while they were doing something else, less glamorous.

Readers of this blog have learned I’d write a little bit about pilots and planes and spies. I was intrigued with the notion of why couldn’t there be a pilot that was also a spy? The case of Gary Powers, shot down over the USSR, seemed to be a good start to develop a character for a book. I learned about the CIA and the special purpose airplanes they had built for their use. The pilot in my books had to be actively “involved” in secret missions. In the air and on the ground. This is how the idea for my protagonist and hero, Duncan Hunter, came about.

If you read my books, you’ll notice there are actual airplanes few people have heard of. Some have been lost to history. The quiet YO-3As, a special-built “racer” Beechcraft Staggerwing, even a Bugatti fall into that category. Only a handful of “special purpose” aircraft were built. Everyone knows about the SR-71 and maybe the U-2, but when only 11 YO-3As were built and flown for a very short period, hardly anyone even knows they exist. The folks at the Quiet Aircraft Association knows all about the publicity-free YO-3A and the Quiet Thruster family of powered gliders. Aviation history. Oh yeah, the YO-3As were introduced into Vietnam in 1969. The greatest decade in aviation. My timing was great.

More to follow.

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