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A Nightmare's Prayer: A Marine Harrier Pilot's War in Afghanistan Hardcover – June 15, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author's experience as a Harrier pilot began with the marines' effort to outdo the air force in close air support of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Instead of flying hours from bases located in the former Soviet Union, the marines would fly their VTOL jets from bases only minutes from their targets. Sometimes this worked; other times it didn't or led to friendly-fire casualties and the mobilization of a massive bureaucracy to observe the formalities of an investigation. Meanwhile, the pilots had to fly and fight under conditions that approached the human tolerance for stress. Some of the book's strongest passages are about how the author fought that stress, with thoughts of his family in particular, and readers will rejoice at his safe return. Meanwhile, they will be considerably wiser about a little-mentioned aspect of the current conflict in Southwest Asia. --Roland Green


“Mike Franzak has written a brilliant and moving account of the war in Afghanistan from a unique perspective. As a Marine Harrier pilot, he offers an unvarnished and honest view of combat in this strange land. A Nightmare’s Prayer is a must read for all those who seek an exceptional insight into a complex war.”

—General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired)

“Every combat aviator will instantly recognize Franzak’s work as compellingly authentic and honest. This is a book for grown-ups; an effort that treats the personal as well as the professional aspects of wartime flying. A Nightmare’s Prayer is the best autobiographical account of combat flying yet to come out of the War on Terror.”

—Lieutenant Colonel Jay A. Stout (retired), author of Hammer from Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq

“Mike Franzak’s account of the Flying Nightmares’ twelve month deployment to Afghanistan provides a rare look at an attack squadron at war. His vivid descriptions of the challenges of flying and fighting in that austere and dangerous environment will reinforce the faith of ground Marines in the dedication and skill of their flying counterparts. A Nightmare’s Prayer provides an inside view of a largely overlooked element of the fight in Afghanistan.”

—T. X. Hammes, author of The Sling and the Stone

“Franzak’s vivid writing puts you inside his jet, and also inside his head. This is a gripping account of a Marine pilot’s fight to help win a war—and to make peace with himself.”

—Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away

"A compelling and powerful combat memoir of a Marine Harrier pilot's deployment in Afghanistan—the war we never hear about."

—Steve Pressfield, author of The Afghan Campaign

"Mike Franzak has written an important literary memoir about the close-air support in Afghanistan from the perspectives of a night attack, single-seat Harrier jump jet pilot and senior officer. Zak's cockpit was dangerous, dark, and lonely. The crying pleas of distressed soldiers on the ground required quick and precise bombing decisions that meant life or death. Read A Nightmare's Prayer, the best personal narrative about Marine Corps aviation since Gregory Boyington's bestselling Baa Baa Black Sheep."

—Quang Pham, author of A Sense of Duty: Our Journey from Vietnam to America


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Threshold Editions; 1St Edition edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143919498X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439194980
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #756,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edmund G. Franzak on June 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For many years, I've enjoyed reading and, often, being guided by customers' comments to AMAZON regarding books or CD's that they purchased. I've never commented myself so this is a first. Plus, in the interest of full disclosure, I cannot claim to be a totally disinterested commentator. I happen to be the father of Mike Franzak--the author of "A Nightmare's Prayer". Mike gave both me and my wife copies of his book when we visited him and his family in Raleigh, NC a few weeks ago. I was very, very moved by the scrupulously true story that Mike had to tell. What is only alluded to is the difficulty all of us had as Mike progressed through his teen age years. There were times when we thought we had lost him. My wife and I will always be grateful to the US Navy and, later, the Marine Corps for giving him goals and ideals toward which to strive--and, more importantly, turning his life around. Mike's book can serve to encourage confused teen agers as well as their (perhaps even more confused) parents. For me, and my wife, the book fills in lots of gaps. We remember sending Mike and his buddies boxes of quilts, heavy socks and flannel sheets during the Afghan winter. And then sending boxes of electric fans during the Afghan summer. We also ran out to buy copies of "Runner's World" because it featured a story on the inaugural "Bagram Minefield Marathon". Now we know the "rest of the story".

I am very proud of my son and what he has accomplished and the man he has become.

So this is a fan letter--a five star fan letter. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. Mike has a great story to tell and I hope you will read his book.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a former Marine who met Mike Franzak through a mutual friend during the mid-1990's. Marines are known to "eat their own"; compliments aren't handed out easily, or without cause. So I write this review in that state of mind. Franzak would never communicate this, but he had a reputation for being a stellar performer and a man with a high level of what the Marine Corps calls-- "Moral Courage": having the inner strength to stand up for what's right. Both of these traits in Mike surface and provide what I believe is a great read in "A Nightmare's Prayer".

Franzak's moral courage shines through in his writing in two ways. First, he writes with a brutal honesty that is not only refreshing, but very uncommon. The benefit for the reader-- you get "the real deal". No politically correct nonsense or sensored "fluff".. If you want to know what it feels like to deploy with a Marine unit, go to war and fly jets-- read this book. He doesn't sugar coat.

Second-- moral courage involves, "standing up for what's right".. And for Mike, what's "right" is helping out his brothers in arms. Franzak is giving a chunk of his book's proceeds to TAPS-- a charity that serves the families of the fallen. He's putting his $ where his mouth is. Most don't. I'm very familar with this lean organization and other like it. Helping TAPS is reason alone to buy a copy of Franzak's work.

Franzak's commitment to quality and disgust for anything but an exceptional performance is also evident in his prose. Accustomed to finishing at or near the top in nearly every school or event he competed in-- Mike put together a similar effort on his book. He is not an average writer, he is an outstanding writer. And whatever shortcomings he discovered in his craft, he attacked with the same "balls" as he once did from the cockpit. Through this "blue-collar" effort, it's we, the readers, who benefit.

In short-- buy it and read it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel took me right back to Afghanistan in the early days of the war.

This book is different than other war novels in that it is not full of false bravado and exagggerated stories of heroism. It is an honest account. I speak firsthand.

I served in combat in Afghanistan as a Special Forces ODA Commander and as the Night Opcen Director of an SF FOB supported by the Harrier's of VMA 513. Incidentally, my brother, AJ, was one of the VMA 513 pilots and the OPS Officer. Zak gives a truthful, no holds barred account of war in Afghanistan and the obstacles artificially placed in our way by meddling senior commands with limited knowledge of the ground truth.

I am amazed that Zak shares the same doubts, fears, and stresses in the air as we faced on the ground. I am also amazed at his honesty in admitting his fears, anger, frustrations, and pain. He is much more honest with his emotions in a novel than I could ever be.

These Harrier pilots and the Marines supporting them are true heros. My fellow Special Forces Team Commanders told me the only nights they slept well, were the nights the Harriers were flying their dangerous missions overhead.

This is stimulating reading. I could not put it down and finished it in three days. I highly recommend it! It is also the only war novel I have been able to read since I returned from the war because of its truthfulness and accuracy.

These Marine pilots are hero's and should be honored and reverred like their WWII predicessors (Boyington, Foss, Bong, etc.) They are my hero's and they saved my butt on the ground!
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By Aleks on June 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely revere this book and author for the bravery and courage it took to write down the emotions that are often neglected and written off by the talking heads in the "media."

The sheer force of Col. Franzak's written words truly pierces the soul.

I strongly encourage all to pick up this title, I read just about everything I pick up and this is one of those books that will stay with you.
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