Go to Homepage   Martin L. Strong: Death Before Dawn


Crescent Blues Book ViewsWriter's Showcase (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-595-18454-5
Matt Barrett, young impetuous fool of a lad, sporting a brand new swabby haircut, Navy uniform and a chip on his shoulder, finds living up to the powerful legacy of his war hero father a difficult task to handle.

Book: Martin R. Strong, death before dawnColonel Arthur Barrett, leader of men, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and spit-polisher of brass, always gave young Matt a hard time. The Old Man demanded strict discipline at all times and would not tolerate failure. But no matter how hard Matt tried, he could never live up to the Old Man's gold braided expectations. Matt felt like a seedling in the shadow of his giant oak tree of a father.

Then the old bastard died. Matt never got a chance to even the score. Unable to prove his worth in the eyes of his dead old man, Matt's anger boiled over. He vowed to get even with Dad, no matter what. Matt had to formulate a plan.

Plagued with a desire bred of contempt, driven by a will to win at all costs and haunted by the cold memory of his demanding father, Matt joined the Navy. This action would surely lead to success, respect, and a girl in every port. But what if Matt failed? At least, with all those white uniforms, he could always sell ice cream.

Meanwhile, in secret places scattered around the world, foreign terrorist cells plotted to attack and eliminate the foundations of freedom, the American way of life and unveiled dancing girls. And closer to home, American military geniuses bite their nails and wring their hands, while their underlings make ineffectual contingency plans and fresh coffee.

Will Matt and the other embryonic SEAL recruits complete their training in time to get in on the upcoming military action? Or will Matt's hot headed leadership technique land him in hot water? How are plastic explosives and women alike?

An easy read of 151 pages, Death Before Dawn offers us a look, albeit vague, into the psyches of a particularly shallow group of Special Forces personnel. It shows that our brave soldiers while motivated by duty, honor, and mission still enjoy booze, broads and Comedy Central. (Not necessarily in that order)

Much like his lead character, Martin L. Strong reminds me of a seedling in the forest of prose. His characters, while obviously based on real people, lack a certain definition. And except for the flashback in the prologue, the plot could be easily mistaken for a shopping list.

The inner "I hate my dad" conflict shows distinctive signs of stress and unnecessary repetition, while the external conflict of strain, pain and gain only serves to cover up examples of unpolished writing.

Was it worth the read? Yes, if for no other reason than to watch a new writer struggle with plot, characterization, pacing, and motivation. (I may criticize because I struggle with these very same writing problems.)

Would I review another book by Martin L. Strong? You betcha. I love watching trees grow.

Don Mitchell

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