Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review of "The Panther" by Nelson De Mille

Nelson De Mille is one of the best suspense/espionage writers on the planet.  Bar none.  His work has focused on issues in the Viet Nam war (in which he served) and issues related to terrorism in the Middle East. and in the former Soviet Union.  I became addicted to him and his work with "Charm School".  Later he produced "The Lions Game" a greater than 600 page story about a terrorist who arrives in New York and goes around killing politicians.  I began reading "The Lion's Game" on a Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.   As the day wore on I could not put it down. because I had to know what was on the next page.  I stayed up all night reading, called in sick at work at 7:00 a.m. Monday morning and finally finished the book at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon.  I read the entire book in one 26 hour sitting.  That's how good it was.

I anticipated a similar experience with the release of his new book "The Panther" about efforts to capture / kill an American-born Islamic-terrorist.  I didn't finish the book and in fact made it only through 480 of its 600 some pages.  Mr. De Mille asked at the start of the book for comments about factual errors.  I emailed him two that I found plus a comment about the book.  That is contained in the following email sent to Mr De Mille.

Bottom line is that this would have been a great read had the principal character, Detective John Corey, not made ridiculous endless wise assed comments about everything all the time.  It became very old and very childish at the same time.   I hope De Mille's next book isn't as annoying as "The Panther."

February 20, 2013

Dear Nelson De Mille,

At the beginning of The Panther you requested that people contact you with errors in the text.  I found two factual errors in the 480 pages of the book that I survived reading. I want to point them out to you.   I also have one comment.

First early in the book you refer to military people returning to "Dover Air Force Base in Maryland."  Dover AFB is in Dover Delaware.

Secondly, while Chet and the others are tooling around in Aden harbor with Chet driving the boat he pulls out his gun and shoots at a bird that is described as "black and white" and which Chet refers to as a "masked booby gull."

As a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist I can assure you that Masked Booby's are not gulls.  Taxonomically gulls are in the family Laridae.  Ornithologically they are closely related to shorebirds (sandpipers etc), Jaegers (skuas) and terns.   Taxonomically Masked Booby is a member of the family Sulidae, the gannets and boobies.  Ornithologically they are most closely related to Frigatebirds, Cormorants and Pelicans.   These latter birds are much more primitive (ornithologically and genetically) than are gulls.

The only thing that any species of booby has in common with any species of gull is that 1) they both have feathers and 2) they both like to hang out around water.  After that all similarities end.  You can learn about Masked Booby at this link:

Finally the comment.  I really came to enjoy your work with Charm School.  That book had me hooked and I read "The Lions Game" in one single 26 hour nonstop setting.  Given how much I enjoyed your earlier works (every one of them) I want you to know that I was less than impressed with The Panther.  You have taken the wise-cracking persona of John Corey to an extreme. No human being is going to make smart assed comments about every thing on earth every sentence and every breath.  However that is what John Corey became in this book.  Of the 600 plus pages of the book my guess is you could have knocked down the volume of the book by 150 pages had you taken out half of Corey's unnecessary comments.  It rapidly became very old and very boring and to be honest I quit reading the book and placed it in the garbage after 480 pages.  Accordingly I do not know how the book ends and quite frankly I don't care.  I'll just pick up one of Bill Bryson's books and read it.  He makes wise cracks but at least only on occasion and when he does they are entertaining.

I sincerely hope that if John Corey survived the time in Yemen and you decide to use him in an subsequent books you produce that you cool down his smart assed view of everything.  It quit being entertaining about on page 50 of The Panther.

Craig Faanes
Sarasota Florida


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