VVA member Brinn Colenda is a graduate of the U. S. Air Force Academy and a retired lieutenant colonel. He served in Southeast Asia and other places around the world in flying and staff positions. Colenda’s The Cochabamba Conspiracy (Xlibris, 248 pp., $31.99 hardcover; $21.99, paper) is a military action thriller based on his own “real life experiences as an Air Force pilot from Viet Nam to Bolivia, ” says the back cover blurb. We also are told that the book is “a compelling novel of foreign intrigue, part of a trilogy that leaves the reader hungry for more.”
I started reading this book with hopes of an escapist reading experience. It starts off in Godhra, India, in 1995 during an outbreak of a plague called Yersinia pestis. We are told that this plague was caused by a smirking Russian scientist, Dr. Nikolai Yazov, who seems to be a stock Cold War evil-doer, the mad scientist who seeks to destabilize democratic India through bacterial warfare.
Dr. Yazov is worried that the “glory days” of Russian science might soon come to an end. With that end would come the loss of his dacha and other perquisites of the elite. The doctor decides to decamp for the safety of Cuba where, he believes, he’ll be appreciated by Fidel Castro.
In Chapter One, we are introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Callahan at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. LTC Callahan, Colenda writes, “squinted, ” was mildly euphoric, and has a lithe body. Colenda pays this sort of detailed attention to his characters throughout this thriller. I find these sorts of details an impediment in enjoying a thriller, but many readers may not be so thin-skinned.
Callahan and his tall, beautiful, blonde wife Colleen are the heroes of this book; they can just about do it all. They are brave under fire; they can out-drive, out-fly, and out-fight all the villains Colenda throws at them.
The chief strength of this thriller is the group of villains. There is the aforementioned mad scientist, along with a renegade Army colonel and a beautiful, rose-loving Mata Hari mole in the U. S. State Department. I’m not giving anything away when I say that our heroes are the winners in this first book of a series, as there would be no Book II if Tom and Colleen had died in an air explosion or in a fiery car crash.
They have many near misses with death, but triumph in the end. Along the way, the book is a wild ride of encounters with biological warfare, drug dealers, corrupt military in South American countries, terrorism, and torture.
There are many mentions of the Vietnam War throughout this book, mostly neutral or positive. There is, though, a bad Army Colonel, who is a Vietnam veteran who hid from the enemy in the war zone, and later lied about his bravery there. Colenda also takes a swipe at Swarthmore College, referring to it as “Joseph Stalin U” for its professors’ Marxist tendencies. The author also praises Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution for what he has addressed in his work as “radical entente.” We are told that the radicals of the sixties and seventies now have gray hair, but they are still mean and are hatching narco-terrorist conspiracies. The message: Be afraid; be very, very afraid.
Am I hungry for more of this author’s books about the Callahans? “Hungry” is a strong word. I am curious how he is going to have the Callahans involved in more adventures of this sort, given that they will soon be the parents of two small children and that Tom’s new job seems to be the sort that will keep him chained to a desk.
I’ve learned from my reading of the Tarzan series that an author who uses coincidence as a major plot device—as both Burroughs and Colenda do—is not going to allow such impediments to stop him from propelling heroes more adventures if there is the hope that people will be interested in reading another one.
I hope that what I have said enables you to decide if it is the book for you. I read it to the very end—to find out what happened to the Callahans. That is a recommendation of a sort.
The author’s website is www.brinncolenda.com