By Will Grant
Sometimes, you can learn as much from fiction as nonfiction. For any one who has not been a part of the Army’s elite combat detachment Delta Force or done low-profile recon work in Pakistan, that’ll be the case with Dalton Fury’s new book, Black Site. For those people, the book will be an educational tour de force through the terra incognita of our military’s—and private security companies’—presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Its pertinence to the current state of affairs in Pakistan and Afghanistan is one of the book’s strongest selling points. And the fact that Fury has pretty much done the types of work he writes about means the book is thickly coated in details of authenticity. Or so most of us can only assume.
For any one who is former Delta Force, or who has reconned in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the book will be a plot-driven trip down memory lane, complete with CamelBak hydration reservoirs, Toyota Hiluxes, and crowded weapons bazaars. In fact, there are times in the book when the barrage of details seems to do little more than authenticate the story
The book is the first in a series of special ops thrillers, and it reads furiously. Fury, the author, develops the protagonist, Kolt Raynor, through events—like firefights in the mountains, arguments with superior officers, and getting drunk alone—rather than long-winded character developments better spared for The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell or Harvard University’s Stephen Greenblatt. Fury’s book is more Tom Clancy and John Grisham in nature.
Grisham’s books bear resemblance to Fury’s in at least one convincing way: the author knows well his subject. Grisham’s foundation for writing his legal-world thrillers was a career as a lawyer. Fury’s foundation is five years with Delta Force.
The book opens with Raynor, a former Delta man, leading his life as a drunk and living in a junked trailer near Fort Bragg. Raynor looks to whiskey to assuage the tortures of a bad decision three years prior in Afghanistan that cost the lives of his teammates and fellow soldiers. He also botched a job as an anti-pirate security officer on a freighter. The ship was hijacked, he was drunk, and though he ended up sending the pirates scurrying home under a spray of gunfire, he managed to wound the freighter’s captain and vomit all over the pirates, making an ass of himself in the process.
Then one hungover morning, Raynor’s door is kicked in by his former commanding officer who’s working for a private security company, Radiance. The former colonel needs a good man for a tough job, and enlists Raynor for an ultra-sensitive mission to help recover some of the soldiers that supposedly died because of Raynor’s lack of judgment. And just so you remember it’s a work of fiction, one of the surviving soldiers happens to be Raynor’s closest friend from Delta.
So Raynor ships off to the mountains of Wyoming for a quick, high-altitude refresher in the skills he killed with the bottle. It’s a classic case of redemption through fire, and Raynor rises above the expectations of his superiors. At this point, the fuse is set for the book’s action.
Fury then lobs us into Pakistan in the middle of the night with a faulty parachute. We rendezvous with the Pakistani contact, whom, if not slightly stereotypically, delivers firewood to the Taliban captors, whose father was beheaded by the Taliban, and who has pledged allegiance to the US effort.
Like any good book, the plot thickens with subplots like a river grows with tributaries. Raynor learns a lot more than just the whereabouts of his comrades, and his mission takes on a life of its own. Our character finds himself in a hell of a mess that he has to shoot his way out of more than once, much to the chagrin of his commanders at home.
Raynor is an impetuous, instinctive, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants operator that keeps the story moving at a double-time pace. Raynor is also a total professional, and bearing witness to his escapades is a wild ride. The book will keep you awake at night far longer than you might like, and it’s sure to pass an airplane ride without your knowing.
Black Site follows on the heels of Fury’s nationally acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Kill Bin Laden (St. Martin’s Press, 2008). Kill Bin Laden shed light on the Battle of Tora Bora and our country’s early attempts to find Osama bin Laden. Praised for its authenticity and insight, the book couldn’t have been written by any one other than someone present for the toilsome search.
The same is true for Black Site. No armchair quarterback stateside would be able to paint so convincing and vivid a portrayal of operating in Pakistan. Because the book is fiction, Fury is able to interweave scenes and subject matter that would otherwise take a lengthy backstory to connect. The book is fiction at it’s best, and it reads like a screenplay.
To learn more about the book, visit DaltonFury.com.