Tag Archives: veteran author

Into Darkness by Richard Fox

Into Darkness by Richard Fox


Genre: Spy/Military Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: 95,000 words


Kindle:  YES  Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

Click on a YES above to go to appropriate retailer.


“Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Richard Fox began his decade-long service in the US Army as a Field Artillery and Military Intelligence officer. During that time, he served two fifteen-month tours in Iraq and was awarded the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Drawing upon his personal experiences, Fox infuses authentic details regarding the people, customs, languages, and ever-present threat of death that US Soldiers encountered while serving in the Iraq War.

He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona, with his incredible wife and two-year-old son, an amazing child bent on anarchy.”

Author’s Facebook page


“A deadly ambush leaves two Soldiers in al-Qaeda hands. With few leads to follow, a covert arm of the CIA called the Caliban Program charges Captain Eric Ritter to help rescue the missing men. Despite his reservations with the CIA’s “by any means necessary” methods, Ritter accepts the mission.

Once embedded with an infantry company deep inside enemy territory, Ritter must keep his true allegiance hidden from his brother-in-arms, Captain Greg Shelton. Shelton leads the search for his missing Soldiers while maintaining the high moral standards required of every Army officer, standards at odds with Ritter’s mandate. Deceiving his comrade is Ritter’s first step down a dark road paved with good intentions.

The terrorist responsible for the kidnappings, Mukhtar, is Ritter’s old enemy—an enemy Ritter thought was dead. Mukhtar is the local emir for al-Qaeda, and has enough fighters and willing suicide bombers to rule his piece of Iraq with a bloody fist. When Mukhtar learns that Ritter is within striking distance, he vows to settle the vendetta he’s carried against Ritter for years.

War and politics make for strange bedfellows, and Ritter finds an unlikely ally in Abu Ahmet, an Iraqi insurgent. While Abu Ahmet proves useful, Ritter suspects he may have American blood on his hands.

The harder Ritter tries to uphold the honor and integrity of the United States Army, the more he finds himself betraying those who are closest to him—and turning to more and more extreme methods of extracting information to track down the kidnapped Soldiers. Torture, murder, and ugly compromise push Ritter further from his oaths as an officer and into the arms of the Caliban Program.

Written in the brutally honest voice of one who has lived it, Fox’s experiences bring an edge of pathos to the book reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, and The Yellow Birds.”

My Two Cents:

Spy thriller, war story, mystery adventure- all those labels fit this tale, but still don’t do it justice. Perhaps, as a vet myself, I’m somewhat biased and overly impressed by the author’s attention to detail and willingness to tackle tough subjects. Into Darkness pulls no punches and sharply contrasts “Big Army politics” with the field realities of fighting a 21st century insurgency.

This is no jingoistic, “America rocks” story. Due to the complicated nature of each character, I’m still not sure who really was the bad guy. The Al Qaeda warlord or the supposed hero? The author neither glorifies nor laments modern war; he simply shows it how it really goes down. The tongue-in-cheek writing style and the shadowy organization pulling strings behind the scenes prevents the reader from becoming lost in the war though. This also helps keep the story fresh and racing along.

I found the ending a little too dark for my personal tastes. The main character’s personal development arc is also incredibly steep. To the point where you get annoyed with him for becoming an extremist. Of course, isn’t that a hallmark of great writing? These aren’t simple characters; both the “good” and “bad” people truly come alive. It’s very hard to stay emotionally disconnected!


Of all the military fiction I’ve ever read, none has captured the realism and immediacy of this book. The writer struck a fine balance between appealing to veterans and lay-folk alike. Details of weapons and tactics are watered down enough so as not to drown people in acronyms, but the meticulous detailing of every minor aspect of day-to-day deployment life gives vets that “he gets it” flavor they crave.

By the way, if you feel you’re missing the back story, check out the author’s short story prequel:

The Caliban Program

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Review of NEFARIOUS: The Blackwell Files by Steven F. Freeman

Nefarious: The Blackwell Files by Steven F. Freeman


Genre: Mystery Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars  

Estimated word count: 60,300 words


Kindle:  YES   Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paperback: YES

Click on a YES above to go to appropriate retailer.


“Thriller/mystery author Steve Freeman is a former member of the US Army’s Signal Corps, a twenty-five year employee of a large American technology company, and an avid traveler who has visited five continents. The Blackwell Files novels draw from his firsthand knowledge of military service, the tech industry, and the diverse cultures of our world.

He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.”

Website: http://www.stevefreemanwriter.com/


“Nefarious, the debut medical thriller of “The Blackwell Files” Series, is a fast-paced foray charting the investigation of an ex-Army captain and an intelligent, beautiful FBI agent into a covert, sinister project, a saga certain to mesmerize anyone who likes a thriller served up with plenty of surprises and some mind-bending science, set against a backdrop of the pursuit of impossible love.”

My Two Cents:

This is the first 5 star Indie review I’ve ever given. Nefarious is a first class mystery thriller that starts in a military setting but doesn’t limit itself to the military world. This story will rope in both civilians and veterans alike.

While great mysteries are a dime a dozen, what sets this tale apart is how well the author explores serious, real world issues. He brazenly takes on uncomfortable subjects, such as injured veterans’ challenges with overcoming shattered self-confidence, emotional disconnection from reality and struggling to find new goals in life. He deftly drops the reader into the shattered warrior’s shoes in such a way that you aren’t just interested, but you really care what happens next to the character. All without coming across overly depressive and still crafting this emotional angle as an integral part of the story rather than a side diversion.

Now, the author does take some extreme “artistic license” with the details of military operations. For example, officers wandering around off base in Afghanistan to some civilian bar to drink, flirt with locals and “hang out.” Many veterans would find that annoyingly fictitious. Still, I admit that’s a personal bias that doesn’t detract from the narrative, but rather makes for a more wild story.

The only issue that’s somewhat negative is the rushed ending. While the conspiracy is wrapped up tightly and logically, the method doesn’t fit with the rest of the book’s smooth tone. During the journey you’re fed tantalizing hints, grim foreshadow and believable twists. The “who done it?” feeling rises to a fever pitch by the last chapter… and then the heroes just have a eureka moment and unravel the whole sordid tale in one scene. Rather anti-climactic, in my opinion.

However, none of that changes the fact that this is one of the most addictive page turners I’ve had the pleasure to read in a while. The tale is both fun and emotionally engaging- a thriller with a soul. Definitely worth both the money and time to read.

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