TOPGUN instructor Luke Henry quits the Navy to start a private aerial combat school in Nevada. A lucrative contract with the U.S. government brings him twenty Russian MiG-29 fighter planes with the condition that he train a group of Pakistani Air Force Pilots hand-picked by the Department of Defense. Luke is hesitant to train fighters from another country in the skills he learned at TOPGUN, but he cannot open the school without agreeing
Mining the ever-popular mother lode of military techno-thrillers, Huston's fourth novel (after Flashpoint) is a lukewarm effort with more spills than chills and even less plot credibility. Huston is himself a former navy "Topgun" jet fighter pilot, and this novel relies heavily on aviation jargon and modern aerial combat. Navy Lt. Luke Henry, a hotshot Topgun instructor, is forced out of the navy after being blamed for a deadly aircraft accident that was not his fault. Resolved to keep flying, he starts a private, commercial Topgun school in the Nevada desert. Almost immediately, he draws lucrative military contracts to train fighter pilots; a sneaky government official even provides him with Russian MiG-29 jets for training. But hopelessly nave Luke is being set up. The terrorist bad guys play him like a cheap fiddle, bribing and blackmailing their way into the school. Aided by the Russian mafia, they hope to incite a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, but first they want to orchestrate the most devastating terrorist attack ever on American soil. Several exciting jet dogfights provide the action as Luke and his squadron pals battle the terrorists at high altitude, with air-to-air missiles zooming all over the sky. The aviation scenes are best, but back on the ground, Huston's characters and plot devices do not hold up. The only character of substance is a disgraced Russian pilot who has infiltrated Luke's school with an agenda of his own. Even the bad guys are corny caricatures of thugs and zealots, and Luke is left with nothing to do but shoot down nearly everybody in sight. (July) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Fallout by James W. Huston
Iran-Pakistan border: Midnight, 3 March 2002
"Hafez"' the older guard said. "Someone is coming."
The headlights working their way down the rutted road two miles away were not a welcome sight. The two Pakistani border guards were standing their usual night duty on Pakistan's mountainous border with Iran. They both knew they weren't there because of their skill as guards. They were there because they had failed in their duties elsewhere, and the only place left to put them was an obscure border in the mountains on a rutted road in the middle of the night where one vehicle a night might come through loaded with chicken feed.
Hafez sat up in the drafty wooden shack warmed only by a glowing electric space heater that was inadequate against the biting cold. He breathed in loudly through his nose, trying to stretch while pretending that he hadn't been sleeping. They both had scruffy beards and wore mismatched Army uniform pieces. "I know," Hafez said harshly as he stood. Even though he was younger, he outranked the older soldier. Hafez was in charge of the border crossing until they were relieved in three hours. "We will inspect him completely," he said.
The older guard groaned. "What for There is never anything. Why bother "
"Think about it! Why would a truck come through this checkpoint We get shepherds, traders, refugees, but not trucks." Hafez sniffed against the cold. "Not many anyway."
The older guard looked at him, then at the truck, now half a mile away. It started to snow softly in the darkness. The floodlights pointing out from their guardhouse toward the the snowflakes. "We do get trucks; five or ten every month. What difference does it make anyway
"It is our job," Hafez answered as he threw back the sliding door and put the strap of his assault rifle over his shoulder. He stepped in front of the truck that had pulled up to the bar that defined the border between the two countries. The Iranian border guards two hundred yards away had waved the truck out of Iran without so much as a comment. Hafez put out his hand for the truck to stop. He shook as a chill rushed through him. "Right here," Hafez said in Urdu.
The driver stopped and rolled down his window. "Good morning," he said in Farsi as he handed Hafez his passport and the truck's documents.
Hafez shook his head as he took the driver's papers. He didn't understand Farsi. He looked at the older guard behind him. "Iranian."
On top of a large hill between the border and the high mountains behind it, Riaz Khan lay on his belly on the cold ground and cursed as he studied the border scene through his night vision binoculars. "They are stopping the truck," he said to the men behind him, who could not be seen from the border side of the hill. "This was supposed to be the easiest crossing point," he said as he glanced back at one of his men.
"That's what we were told."
"You had better be right."
At the border, the older guard nodded, completely uninterested.
Hafez looked at the truck, then leaned into the floodlights so he could read the documentation. "Where are you going " he asked the driver, again in Urdu.