Barry Eisler: The Killer Collective

When a joint FBI–Seattle Police investigation of an international child pornography ring gets too close to certain powerful people, sex-crimes detective Livia Lone becomes the target of a hit that barely goes awry—a hit that had been offered to John Rain, a retired specialist in “natural causes.”

Sounds like a great pitch for a book. What is most peculiar, is that both the presumed victim, Livia Lone, and the presumed killer, John Rain, are heroes of their respective thriller series written by Barry Eisler.

I did not buy The Killer Collective because of the pitch, though. Initially, I bought it to find out why I could not knock Barry off the first place in Amazon’s English language thriller category back when Another Man’s Freedom Fighter came out.

Now, after having read the book, I must concede that Barry rightly holds on to the top spot. It is a great book, it has great characters, and a great mix of dialogue, romance, and action. Kudos to the master.

I will probably buy a John Rain book in the near future, he seemed to fit my idea of a hero most. Livia, Dox, and the others seem well-crafted characters for the specific sub-genres they are a part of but not my kind of guy/gal.

Joseph Carter’s Debut: Another Man’s Freedom Fighter

After over ten months of research, writing, editing, and rewriting, finally Another Man’s Freedom Fighter is published by nu publishing. You can buy the English edition as e-book or paperback using these links on Amazon US, Amazon UK, or Amazon DE. Of course, you will also find the book on all other Amazon platforms worldwide.

Writing this book would not have been possible without the support of my wonderful wife. The most special thanks go to her.

More special thanks go to my good friends who have supported the crazy idea of writing my first thriller after dozens of years as an entrepreneur and manager. To Michał and Paweł I owe thanks for their beta reading and many notes. They filled in many a detail on Polish history as well as weapons of the Wojsko Obrony Terytorialnej, the Territorial Defense Forces of Poland. They also helped to perfect my Polish cussing, of which you will find a lot in this book. 😉 Also a big dziękuję, thank you, to Alicja who helped with the Russian bits.

Why a book on a war between Russia and the West?

Another Man’s Freedom Fighter is a story set in our time. I started out by thinking about how fragile our comfortable life in the wealthy European Union truly is. Its fragility becomes increasingly visible when we look at the troubles along the eastern and southern borders of the Union.

Es kann der Frömmste nicht in Frieden bleiben,
wenn es dem bösen Nachbar nicht gefällt.
– Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm Tell

Schiller let’s his famous Swiss freedom fighter William Tell realize that “The very meekest cannot rest in quiet, Unless it suits with his ill neighbor’s humor.” The people in East Ukraine would probably agree. The inability of Ukraine, the European Union, OECD, and any other player on the world stage to end this bloody, senseless conflict is frightening. It shows serious defects in the West’s security architecture. The latest quarrels over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty is another sign of the West utterly underestimating the aggressive potential of the regime in Moscow.

History teaches us two obvious lessons:

  1. Appeasement is the highway to hell: I can recommend Robert Harris’ Munich as well as Olson and Cloud’s A Question of Honor. The prelude to World War II showed the world that a ruthless dictator would learn to push his boundaries further and further if not stopped early.
  2. Even smart leaders can sleepwalk into a war within weeks: In The Sleepwalkers, historian Christopher Clark traces the events and relationships that led a group of well-meaning leaders into brutal conflict, World War I. Mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals drove the crisis forward in only a few short weeks. The war lasted four terrible years and cost 40 million, mostly young men, their lives.

The dilemma that these two lessons present to modern politicians, especially in the highly pacifistic societies of Western Europe, cannot be underestimated. Reacting with force potentially creates ‘misunderstandings’. Letting the ruthless constantly get away with aggression, on the other hand, definitely leads to more aggression in the future.

Are our leaders, the chancellors, the presidents, the prime ministers, smarter than the kings, emperors, and prime ministers of the early 20th Century? I doubt it. Looking at the political caste in Germany, Britain, the U.S., and France I am no longer convinced that the democratic process of the last twenty years delivered better results in choosing leaders than birthright or lottery.

Especially in Germany, the semi-democratic process of political parties filtering the electorate’s choice has delivered horrible results with no hope whatsoever for the next general election. They are all idiots. The German party process is in no way superior to the French elitism (are only ENA and ENS alumni allowed to run for president?), the British version of the same (Eton, Oxford, Cambridge, …), or the American money-aristocracy’s monopoly on the Senate and the House.

Writing Another Man’s Freedom Fighter was my way to deal with my glum thoughts on the topic.

So what can we do to protect freedom and peace?

One man alone can only save the world in a novel or a film. In real life, however, we all need to be vigilant and speak out. Freedom is not a given. We all work to bring it about for ourselves and others every day.

We also need to acknowledge that in our advanced society, we need specialists to provide security. Without security, there cannot be freedom. Police, armed forces, and also intelligence services are the guarantors of security. We need to pay these people respect and salaries that reflect the importance of their jobs. Only by doing so, we can make sure that strong, smart, hard-working, good people seek their future in these professions.

As for the big problems, I do not believe that the politicians we have allowed to breed their own caste will be able to solve them for us. Another kind of process is needed to filter the smart, capable leaders from the incapable than the one we are currently using.

Until such a process is invented, all we can do is stay on our toes and keep raising our voices, make sure that politicians not only hear but also listen.

Is Bernie Gunther the original Reacher?

I only came across Philip Kerr’s iconic Berlin homicide detective turned hotel detective turned private eye turned SS-officer turned Abwehr officer turned spy, okay I’ll stop here for the sake of readability, very recently. Yet, he made my list of favorite heroes right away.

Wait what? The hero is an SS-officer?

Yes, and he still is a true hero, the good guy. Trust me, it would take too long to explain. Just this much: he did not volunteer, it was made clear to him by Reinhard Heydrich himself that he could not refuse. This oddity and the internal conflict it creates in Gunther makes up some of the series’ appeal.

I started reading the series with Field Grey, which is the seventh of fourteen books. This mishap did not at all interfere with my pleasure reading. Kerr manages to build the story quite nicely without any prior knowledge of the edgy, uncharming, sarcastic character. Plus, Field Grey is like Bernhard Gunther’s autobiography. It covers most of his, let’s call it colorful, life.

However, I would recommend reading March Violets first. It makes the transition from today’s world into the reality of the 1920s and 1930s Weimar Republic as well as the Third Reich much easier. A Berliner and veteran of World War I, Bernhard Gunther’s colorful life starts in the final years of the first democratic Germany: the Weimar Republic. For today’s reader, especially for a non-German, easing into this world of the fading ‘Roaring Twenties’, the Great Depression, high unemployment, and political instability takes a little time.

The first democratic Germany: Weimar 1918 – 1933

As someone who grew up in Germany and in the German school system, I was quite familiar with the atmosphere of the time. The Third Reich, its roots and crimes make up a sizeable portion of German history classes. Yet, Kerr’s meticulously researched backstories and biographies of the times’ VIPs make the novels an entertaining and educational read.

I was surprised to read that Hugo Boss grew big as a uniform tailor, a past that the German fashion company has by now worked out and published. The Reich’s main cast, Himmler, Goering, Heydrich and some of the lesser knowns like Arthur Nebe and Adolf Eichmann feature in supporting roles throughout the series. Their characters and quirks, like occult beliefs and practices, odd hobbies and interest, and sometimes even their hidden homosexuality or Jewish family history make up both educational and entertaining moments.

Later in Bernhard’s life, in his fifties, also great post-war personalities get roles and cameos: Ernest Hemingway, Evita Perón, and also Erich Mielke, head of the East German Stasi.

Okay, Gunther is good. What does he have to do with Reacher?

On the surface, nothing much, both were cops and soldiers. Reacher was both at the same time and Gunther the one then the other and again the one. As an investigator in the Wehrmacht’s War Crimes Bureau (educational moment, that actually existed) he was both for a very short time.

What they share are the character traits one gets to know over time. After about twenty pages into Field Grey, I had a feeling of familiarity, a certain ‘I know this guy’ feeling. Both are no-nonsense, not easily excitable personalities, both are no angels, they ‘kill who needs killing’ as Lee Child might put it. Also, their big mouth, sarcasm and general problem dealing with authority figures are so similar, almost as if they were father and son.