Books by Bracken, Matthew

Bracken, Matthew. Castigo Cay. Orange Park, FL: Steelcutter Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9728310-4-8.
Dan Kilmer wasn't cut out to be a college man. Disappointing his father, after high school he enlisted in the Marine Corps, becoming a sniper who, in multiple tours in the sandbox, had sent numerous murderous miscreants to their reward. Upon leaving the service, he found that the skills he had acquired had little value in the civilian world. After a disastrous semester trying to adjust to college life, he went to work for his rich uncle, who had retired and was refurbishing a sixty foot steel hulled schooner with a dream of cruising the world and escaping the deteriorating economy and increasing tyranny of the United States. Fate intervened, and after his uncle's death Dan found himself owner and skipper of the now seaworthy craft.

Some time later, Kilmer is cruising the Caribbean with his Venezuelan girlfriend Cori Vargas and crew members Tran Hung and Victor Aleman. The schooner Rebel Yell is hauled out for scraping off barnacles while waiting for a treasure hunting gig which Kilmer fears may not come off, leaving him desperately short of funds. Cori desperately wants to get to Miami, where she believes she can turn her looks and charm into a broadcast career. Impatient, she jumps ship and departs on the mega-yacht Topaz, owned by shadowy green energy crony capitalist Richard Prechter.

After her departure, another yatero informs Dan that Prechter has a dark reputation and that there are rumours of other women who boarded his yacht disappearing under suspicious circumstances. Kilmer made a solemn promise to Cori's father that he would protect her, and he takes his promises very seriously, so he undertakes to track Prechter to a decadent and totalitarian Florida, and then pursue him to Castigo Cay in the Bahamas where a horrible fate awaits Cori. Kilmer, captured in a desperate rescue attempt, has little other than his wits to confront Prechter and his armed crew as time runs out for Cori and another woman abducted by Prechter.

While set in a future in which the United States has continued to spiral down into a third world stratified authoritarian state, this is not a “big picture” tale like the author's Enemies trilogy (1, 2, 3). Instead, it is a story related in close-up, told in the first person, by an honourable and resourceful protagonist with few material resources pitted against the kind of depraved sociopath who flourishes as states devolve into looting and enslavement of their people.

This is a thriller that works, and the description of the culture shock that awaits one who left the U.S. when it was still semi-free and returns, even covertly, today will resonate with those who got out while they could.

Extended excerpts of this and the author's other novels are available online at the author's Web site.

February 2014 Permalink

Bracken, Matthew. Domestic Enemies. Orange Park, FL: Steelcutter Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9728310-2-4.
This is the second novel in the author's “Enemies” trilogy, which began with Enemies Foreign and Domestic (EFAD) (December 2009). In After America (August 2011) Mark Steyn argues that if present trends continue (and that's the way to bet), within the lives of those now entering the workforce in the United States (or, at least attempting to do so, given the parlous state of the economy) what their parents called the “American dream” will have been extinguished and turned into a nightmare along the lines of Latin American authoritarian states: bifurcation of the society into a small, wealthy élite within their walled and gated communities and impoverished masses living in squalor and gang-ruled “no go” zones where civil society has collapsed.

This book picks up the story six years after the conclusion of EFAD. Ranya Bardiwell has foolishly attempted to return to the United States and been apprehended and sent to a detention and labour camp, her son taken from her at birth. When she manages to escape from the camp, she tracks down her son as having been given for adoption to the family of an FBI agent in New Mexico, and following the trail she becomes embroiled in the seething political storm of Nuevo Mexico, where separatist forces have taken power and seized upon the weakness of the Washington regime to advance their agenda of rolling back the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and creating a nation of “Aztlan” from the territories ceded by Mexico in that treaty.

As the story progresses, we see the endpoint of the reconquista in New Mexico, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and how opportunistic players on all sides seek to exploit the chaos and plunder the dwindling wealth of the dying empire for themselves. I'm not going to get into the plot or characters because almost anything I say would be a spoiler and this story does not deserve to be spoilt—it should be savoured. I consider it to be completely plausible—in the aftermath of a financial collapse and breakdown of central authority, the consequences of mass illegal immigration, “diversity”, and “multiculturalism” could, and indeed will likely lead to the kind of outcome sketched here. I found only one technical quibble in the entire novel (a turbine-powered plane “coughing and belching before catching”), but that's just worth a chuckle and doesn't detract in any way from the story. This the first thriller I recall reading in which a precocious five year old plays a central part in the story in a perfectly believable way, and told from his own perspective.

This book is perfectly accessible if read stand-alone, but I strongly recommend reading EFAD first—it not only sets the stage for the mid-collapse America in which this story plays out, but also provides the back story for Ranya Bardiwell and Bob Bullard who figure so prominently here.

Extended excerpts of this and the author's other novels are available online at the author's Web site.

March 2012 Permalink

Bracken, Matthew. Enemies Foreign and Domestic. Orange Park, FL: Steelcutter Publishing, [2003] 2008. ISBN 978-0-9728310-1-7.
This is one of those books, like John Ross's Unintended Consequences and Vince Flynn's Term Limits in which a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism committed by the Federal Government of the United States finally pushes liberty-loving citizens to exercise “their right, … their duty, to throw off such Government” even if doing so requires the tree of liberty to be refreshed “with the blood of patriots and tyrants”.

In this novel a massacre at a football stadium which occurs under highly dubious circumstances serves as the pretext for a draconian ban on semiautomatic weapons, with immediate confiscation and harsh penalties for non-compliance. This is a step too far for a diverse collection of individuals who believe the Second Amendment to be the ultimate bastion against tyranny, and a government which abridges it to be illegitimate by that very act. Individually, they begin to take action, and what amounts to a low grade civil war begins to break out in the Tidewater region of Virgina, with government provocateurs from a rogue federal agency of jackbooted thugs (as opposed to the jackbooted thugs of other agencies which are “just following orders”) perpetrating their own atrocities, which are then used to justify even more restrictions on the individual right to bear arms, including a ban on telescopic sights (dubbed “sniper rifles”), transportation of weapons in automobiles, and random vehicle stop checkpoints searching for and confiscating firearms.

As the situation spirals increasingly out of control, entrepreneurial jackbooted thugs exploit it to gain power and funding for themselves, and the individuals resisting them come into contact with one another and begin to put the pieces together and understand who is responsible and why a federal law enforcement agency is committing domestic terrorism. Then it's payback time.

This novel is just superbly written. It contains a wealth of detail, all of it carefully researched and accurate. I only noted a couple of typos and factual goofs. The characters are complex, realistically flawed, and develop as the story unfolds. This is a thriller, not a political tract, and it will keep you turning the pages until the very end, while thinking about what you would do when liberty is on the line.

Excerpts from the book are available online at the author's Web site.

December 2009 Permalink

Bracken, Matthew. Foreign Enemies and Traitors. Orange Park, FL: Steelcutter Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9728310-3-1.
This is the third novel in the author's “Enemies” trilogy, which began with Enemies Foreign and Domestic (December 2009), and continued with Domestic Enemies (March 2012). Here, we pick up the story three years after the conclusion of the second volume. Phil Carson, who we last encountered escaping from the tottering U.S. on a sailboat after his involvement in a low-intensity civil war in Virginia, is returning to the ambiguously independent Republic of Texas, smuggling contraband no longer available in the de-industrialised and bankrupt former superpower, when he is caught in a freak December hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and shipwrecked on the coast of Mississippi.

This is not the America he left. The South is effectively under martial law, administered by General Marcus Aurelius Mirabeau; east Texas has declared its independence; the Southwest has split off as Aztlan and secured autonomy in the new Constitution; the East and upper Midwest remain under the control of the ever more obviously socialist regime in Washington; and the American redoubt states in the inland northwest are the last vestige of liberty. The former United States have not only been devastated by economic collapse and civil strife stemming from the attempt to ban and confiscate weapons, but then ravaged by three disastrous hurricanes and two earthquakes on the New Madrid fault. It's as if God had turned his back on the United States of America—say “no” to Him three times, and that may happen.

Carson, a Vietnam special forces veteran, uses his skills at survival, evasion, and escape, as well as his native cunning, to escape (albeit very painfully) to Tennessee, which is in the midst of a civil war. Residents, rejecting attempts to disarm them (which would place them at risk of annihilation at the hands of the “golden horde” escaping devastated urban areas and ravaging everything in their path), are now confronted with foreign mercenaries from such exemplars of human rights and rule of law as Kazakhstan and Nigeria, brought in because U.S. troops have been found too squeamish when it come to firing on their compatriots: Kazakhstani cavalry—not so much. (In the book, these savages are referred to as “Kazaks”. “Kazakhstani” is correct, but as an abbreviation I think “Kazakh” [the name of their language] would be better.)

Carson, and the insurgents with whom he makes contact in Tennessee, come across incontrovertible evidence of an atrocity committed by Kazakhstani mercenaries, at the direction of the highest levels of what remains of the U.S. government. In a world with the media under the thumb of the regime and the free Internet a thing of the past, getting this information out requires the boldest of initiatives, and recruiting not just career NCOs, the backbone of the military, but also senior officers with the access to carry out the mission. After finishing this book, you may lose some sleep pondering the question, “At what point is a military coup the best achievable outcome?”.

This is a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the “Enemies” trilogy. Unlike the previous volumes, there are a number of lengthy passages, usually couched as one character filling in another about events of which they were unaware, which sketch the back story. These are nowhere near as long as Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged (April 2010), (which didn't bother me in the least—I thought it brilliant all of the three times I've read it), but they do ask the reader to kick back from the action and review how we got here and what was happening offstage. Despite the effort to make this book work as a stand-alone novel, I'd recommend reading the trilogy in series—if you don't you'll miss the interactions between the characters, how they came to be here, and why the fate of the odious Bob Bullard is more than justified.

Extended excerpts of this and the author's other novels are available online at the author's Web site.

September 2012 Permalink