Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger hit the top of The New York Times bestseller list as soon as it was published. It’s still a winner today.
Like Clancy’s earlier thrillers, Danger is a fast-moving, intricately plotted, richly detailed.
In an election year, the President authorizes his National Security Advisor, Admiral Cutter, to take all necessary action to stop the flow of drugs into the US. Cutter decides a war on drugs demands military action.
Hispanic members of the military with no dependents are selected, secretly trained, and helicoptered into Columbia.
Neither Congress nor Columbia is informed, nor are some top-ranking members of the president’s administration, including acting CIA director Jack Ryan.
When Ryan learns of the secret military action, he’s perplexed as well as angry. How far does the President’s right to act without congressional authorization go?
Clear and Present Danger is an action-packed adventure that is hard to put down. But it’s also a thoughtful novel about serious topics.
Although Danger was clearly sparked by the Reagan-era war on drugs and the Iran-Contra affair, the passage of 40 years hasn’t reduced the timeliness of the novel’s themes: free speech, executive orders, the congressional oversight role, the importance of personal integrity, and the destructiveness of drugs.
Saturday is Armed Forces Day. In recognition of the commemoration, I’ll post a review here of Willa Cather’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel One of Ours, a story about a gawky, self-absorbed Nebraska farm boy who finds grows up on the battlefields of France.
When the American army kicks the fascists and their German allies out of Italy, Major Joppolo is assigned to restore order in Adano. He is supposed to see that there is food, water, sanitation and an appreciation for freedom and democracy.
He also has to keep his own troops in line.
The locals say the most important thing Joppolo can do is to replace the 700-year-old bell the fascists melted down to make gun barrels.
Joppolo vows to find Adano another bell.
He is beginning to get the town running again when General Marvin’s jeep is blocked by a mule cart as he passes through Adano.
The General orders the mule shot and all carts prohibited in Adano. Without the carts, Adano has no way to get water.
Joppolo countermands the General’s order.
John Hersey tells his tale with humor and gentle irony. The outcome of the story is predictable. The characters are predictable, too, by virtue of being very ordinary sorts of people.
We need men like Joppolo in our occupying armies, Hersey says, “to guarantee the behavior of men under pressure.”
Abu Grabe and Haditha testify that we still need to be reminded of that.
A Bell for Adano
By John Hersey
Alfred A. Knopf, 1944
1944 bestseller #9
My Grade: B