Friday, October 23, 2015
C.J. Ledger Review: RedEye: Fulda Cold by Bill Fortin
Today’s review is for RedEye: Fulda Cold by Bill Fortin. We received this book from the Cadence Group, a book marketing company that we have worked with before, and we really enjoy the books that they represent. The ones we’ve come into contact with are professionally published with a great editorial work, and the team exerts sheer professionalism when reaching out to book reviewers.
About the Book:
RedEye: Fulda Cold Publisher: Cold War Publications
Redeye: Fulda Cold by Bill Fortin is a different type of war novel. This piece of history is set in 1969 West Germany. The reality of what happened in the Cold War on the border between the opposing forces of East and West makes this a great read; it’s an important part of our military history. Rick Fontain, the main character, is found just out of high school working for Bell Systems when he is summoned by his friends and neighbors. During his induction into the US Army he is given an aptitude test. The test results change the path of his life forever. He is encouraged to become an officer but the extra time, in addition to his two years, is a no go for Rick. He opts for training on the Redeye, the first ever hand held surface to air missile system designed for close combat for the infantry. What Rick doesn’t know is that he is being watched from afar. His progress is being scrutinized and he is being evaluated for recruitment into the CIA.
His journey from boot camp continues when he is stationed near the Fulda Gap. Not a well known place, but its strategic position to the free world was an important post that kept Europe safe during those tense 30 plus years. Rick and his team would become one of the greatest deterrents to an invasion from Mother Russia. Fortin has deftly combined fictional characters and people he served with in the United States Army to recount some important but little-known events during the Cold War. His story takes the reader to the people and places of the late 1960s European Military Community and a series of carefully crafted CIA military operations designed to thwart a possible Russian invasion through the infamous Fulda Gap.
Overall 4.5 Stars
This book is a historical fiction work of art in the sub genre of War. The author takes fictional characters and merges them together with actual people he served with during the Cold War, Bill Fortin does an exceptional job of using these characters to tell us about lesser-known events that occurred during that strenuous time, which may have influenced our overall safety, even if just a bit. Acting as the main deterrent from an invasion by Mother Russia, Rick Fontain’s team lends their service to the Fulda Gap protecting the world from imminent doom while experiencing memorable events along the way. RedEye: Fulda Cold recounts a lesser-known war, transporting us back to one of the most important wartime eras this world has ever seen, but while there aren’t many books published about it, Fortin restitutes this lack of available material by writing a novel that feeds our need for historical knowledge, fictional creativity, and lust for wartime drama, all wrapped within the binding of one book.
The author stays in the character of a serviceman even within the structural integrity of the book. He uses accurate acronyms, phrases, and wording within the book making you feel as if you were standing side by side with Rick Fontain experiencing his life events. This is an exceptionally advanced method of writing, almost always reserved for an audience experienced in military life, veterans, retirees, active duty… But while some books written in this style leave many behind, unable to understand some of the occurrences, in this book the author stays with you throughout, offering up footnotes to help us understand military lingo and reference figures to give his context as to the places in which the protagonist plays out his experiences. His bolding and style used to separate locations and events throughout chapters is very reminiscent of receiving service orders from your commanding officer, making the reader feel like a part of the events.
Bill Fortin wrote this novel in the first person, you cannot read through one page without feeling like you are personally experiencing what Rick Fontain is going through. Ultimately, by the time you get to the end of this book it feels as if you’ve just read the incredible journey one man has gone through, full of unimaginable things, yet it has all been locked away within the safe of his own memory, rarely taken out for the world to see. It is eerily relative to the experiences current service members have, keeping in memories of incredible events only shared with brothers by their side, only to come home and walk past the rest of the population, unbeknownst to them, the amazing log of information held within this passerby; information that directly corresponds to their own freedom and effort to keep it safe.
I’ve learned more about the Cold War in this historical fiction book than I have in all of my years of education, which is precisely the concept Fortin tries to convey. This is a grand time in history, but one few of us know much about. Fortin delivers what we’ve been missing.
Cover: ⅘ Stars | When it comes to the cover of this book it has a great basis, but there’s just one section of it that we cannot get past. The back cover of the book boasts a very clean, petroleum black with white lettering and some decorative decals. The spine is rather plain but still befitting for the book, and the front top-half offers us a very visual perception of what this book is about. However, the lower section of the front cover is rather awkward. “Fulda Cold” is very nicely placed within a matching border, and “Bill Fortin” is printed nicely with some of the grainy details of the back-splash within the lettering; you can also see it in “Fulda Cold”. But in the middle, you have “A Rick Fontaine Novel”, which is rather awkward, as it just sits there in solid white lettering without really blending into the book at all. We feel that that line could have been placed and designed a bit better.
Research: ⅘ Stars | This book is deserving of a mention on its research. It offers an extensive character list towards the beginning of the book, making it easier for the reader to get to know the protagonists. The list is nicely divided by the locations in which they play out their stories, London, Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. This list also includes places and terms used and goes on for 6 pages.
Within the book, each page has between one and two footnotes describing terminology used within the story, addressing figures of buildings and places, and giving more background to what the protagonists are talking about. Speaking of the figures, this book does a very good job of transporting the reader to the places where the stories play out, as every couple of pages, you run into a figure. For example, on page 101, there is a nice diagram labeled “Figure 11” noting the operational unit sizes within the army. Figure 9 on page 92 offers a map noted as the “Fulda Gap”, which gives us some context as well. And our final example is on page 193, labeled “Figure 17”, which is a photograph of the Nuremberg Hospital.
Continuing with research, on page 5 the author provides us with a table of contents, but he also provides us with a table of figures and pictures on page 7 and 8, which note the location of the depictions we just discussed. Page 9 is a very heartfelt acknowledgement page, noting three servicemen he worked with, his editor Donna Foley, & a few others. What was personal for us, was his addition of page 11, which he reserved as a memorial to two very special servicemen, one of which, Sergeant Ken Clark, is the subject of the dedication of this book.
We didn’t give the research of this book the full five stars because some of the photographs are grainy and pix-elated. For example, the Fulda Gap map (Figure 9) is very blurry and hard to read and Figure 42 on page 411, labeled “Attention to Orders” is very pix-elated, almost impossible to read.