Looking for that great summer read? Phillip Thompson’s The Enemy Within delivers.
Full disclosure – Phillip wrote a wonderful review of Jack Quasar: Project Prometheus, so it may seem that this look at his book, The Enemy Within is simply a bit of quid pro quo. And yes, there was a certain reciprocity in my deciding that I would gladly take a look at his first novel and see if his writing talent extended beyond making mediocre comic books sound like epic literature. I can be magnanimous that way. (Especially when it’s a free download – thanks Amazon Prime.)
I was also looking for a break from reading George R. R. Martin’s Songs of Fire and Ice series. 3 and a half books in, and I was ready for something not quite so mind-numbingly dark. (Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the series, but the happy moments are few and far between.)
Not that I expected The Enemy Within to be sunshine and lollipops. The description on Amazon reads:
“Former Marine Wade Stuart, an ATF special agent, finds himself working undercover in his home territory, Mississippi, infiltrating a militia unit with lofty goals. When Stuart uncovers a plot to assassinate the governor and take over the state as part of a people’s revolution, Washington plans to send in the 2nd Marine Division to attack the militia. Stuart sees a bloodbath coming, begs for time to quash the plan, but the President sees this as an opportunity to set an example. Isolated and unsure of the decision out of Washington, Stuart must race to shut down the militia before the military arrives. Enemy Within rushes forward at breakneck speed, and only man can stop these domestic terrorists — Wade Stuart!”
That’s as much of a plot recap as you’ll get here, by the way. Too spoiler prone. Just know that the story works well, I was captured quickly and, yes, at 120 pages, things move along quite quickly. (Given the story’s setting, my home turf as well as the author’s, maybe I should say it moves at redneck speed. Okay, maybe not.)
The quick pace doesn’t mean that Phillip shortchanged other areas of the book. I know well many of the book’s locations, but even readers who have never been south of the Mason Dixon line will feel like they’re right in the spot because of how well things are described.
Phillip’s time in the Marine Corps serves him well writing the military and political aspects of the book. At times, I was reminded of both Grisham and Clancy, but Thompson’s work never seemed derivative of either. His voice is his own, and at times the language is colorful and the descriptions of violence vivid. In all cases, the voice rings true and there’s a grit and reality here, and nothing seems done for the sake of shocking the reader.
I especially appreciate the way Phillip handled the tough topics and tougher characters that are as much a part of the South as mosquitoes and humidity WITHOUT resorting to tired clichés! You’ll recognize some of the characters, but don’t always assume you’ll know what they’ll do. Wade Stuart definitely may fit the action hero mold, but Thompson has obviously created his hero layer by layer. We don’t see as much as we’d like in this first story, but that just makes us look forward that much more to the next installment.
For more on Wade Stuart and to read some of Phillip Thompson’s online musings, follow the link below to the Kudzu Corner. There are links there for downloading Phillip’s books. You’ll be glad you did.
And by the way, for those still thinking this is just tit for tat; 2 chapters into The Enemy Within, I was already downloading the follow up, A Simple Murder and, yes, paying full price! Winter may be coming, but as long as summer’s here, I’ll be hanging with Wade a bit longer.
29 May 2012: Dear readers…thanks.