I first read Cauldron in high school, and at the time, I remember that it didn’t make as much of an impact on me that Red Storm Rising, Red Phoenix, or even Vortex did. A new war in Central Europe seemed somewhat more far-fetched at the time than chaos in Africa or East Asia. (I was in high school; I didn’t know nearly as much as I might have thought that I did.) But in prep for Maelstrom Rising, I picked Cauldron back up. And I’ve got to say, Larry Bond was a lot more prescient than he seemed, back in ’93. While the general scenario in Cauldron is the French and Germans enforcing their economic hegemony over Eastern and Central Europe by force of arms, effectively forming the European Union at gunpoint (referred to as the European Confederation, or EurCon in the novel), the fault lines that lead to the scenario are even now playing out, only slightly differently.
By the beginning of the Maelstrom Rising series, the global order as it has existed since shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact is disintegrating. This is happening for reasons cultural, political, and economic. Culturally, the European Union is already fracturing as this is written. There is no “European Identity,” no matter how hard the EU Parliament has attempted to enforce it, and the influx of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa has been a source of friction in France for decades, even before the more recent push to accept hundreds of thousands from Syria, which has resulted in an uptick of terror attacks, to include truck attacks on Christmas markets and other crowds in Germany. An increasingly large segment of the populace of Western Europe is beginning to resent the imposition of the will of the elites, most evident in the Yellow Vest protests in France, which began over gas taxes, but became much wider in scope, including over President Macron’s signing of the UN resolution declaring unfettered migration as a fundamental human right, despite the majority of Frenchmen opposing such a treaty.
While the first-person narrative of the Maelstrom Rising series will limit each book or phase to a particular theater, the events of the series will have global scope. The interconnectedness of current global politics and economics mean that when the order breaks down in one place, there will be ripples elsewhere. And multiple simultaneous such breakdowns lead to the perfect storm that is Maelstrom Rising. The events in East Asia and the Western Pacific during this series will be rooted in current trends already happening over the last ten years or more. While most open focus has been on China and North Korea (which will be dealt with in later installments of this article series), this article will look at the near future of Japan. Specifically, the near future of Japan as a military power.
The idea for my current work in progress came a couple years back. It involved a complete breakdown in what we have come to consider the “global world order” since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the paradigm shift represented by Operation Desert Storm (though the whirlwind victory and subsequent return to the status quo represented by that short-lived war turned out to be more of a fluke than a lasting reality, despite it forming the basis for most of Tom Clancy’s post-Cold-War fiction). While the American Praetorian series had already represented some of a similar model of breakdown, it was largely focused on the continuing war against jihadism, and that war’s unintended consequences. This is something different.
What started as a rescue mission turns into a bloody shadow war! The primary US base on the Horn of Africa has fallen. America’s overseas assets have been allowed to slip. Now the survivors’ only hope is a group of hard-bitten, veteran contractors, who are willing to go into the hell of East Africa on a rescue mission. It is Praetorian Security’s baptism of fire. And the first steps they take in a shadow fight against jihadists, pirates, terrorists…and worse. With little more than grit, determination, and sheer, unadulterated ruthlessness, they wade into the growing conflagration that is the Middle East, hell-bent on taking the fight to enemies that their own country often won’t even acknowledge. And along the way, they start to draw the curtain back on even darker forces at work… Task Force Desperate, Hunting in the Shadows, and Alone and Unafraid are now collected into a single set, for a price only about two-thirds of the collected cover prices. No, I’m afraid that it’s not a physical box set. The production cost would be too high, at this point in time. If the ebook bundle sells enough, maybe it can be looked into. Maybe. I’m not even
I’ve had to do some research into possible near-future weapons systems for a couple of series, now. If you’ve read The Colonel Has A Plan, you might have noticed that the Marines under Colonel John Brannigan are using M27s and LSAT machineguns instead of the current M4s and M249s or M240s. Similarly, the Marines at Camp David in Lex Talionis are armed with M27s. Now, arming Marines with M27s is an easy choice, since the Marine Corps recently announced a wider deployment of the glorified HK 416s, but it touches on a common theme when writing near-future military fiction. Including new weapons and gear that isn’t necessarily in common use yet helps to establish your setting.
Today is the day. Doctors of Death is live, on Kindle and paperback (and the two editions are already linked, somewhat to my surprise). Missing Persons, Dead Villagers, and a Sinister Cabal When a WHO doctor goes missing in Chad, her husband is ready to move heaven and earth to find her. But most of his pleas fall on deaf ears. It’s Africa. These things happen. But his pleas eventually reach the shadowy office that arranges jobs for Brannigan’s Blackhearts. They’re headed into Central Africa, on another rescue mission. But there’s more to this than meets the eye. A private military kingpin named Mitchell Price is sniffing around Chad at the same time. Entire villages are being wiped out by mysterious plagues. And an ominously familiar group of Western shooters has showed up, both in Chad and at home. As a few people have noticed, Kill Yuan is now officially part of the Brannigan’s Blackhearts universe. Doctors of Death is also something of a minor climax to the arc started in Enemy Unidentified; some things are coming to a head, and some answers are going to be revealed. Only to lead to more questions, of course. Check it out! I
One of the fun parts about writing stories about a group of covert mercenaries is that they don’t have a standard loadout. So, I get to include all sorts of weaponry for the Blackhearts themselves, as well as their adversaries, or just the locals they have to steer clear of. Hence, we have the traditional gun porn post for each new volume, and Doctors of Death is indeed no slouch. The team gets a little split up in this one, with one element in Africa, and the other having to operate Stateside. Since the FN FAL is still in service with the Chadian National Army, Brannigan picks the FAL for their primary in Africa, though Van Zandt ends up getting the “Inch FAL,” the L1A1, for them instead. The measurements are different, but the L1A1 and FAL both use the 7.62 NATO round, though the magazines are slightly different. Fortunately, he included plenty of mags in the supply drop.
The sound of crying echoed through the house. The place wasn’t even fully furnished yet, and Carlo Santelli had to cringe a little at just how loud Carlo Junior could get, particularly in some of the emptier rooms. He almost didn’t hear the phone. Part of that was because of Carlo Junior’s wails, part of it was his own deafness in the aftermath of trying to walk the little tyke to quiet again. He’d failed miserably, and Melissa had come and taken the baby, leaving Santelli feeling frustrated and helpless again. So, he wasn’t in the best frame of mind when he snatched up the phone and answered it without looking at the screen. “What?” “Rough day, Carlo?” Brannigan asked dryly. Santelli pressed his lips together and cussed himself silently but thoroughly. He really wasn’t cut out for this family life, and it was taking its toll. Or so he told himself. “Sorry, sir,” he said. “The baby’s colicky, and he’s being a royal…a handful.” “You’re even trying to watch your language,” Brannigan said, sounding congratulatory. “You’re truly becoming a family man, Carlo.” “I’m afraid I’m not doing that great a job at it, sir,” Santelli said. “Knowing you, you’re
“You’ve been rather elusive lately, John.” John Brannigan cupped his hands around his coffee mug and looked across the table levelly at Mark Van Zandt. General, USMC, Retired Mark Van Zandt. “I live in the mountains, Mark,” he said. “It’s not like cell service is all that regular up there.” Van Zandt didn’t react, at least not by much. He’d gotten better at that, but Brannigan could still read him like a book. He was pissed. It was written in every faint line of his movie-poster Marine face, above his usual polo shirt and khakis. Unlike Van Zandt, Brannigan had shed most of the Marine Corps’ appearance upon his forcible retirement several years before. A forcible retirement, he remembered all over again, that had been enforced by the very man sitting across from him at the table in the Rocking K diner. Still big and powerfully built, Brannigan had let his hair get shaggy and grown a thick, graying handlebar mustache. He looked more like a mountain man than a retired Marine Colonel, while Van Zandt looked like he’d just taken his uniform off to come to the diner. “We’ve heard some…faintly disturbing things lately, John,” Hector Chavez said carefully.