by Christopher Whitcomb

The news media does not report "news." It reports the bizarre, the
unusual, the unlikely. But it does not report what is happening.
You will never see a headline that reads, "Three Million Auto Trips
Completed Thursday Without Mishap" or "No Fights at Wal-Mart
Today." Let there be one plane crash or the equivalent of a locker
room towel-snap hazing in an Iraqi prison camp on the U.S. watch,
and the suits are all over it. An al-Qaeda beheading? They do it
all the time. So that, by the modern definition, is not news. News,
in fact, is what you don't hear about. And there is a lot of
interesting news in BLACK.

BLACK is Christopher Whitcomb's first novel. He has a previous
book, COLD ZERO, a nonfiction work about his fifteen years with the
FBI. While BLACK is ostensibly a work of fiction, it has such a
ring of truth to it that it is difficult to escape the feeling that
Whitcomb is writing a memoir rather than a fictional thriller. In
either event, BLACK is a winner.

Jeremy Waller is the primary focus of BLACK. The story picks up
with him completing his training for a place on the FBI's elite
Hostage Rescue Team. Waller attracts the notice of his instructors
almost from Day One due to his almost uncanny ability to think
outside the box when confronted with a problem. After demonstrating
this trait on numerous occasions during training, Waller shows
during a hostage extrication mission in Puerto Rico that he is
capable of performing in the field and under fire as well. However,
when Waller is tapped by his supervisor to perform a secret,
clandestine mission overseas --- a mission of which his own agency
does not even seem to be aware --- Waller's career and personal
life begin to unravel for reasons he does not understand.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Beechum, a United States Senator who appears
to be on the fast track for a presidential nomination, is suddenly
attacked in her home. Following the attack, she finds that her
nomination and Senatorial career are inexplicably in

The source of Beechum's and Waller's problems emanates from Jordan
Mitchell, a driven, focused business tycoon whose company is on the
verge of rolling out a cellular phone that will revolutionize
communications and that will also render conversational
eavesdropping impossible. Mitchell's intent to roll out the
telephones in the Mideast has resulted in his becoming the most
hated man in America, as these cellular phones, in the hands of
terrorists, will significantly compromise the ability of the United
States to gather intelligence. al-Qaeda operatives, meanwhile, are
on the verge of carrying out a terrorist act that will bring the
United States down and affect an unsuspecting world --- all within
the space of a few seconds. Waller finds himself in a race against
time to stop the terrorists, and Mitchell. Not even Waller,
however, can ascertain Mitchell's true agenda until the very end of
the story, when all is revealed.

BLACK is quite a romp from its beginning to its very end. I thought
I had it all figured out about halfway through and, appropriately
enough, I was only half right. As I neared the end of BLACK, I
wondered how Whitcomb was going to wrap things up in the few
remaining pages. The answer to that question was, and is, very
nicely, thank you. Whitcomb's pacing and plotting is the equal of a
seasoned craftsman, as opposed to someone diving into the waters of
a first novel. Hopefully, there will be many, many more.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

by Christopher Whitcomb

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316601012
  • ISBN-13: 9780316601016