Picks and Pans Review: Something to Die for
Talk about perfect timing. Here's a novel by a decorated war hero with a fictional Middle Eastern desert war at its core. It pits an American-led coalition against a potentially lethal enemy (in this case, Cuba), fighting on the shores of the Red Sea.
Three men form the springboard of the book's plot. The first, Congressman Doc Rowland, is determined to make public an illegal Japanese—Soviet Union transaction. But he is blocked by Secretary of Defense Ronald Holcomb, who will do all he can to shift attention away from the scandal.
To spice up the Holcomb-Rowland relationship, Webb factors in an affair between the Congressman and the defense secretary's wife. The third player in the game is Col. Bill Fogarty, a Vietnam vet placed in command of the marines and sailors initially sent to the Red Sea to face the Cubans.
Webb, a best-selling author (Fields of Fire) and ex-assistant secretary of defense, writes well, free of the techno-manual, Tom Clancy language that often bogs down novels like this. He understands the slice-and-dice workings of the Washington power bloc as well as the minds of battle-ready soldiers.
Webb moves his timely plot steadily, faltering only when he shifts from military and political escapades to the bland sexual goings-on between Rowland and Holcomb's wife, Janet. Other than that minor failing, however, this is a military novel that more often than not hits its intended targets dead on. (Morrow, $19.95)