Review by Henry E. Mattox
By James W. Huston. (William Morrow: June 2000. Avon (paper): June 2001. Copyright 2000. 579 pp.)
Feature this: a page-turner of a novel centered on the United States’ war against a Middle Eastern terrorist leader and his shadowy, deadly organization. Nearly 600 pages of plottings and mayhem and intrigue. One central theme of the fictional account is the difficulties involved in even locating these trained killers and, especially, their leader.
Do we have here a case of art imitating life? Maybe a prolific author cashing in on the events that have unfolded since Black September Eleventh, someone able to hit the bookstores already?
No. It’s a novel I happened upon while vacationing in November. James Huston, a former U. S. Navy fighter pilot and now an author and lawyer, had his novel, Flash Point, published well before Black September Eleventh. Presented largely from the perspective of American naval aviators, the novel takes account of real-life terrorism, mentioning Osama ben Laden, for example, but the story centers on a fictitious sheikh who heads up a group with origins dating back centuries called “The Assassins.” The plot line has the U. S. Congress (not the President alone) in an unprecedented move formally declaring war on the sheikh as an individual and on his organization—not on a nation state. The action then takes place in several Middle Eastern countries. The sheikh is holed up deep in a mountain tunnel in Iran and has to be rooted out through the use of American air might and Israeli commandos.
The only plot twist missing from Huston’s fast-paced, action-packed tale is any precipitating event as horrific as the World Trade Center catastrophe. No one could easily have imagined such a disaster, and even if Huston somehow had, likely his editors would have insisted that he rewrite downward a sequence of that magnitude and sheer horror.
I won’t reveal here how it all comes out. If you’re looking for a good read, however, one that is almost eerily prescient, I recommend Flash Point. It makes me wonder almost with trepidation what Huston is working on these days.