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Book Review: One Rough Man by Brad Taylor

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On the day that changed everything, Sept. 11, 2001, Brad Taylor’s wife was nine months pregnant. Within days, she gave birth to their daughter. Four days after that, Taylor headed to Afghanistan with the image of his crying wife holding their new baby permanently etched in his mind. During his twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, Taylor’s job assignment was with special operations and ultimately as a commander in the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment — better known as Delta Force.

He’s the real deal.

This is what makes his debut novel, One Rough Man, so fascinating — Brad Taylor has actually navigated the deep currents of the complex and dangerous waters he writes about. He takes the reader beyond Delta Forces and into the realm of the secretive — out of the box and off the grid. His vehicle is called Taskforce and his hero is a guy named Pike Logan. Think Jack Bauer and Mitch Rapp on steroids, or Jason Bourne — only taller, tougher, and totally unlike Matt Damon.

As Americans watch events unfold throughout the Middle East, first in Egypt and now with unrest spreading like a contagion to other states in the region, we have a fresh reminder of just how quickly geo-political reality changes. And always nearby there is the threat of Islamism.

It is an ideology that feeds on instability, whether exploiting the rage and frustration in American prisons, or manipulating the hopes and dreams of naïve protestors in public squares, Islamism is a political poison that deceives and destroys. We’d do well to bear in mind that the various tales spun by novelists — stories of intrigue and suspense — are not really all that far from reality. Not far at all.

The title of Brad Taylor’s new book, One Rough Man, comes from a quote attributed to George Orwell (with a nod to Rudyard Kipling): “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Some who spend too much time missing the point might debate the authenticity of the quote, but its essential truth is beyond dispute. And Pike Logan is the roughest of the rough men.

Is there some Brad Taylor in Pike Logan? He insists that there isn’t, though he acknowledges his great sense of pride in having served with many “Pike Logan’s” over the years. There is no doubt, however, that Taylor’s literary creation is informed by his real-life experiences. Although unlike the author, Logan endures — and not all that gracefully — a severe personal trauma, one that puts his life and career on a downward spiral. It’s a well-worn path of self-destructive behavior born of despair.

But, One Rough Man is every bit as much a story of redemption as it is of retribution. And of course — but far from clichéd — the way back involves a woman in need. Her name is Jennifer Cahill, the niece of a celebrated anthropologist who is murdered after finding what turns out to be an ancient WMD — yep, a good old fashioned weapon of mass destruction — in a remote Mayan jungle. As the story moves forward, Logan and Cahill find themselves racing against the clock to thwart what could potentially be an Islamist terrorist act of historic proportions. And they themselves are being tracked and targeted, as well.

This is a familiar formula for fans of the “thriller” genre, but Taylor’s background and clear flair for research give the book the feel of something different from a predictable first novel. It is also clear at times that the author finds himself unable to let the reader in on details that are very real and very classified.

Taylor is currently finishing work on a second book in an ultimate series involving Pike Logan. It is likely that this new character will take his place among that elite group of near super-heroes who give us a glimpse of hope that there might, in fact, be such people who make the world safer for the rest of us. Sometimes they make us uncomfortable. And certainly we all acknowledge the tension between our love for freedom and the occasional need for things to happen in the name of security that seem to momentarily trump, or at least suspend, a basic value here or there. I suspect, however, that more people than care to admit it secretly hope there are such operatives “ready to do violence on their behalf.”

Brad Taylor has wanted to write a novel for a long time, but it was as he approached retirement from the army, after a final teaching assignment at the Citadel, that he decided to give it a try. One Rough Man is a great first book and leaves the reader with a hunger for more.

We may as well make room in our hearts and on our shelves for some great Pike Logan adventures to come.

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