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© Copyright 1996-2005
by David H. Hackworth
All Rights Reserved

"This Hackworth guy can write"


By Elizabeth Farar

No one ever said Col. David Hackworth didn't have guts -- at least not to his face! Hack's life proves intestinal fortitude can really pay off. What do I mean? At age 14 he joined the Merchant Marines; at 15 he enlisted in the Army. He served his country as a soldier for 26 years, from World War II to Vietnam. He was the Korean War's youngest Army captain and the Vietnam War's youngest colonel. To top off those accomplishments, add enough medals to choke a gorilla.

As befits a man who knows few limits, Hack went from practicing warfare to reporting warfare as a military correspondent in 1990. He now writes a weekly syndicated column, and has written several books, including the international best-seller, "About Face." So what do you do when you're nearing 70 and you've already "done it all"? Write a novel of course! As they say, "no guts, no glory."

Whatever reservations I had about Hack's ability to write first-rate fiction were dispelled within the first several pages of "The Price of Honor." And I don't mean it's good "for a first try." This novel is great! If you enjoy action-packed political thrillers, this book is for you.

Drawing on his extensive experience as both soldier and journalist, Hackworth has created a riveting work of fiction that cleverly conjoins the thrills of armed combat with the intrigue of political conspiracy. At the center of the novel are two compelling characters: Sandy Caine, an Army Special Forces Captain, known as Hawk by his devoted "A-Team" of warriors whom he bravely leads on one life-or-death mission after another; and Abigail Mancini, an investigative reporter who, like Sandy, refuses to back away from a conflict, even if it means putting her own life on the line.

Sandy and Abbie are first thrown together in Somalia, when American peace-keeping efforts suddenly turn violent, placing both of them in an Alamo-like situation from which they barely escape. The next time they meet is in Bosnia, where they again find themselves dodging gun-fire. This time, though, they also find themselves passionately drawn to one another.

Undeniably attracted to Sandy, Abbie also detects a dark side that deeply troubles her. She eventually coaxes him to reveal the source of his rage and self-doubt: as the latest in an eight-generation line of Caine men to serve in the military, Sandy has devoted himself to doing his country -- and his family name -- proud; but his entire career has been overshadowed by the tarnished reputation of his own father, Alex, whose cowardice in Vietnam -- according to eyewitness General Gus Buell -- led his "A-team" to be killed.

Sandy is therefore mystified when he meets an Army sergeant who tells him not only that he fought alongside his father, but that Alex was a courageous soldier who risked his own life to save his men. This sergeant promises to tell Sandy more, but is killed in battle, leaving Sandy to wonder what really occurred in Vietnam.

Abbie, as much out of love for Sandy as recognition of the potential for a prize-winning story, decides to help him uncover the truth. As it happens, Sandy's past is strangely linked to another story she is assigned -- writing a profile of Jefferson Taylor, a rising star in the U.S. Senate whose commitment to military reform has won him scores of followers and made him a likely presidential candidate. Taylor, it turns out, was also a friend of Sandy's father who survived the Lang Vei battle in which the father died and remains a close friend of the Caine family.

While Taylor avoids confirming Buell's story about Alex's cowardice, Abbie eventually learns of another survivor of that battle who promises to offer another version of those same events. As she and Sandy try to track him down, they find their own lives, as well as those of anyone whom they've contacted, put into jeopardy. Just when they come close to discovering the truth, they are pursued through the woods of Montana by a team of mercenary killers, whom they are eventually forced to battle in hand-to-hand combat. In the end, they both learn that everything has its price -- love, truth, honor -- and that sometimes, the price might be one's life.

Hackworth's military experience enables him to craft action sequences that are as riveting as they are authentically rendered and absolutely riveting. But he also shows a talent for deft and nuanced characterization, populating the novel with a diverse array of fully realized, complex male and female characters, none more so than Sandy and Abbie. Propelling the narrative and providing the book with a strong emotional core, the way in which Abbie helps heal Sandy's emotional scars as the two embark on a tender romance makes this that rare thriller that is simultaneously touching and action-packed.

Like a combination of "Saving Private Ryan"and "All the President's Men," "The Price of Honor" expertly intertwines genres to create anovel that is as innovative as it is engrossing. Just as "About Face" highlighted Hackworth's talent for writing military-based autobiography,"The Price of Honor" indicates the arrival of an exciting new voice in fiction.

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