Brad Taylor retired from the U.S. Army Special Forces as a lieutenant colonel, a rank attained through merit demonstrated under fire. Each of us sleeps comfortably in our beds each and every night thanks to men like him. That said, service to our country and its people at the highest level is not necessarily indicative of an ability to write or to tell a story. And I will admit that the first 30 pages of Taylor's debut novel, ONE ROUGH MAN, seemed just a tad unsteady, with too many changes of scenery and personnel in too short a period.
So it is that I went through three stages of transition while reading: 1) Hmm, from pages 1 to 30; 2) whoa, from pages 30 to 80; and 3) anyone trying to take this book away from me before I finish shall pull back a bloody stump, from pages 80 to the conclusion. In other words, start ONE ROUGH MAN, and if it doesn't grab you from the first page, keep reading. If it sinks its hooks into you from the first paragraph, bless you. This is one wild, fun and unforgettable ride.
Pike Logan is the lynch key of an illegal black ops team known as the Taskforce, commissioned by the President. He learns abruptly and painfully that his nearly unmatched skill set cannot cope when a violent tragedy takes from him everything worth living for. Resigning from the Taskforce, he begins a downward spiral that seemingly has no bottom, spending his days and nights drunk on a docked sailboat. It is his intervention into a bar fight that leads him to save the life of a young woman who is unwittingly in possession of a map that holds the location of a centuries-old weapon that two terrorists believe may well have a chilling and deadly application to modern-day warfare. Their plan is simple enough: use the weapon against Israel and plant evidence pointing to Iran as the attacker. Logan, whose initial involvement in the matter is limited to protecting the young woman, all too soon uncovers the plot and is drawn back into his old role, except that this time he doesn't have any rules or tether (other than his own) to restrain him.
Meanwhile, an egomaniac with a talent for self-promotion is using his position and power on the National Security Council to ensure that the terrorists succeed, thinking that the contemplated attack will not only mobilize the United States but also solidify and increase his own stature. When he learns that Logan has interjected himself into the situation, he unleashes a team of mercenaries to go after Logan and stop him by any means necessary. Logan pursues and is pursued from South Carolina to Guatemala to Washington, D.C., then to Norway and Bosnia, where, with some surprise assistance, he has only one chance to stop the deaths of thousands of innocents and give his own life new meaning as well.
Those who remember the Mack Bolan/Executioner series will find much to love here, given that the characters are somewhat similar and the action level --- set in stone at hard and brutal --- is the same. Taylor lends an additional authenticity to his work, giving one the feeling that the hands that wrote it are nobly soiled in the fields of quiet war as well. And while ONE ROUGH MAN is complete in and of itself, there is a major plot thread left open at its conclusion, one that begs for closure somewhere down the line. Readers will be clamoring for a sequel, but for now, do not miss this first installment.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 28, 2011