Review: Falcon 7

James Huston burst onto what used to be called the techno-thriller scene in 1988 with Balance of Power, a military/legal actioner about a constitutional crisis that erupts when a conservative speaker of the House takes matters into his own hands because a spineless president refuses to retaliate against Indonesian Islamist terrorists.

Rush Limbaugh loved the book, and many compared the novel’s characters to Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, then holding power in Washington. Huston, however, followed the time-honored tradition of veiling real people by adding notable differences, such as a Speaker who was a veteran.

Back when guys like John Buchan (The 39 Steps) and Joseph Conrad (The Secret Agent) invented the modern international thriller, the names of enemy countries and odious leaders were merely hinted at, not named. Even Geoffrey Household, author of the classic Rogue Male, did not expressly name Adolf Hitler as the target of his hero’s big-game hunter protagonist– although he did deliver plenty of obvious hints.

In Falcon 7, a thriller about two Navy fliers hauled before the International Criminal Court for dropping a bomb on the wrong target in Pakistan, Huston doesn’t bother creating pseudonyms or crafting a fictional president likely to genuflect before international institutions.

Instead, he tackles the question of what would happen if U.S. fliers were to face a radical anti-American ICC prosecutor while their commander-in-chief is none other than Barack Hussein Obama.

Doug Rawlins, an F-18 pilot, and his RIO Bill Duncan sit in a prison in The Hague, charged with war crimes after dropping a bomb on what was supposed to be an al Qaeda meeting place but turned out to be a clinic for refugees.

The Obama administration wants the fliers defended but doesn’t want to put the full weight of the Justice Department behind them.  So, through a back channel they call on criminal defense attorney and former Navy SEAL Jack Caskey to provide their defense.

Caskey smells a setup, and immediately focuses on the fliers’ dizzying — and suspiciously quick — capture and repatriation to the Netherlands.  The prosecutor, within a day, has his captives and depositions from tribesman in a remote and violent part of Pakistan in hand, thanks to a conveniently handy multi-million-dollar Falcon 7 jet that just happened to be hanging around the backward hellhole.

Knowing he needs bodies and talent to help him fight a possibly hopelessly stacked deck at the ICC, Caskey enlists Eric Holder’s former New York law firm by threatening to go on every news show and blast them for going out of their way to defend murderous terrorists but turning their nose up at America’s heroes.  But that’s nowhere near the biggest stunt Caskey has to pull in order to successfully defend his clients.

He knows the task may well be hopeless, so he undertakes a succession of Hail Mary plays, including a trip to the scene in the Taliban- and al Qaeda-infested mountain regions of Pakistan.

Caskey even publically challenges Obama to free his clients by force, invoking a little-known law passed by Congress after 9/11 in response to the possibility of the ICC trying American soldiers. The law states that the President is authorized to invade any country holding American military personnel, friendly or not.

This tactic doesn’t exactly meet with the approval of Caskey’s beautiful second chair, a law school almost-flame whose legal brilliance is almost matched by her personal liberalism and was much more comfortable working for the causes Holder championed at her firm.

But, for Caskey, the idea of a rescue mission is more than just a threat or rhetorical device — no matter what the president might think.  Even as he runs rhetorical and evidentiary circles around the prosecution, Caskey has no confidence that the airmen have any shot at a fair trial in The Hague and believes such a mission may be their only hope.

Huston, a former F-14 RIO himself and now a big-time trial lawyer, certainly knows his stuff, and Falcon 7 rings true at every turn, whether it’s a courtroom twist, an ambush on a Pakistani mountain road or, even worse, a political ambush by political appointees who just want the case to get out of the headlines.

More importantly, Huston is a superb storyteller, and Falcon 7 rockets along at the speed of the F-18 in the opening sequence and hits its target with just as much power.  The result is a perfect summer read — a terrific, thought-provoking, suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining and highly educational thriller.

  • Kim Bruce

    Sounds like a great political thriller of a movie.
    Too bad there isn't a right-leaning studio to produce it.
    I'm almost sure nobody in Hollywood would dare tackle it.

    • Morrisminor

      Yeah, cons have plenty of money as well as Hollywood isn't the only place in the world where they make movies, Even in Hollywood, money talks.

  • USMCSniper

    The United States government has consistently opposed an international court that could hold US military and political leaders to a uniform global standard of justice. The Clinton administration participated actively in negotiations towards the International Criminal Court treaty, seeking Security Council screening of cases. If adopted, this would have enabled the US to veto any dockets it opposed. When other countries refused to agree to such an unequal standard of justice, the US campaigned to weaken and undermine the court. The Bush administration, coming into office in 2001 as the Court neared implementation, adopted an extremely active opposition. Washington began to negotiate bilateral agreements with other countries, insuring immunity of US nationals from prosecution by the Court. As leverage, Washington threatened termination of economic aid, withdrawal of military assistance, and other painful measures. The Obama administration has so far made greater efforts to engage with the Court. It is participating with the Court's governing bodies and it is providing support for the Court's ongoing prosecutions. So…this is not so far fetched.

  • Stephen_Brady

    There are people in the United States, at this moment, who would be thought of as "war criminals" by some foreign governments. These people fought for the West during the Cold War, in covert and sub-rosa capacities, and stand the possibility of being extradited by the Obama regime, if he gets too cozy with the ICC. This cannot be allowed to happen. Even NOC agents could be targeted as war criminals, and tried before this sham of a court.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'm no fan of the International Criminal Court. My concern is that it won't just be used against native-born Americans or U.S. military. It might be used as a weapon to intimidate refugees and legal immigrants to America. Places like China,Libya,Sudan,and other places like that simply because they were engaged in activities that government didn't like,so they brand them "war criminals" and try to force our government to send them to the Hague for trial.
    For example,if an English Falklands Islands War veteran were living peacefully in the United States for many years is taken to the I.C.C. for trial by a corrupt government in Argentina even though it had no case against this man. There would be such an uproar,not just in this country,but in the U.K. as well.

    Also,an immigrant serving in our military could be in danger of being put in a similar situation as this novel suggests. The International Criminal Court is a bad idea,no matter how you look at it.

    • Terry Washington

      As the Falklands War took place in 1982( and the ICC is constitutionally debarred from investigating matters before its formal inception in July 1, 2012), I'd say that your argument is a straw man as is many of the arguments made by Huston and his ilk against the ICC. We are told that it might engage in "frivolous or politically motivated" lawsuits against US or allied personnel- requests by me to the Wall Street Journal(which has frequently assailed the ICC) to define what consitutes "frivolous or politically motivated lawsuits" have gone unanswered to date- and rather conveniently overlooked by Huston are the fact that the Court has yet to indict a single US citizen or us allied national(pace Israel) so the best I can say is that Huston's book owes more to the fevered fantasies of the American right than the real life ICC!