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Reflexive Fire Paperback – June 20, 2011
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About the Author
Jack Murphy is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group.
Growing up in New York, Jack Murphy enlisted in the US Army at age nineteen. Completing Infantry Basic Training, Airborne School, and the Ranger Indoctrination Program, he was assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion. As a Ranger, he served as an Anti-Tank gunner, Sniper, and Team Leader, and also graduated from Ranger School and Sniper School.
After several deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, he attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course and was selected as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant. Over a year was spent training in the Special Forces Qualification Course, including further weapons training, SERE School, language training, and more.
Assigned as the Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group, Murphy was again sent to numerous schools and training courses before being deployed to Iraq. Acting as the senior trainer and adviser to an Iraqi SWAT team, his Special Forces team conducted Direct Action and other missions across Northern Iraq.
Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.
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What's good about it is more important. First, I've read a ton of these men's adventure books, written seven, edited more than two hundred, and must have read about fifteen hundred of them over about sixty years. In all that time nobody, and I mean nobody, not Tom Clancy, nobody, has handled a big complicated battle scene like Jack Murphy does. You can tell exactly what's going on in several different locations very clearly and with high excitement. Real battle is not like this. In real battle you don't know squat; you're just trying to keep down and put out some fire. But in an adventure book this is a real plus.
Another thing I liked about it is that Jack Murphy really knows the weapons and how they're employed, and that goes for small arms and large. He puts you there, and you have confidence that this is pretty much the way it goes.
This book has villains of extravagant villainy. They don't just want to enslave the world; they want to kill off ninety percent of it, so the rest will ball theirs, just them and their flunkies.
If you find it hard to believe that anyone could be so cruel I invite you to realize that through the entire sixteen years of the Vietnam War (for my outfit) one, count 'em, one, congressman had a son who served. The guy went in as a private and left as a staff sergeant, and that impresses the hell out of me. But all the rest of them were only two happy to send the sons of their constituents to die in a war that their own children were too important to fight in. It's hard to imagine a greater betrayal than that, and it really happened. It's not that much of a stretch to imagine hereditary rich bastards with a sense of entitlement to huge that they would think nothing of killing off ninety percent of the human race to replace them with something in their own image.
It might also be hard to imagine that one battalion of mercenaries led by a really capable commander like Deckard could foil this plot. But consider, fifty-five SF guys accomplished in El Salvador what 500,000 could not in Vietnam, and a few hundred mercenaries accomplished in Africa what armies could not in other places. It all comes down to training, motivation and leadership. Oh, yeah, and gear. Anyway, if you like this kind of book you'll like this example of it.
The hero is everything you could hope for in an action-adventure--intelligent, charismatic, honorable, a combat veteran from an elite unit, and just slopping over with badassity. We meet Deckard during a guns-blazing rescue of some POWs from a covert operation gone SNAFU. From there, a mysterious rogue on the ragged fringes of the intelligence community hands him a deep cover assignment as a mercenary commander for Soros and Kissinger-esque insiders from the shadow government. Pretty impressive that these Princes of Darkness can be duped, with the resources at their disposal. Still, Deckard's cover could be blown at any moment.
Deckard organizes and trains a private army on the steppes of Kazakhistan, and leads them on direct-action missions at the behest of his sinister bosses, while tapping into his own substantial resources to find out what these puppetmasters are really up to.
There is no shortage of action in Reflexive Fire. The main characters are warriors, and fighting is what they do. Having winced, groaned, rolled my eyes and gritted my teeth at many authors' attempts to depict military (or paramilitary) operations, it was really satisfying to read a military thriller written with this level of technical accuracy. Afterwards it made me want to have a cigarette and raid the fridge. And I don't even smoke.
I've learned to avoid political thrillers, and ordinarily wince, groan, roll my eyes and grit my teeth when the author of any novel starts to portray their naive concept of how back room politics play out. This was another pleasant surprise for me. The author bypasses the two-party good-cop-bad-cop charade to tickle the truth hidden behind it. A few years ago, to even mention the workings of the shadow government was to invite ridicule and worse. Maybe this has changed as certain evidence becomes more difficult to hide. Still, I admire the author's courage to reject the blue pill publicly.
I don't know if this should be considered authoral courage too, but Jack Murphy isn't afraid to let important characters get snuffed in all the spray of shrapnel and deluge of full-auto fire. The body count is high, but not gratuitous. The progression of the plot is both plausible and logical. It is hard to imagine, though, how the stakes could be raised much higher in a sequel. But you can bet I'll buy it.
It's not very common to discover an action-adventure author who is also a SpecOps veteran. When you do, unfortunately, the quality of the fiction usually leaves something to be desired. Richard Marcinko was a competent SEAL team commander, but his Rogue Warrior series is "un-sat" IMHO. Barry Saddler was respected in SF, had a decent singing voice, and I'll even admit his Casca series was a neat idea, but after struggling to plod all the way through a couple of those books, I found myself asking what the point was.
Jack Murphy has not only done some of the same types of things he writes about, but he has consolidated them into an intelligent, entertaining novel. And Deckard is a character with plenty of juice for more shootouts to come. I highly recommend this book
Henry Brown is the author of the military thriller Hell and Gone and its sequel, Tier Zero. He is also the Two-Fisted Blogger.