David E. Meadows has not only established himself as today's prolific author of military thrillers, he has stamped a style that TV producer Donald P. Bellisario loves. His characters have a sense of humor in the midst of dire circumstances. It's a playfulness that Bellisario hires scriptwriters to inject into each of his military TV series-currently JAG and NCIS. In his Joint Task Force series, Meadows develops ongoing characters, whom we meet in each book, depending on their mission or circumstance. We live with them. We feel for them. And they age just like us through the series as their responsibilities and duties draw them into even riskier missions, so we cheer them on, as real men doing impossible jobs. This is an endless expectation of the military since many of their political bosses have no similar experience or training to base their orders on. I saw this for myself on a magazine assignment with Canadian peacekeepers following the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Just the replacement of a small part to keep a lift truck running becomes a crisis that requires miracle intervention and innovative thinking in `tactical' settings-you can't call them `combat' when the parties aren't officially at war. And so Meadows' people survive doing the impossible while protecting the United States from terrorists and power-hungry allies.
What has fascinated me through the Joint Task Force series is the rivalry with France along with the ongoing battle against terrorism. Most military and spy thrillers writers target potential enemies in Middle East or Asian countries, such as China and North Korea, whereas Meadows tackles a so-called ally. As I observed in Rwanda firsthand, the treachery of France is a realistic possibility.
Aside from the background of Meadows' writing, he's a `top gun' storyteller. In this book, "France," he opens with a blood-curdling scene that begins with this dialogue, "I know what you're doing." What is the culprit doing? Stealing plans for a laser weapon the U.S. Navy is developing. Who is running the spy? France. Why? Because France wants to shake up the balance of power in the world. Of course, none of this is revealed in the first chapter. The greedy technician kills two fellow workers to keep from being discovered and just as you think he's going to get away with it and live in luxury the rest of his life, he's arrested before he reaches the airport. How did the CIA know what he was up to and why did they wait until after he killed innocent bystanders to capture him? As you find in this example, Meadows holds the reader to every page with strings of suspense that unwind in snippets of revelations, and leaves you at the end with the question, What if France drew the U.S. into war over Africa? Now you can find out. The last of this series, AFRICA, has just been released.