Wednesday, November 4, 2009

10 Secret Agent

TITLE: Dead Meat

June 19, 2002
Camp Mamba, 68 kilometers east of Kandahar, Afghanistan

Gil Becker’s sun-baked eyes watched the Navy MH-60S Knighthawk circle, then flare before setting down inside a plume of dust at the center of Camp Mamba five kilometers away. The sight of a whirlybird landing in his little corner of the war never meant anything good. The only time a chopper came in was to transport the wounded or captured to parts unknown, not deliver fresh bodies. They always came in by truck, on foot, or in Becker’s case, tucked into the fetal position in the back of a C-130 waiting for the Jumpmaster to tell him it was time to take a header into the night sky.

Becker put the chopper out of his mind. Whatever was on that chopper wasn’t his problem. It took him another hour to get back to camp, by which time the helicopter was long gone. He nodded to the other members of Task Force 5 who weren’t out and about. Taco Bob cleaning the business end of his Barrett Fifty. Herman the German on a lawn chair, trying (and failing) to get a tan. Gordy in his tent, as always, pumping iron.

Becker went into the tent he shared with Taco Bob. He dumped the rucksack on his cot and pulled out the camouflage blanket. His version of a poor man’s Ghillie suit wasn’t much more than a long piece of burlap covered in random swatches of brown, but it came in handy once in a while.


  1. It's a little to describe-y for me. But then I'm not sure what a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk is. I'm guessing helicopter. But everything has extra describing words. It's not a Knighthawk, but a Navy MH-60S Knighthawk. Sun-baked eyes. Couldn't Gil just watch? (I often have issues with the doings of body parts, though I've done it myself on occasion).

    Its a PLUME of dust at the CENTER of Camp MAMBA which happens to be FIVE KILOMETERS away. Lots of details for me to remember and filter for importance in the very first sentence. I had trouble falling into a mental rhythm for reading this. I probably wouldn't read on. (Sorry)

  2. Opening paragraph: good. But then, a transition to a calm in-camp scene with character introductions: not as good. I'd prefer feeling the tension as Gil returns from his patrol. Got to be lots out there to worry about. Put me back in Gil's head as he treks back.

  3. Problems with the transition from outside to inside camp. Specifically “It took him an hour to get back to camp”. You’ve given us so many specifics; I want to know why he was outside of camp, and why it took him so long to get back.
    Don’t need to tell us that it’s Camp Mamba if the helicopter lands there right away.
    I get the rhythm of the thriller, which you have done nicely. I’m hooked, but only just.

  4. I agree with the first 3 comments. Since I'm used to reading political thrillers, though, if I'd read a blurb and seemed interested in the story, I'd probably continue, but if I read just this section, I'm not sure I would.

    Other than the momentary curiosity about the helicopter, I'm not seeing much tension yet.

  5. Good work!

    "Sun-baked eyes?" makes me think of an egg on a sidewalk.

    "not deliver fresh bodies..." The beginning of the sentence is talking about taking causalities from the camp. It took me a couple of reads to realize you were talking about new personnel.

    I'd give it another couple of pages to see where things were going.

    Good luck


  6. I didn't have a problem with the extra description. Military people tend to think in those terms, so I think it lends itself to voice. Sun-baked eyes could go, because if you had sun-baked eyes, you probably wouldn't see a thing.

    I agree that it lacks tension. Some hint as to where he's been and why might help to create some. Give us hint of danger, whether it's in the past or some time to come.

    A logic issue perhaps? You tell me the only time a chopper came in was to transport the wounded or captured. Then, he has no idea what's on it (and yet he just gave us an idea.)

    The writing is clear and clean but, as is, it's a bit too bland for me. It doesn't pull me in.

  7. I liked this voice. Hated sun-baked eyes, but was glad I kept reading to get to Taco Bob and Herman the German.

  8. I like this. I get a really strong sense of time and place from the description of the setting and the other characters. Describing the protag as having arrived by way of being tucked in the fetal position on a C-130 reveals a lot about him, I think.

  9. I too had to read it twice to realise what he meant by 'fresh bodies' (new soldiers instead of new corpses). Other than that I liked it, though I think you need a comma after flare. Either that, or ditch the comma after circle. That's a very minor nit though, and I think you have a great military thriller voice.

  10. Being military as well - I'm right there in your scene. You do a great job making an environment most have never experienced accessable. I didn't feel a really strong hook though that would make me want to turn the page. -Heather

  11. Nicely written, nice voice. Not my usual genre of choice, so might not keep reading, but good job.

  12. Nice work. Really evocative.
    I would read on this.

    I actually liked the sun baked eyes reference.