Dan Schmidt released his third “Eagle Force” book, “Flight 666”, via Bantam in 1989. His team-based book showcases four paramilitary members that have all experienced intense action during the Vietnam war and clandestine assignments all over Central and South America. It’s the series’ same core group of four commandos led by the main character Vic Gabriel. The first two books of the series featured a little back story on Gabriel and his family history. With this third book Schmidt goes right for the jugular and gives us action soaked pages that don’t delve into history, instead just bullets and sweat-soaked intensity throughout the 200 pages.
Vic Gabriel is on “Flight 666”, a commercial airliner from France to Israel. The red lights would have been a nuclear fireball if my ticket has anything to do with Armageddon. But ‘ole Vic isn’t afraid of prophecy and dives right in. Vic is doing a little solo work on the side, a cool $50K to escort two Jewish businessmen from France to Israel and provide body guard duty while the businessmen do whatever arms deals they have in Israel. The rest of Eagle Force is chilling at home while Vic pimps himself out.
Like a lot of the books and movies at the time Schmidt hitches his wagon to the “terrorists on board” theme. Four Iranian Islamic terrorists take over “Flight 666” and make a demand that the US release all of its Iranian prisoners or all 200+ hostages are dead. Boom. Vic has no weapons, no team and has to rely on his own skill-set to survive the ordeal. Soon the terrorists execute Vic’s two Jewish clients and another passenger. They know Vic is American and he has the look of CIA so they sort of keep Vic under wraps while they rape a stewardess and generally antagonize the passengers.
Soon the flight lands in a rural desert wasteland in Iran, a fortified ancient city called Bam. I didn’t know Books-A-Million existed so far out. While Vic and the hostages are led into the fort Uncle Sam has a plan. A crack-team of commandos known as the “Phantom Plague” are assembled with orders to fly into Iran and do their search and rescue jive. Think of the Phantom Plague as that evil twin version of Knight Rider’s Michael Knight. They have the look of Eagle Force but they tend to have a bit more reckless abandonment and a whole buncha illwill. At the same time that Uncle Sam is making his ploy our very own Eagle Force (three-fourths) is assembled and they are in route to the same destination. Will Eagle Force and Phantom Plague play well in the sandbox together or turn their smokin’ guns on each other?
Schmidt is a really fast-paced writer who isn’t afraid to smear a little blood and gore on the pages to thicken things up. In “Flight 666” he gives us a little peek at what a more reckless Eagle Force could look like. At the same time, he truly shows how valuable Vic is to the team by holding all the pieces together and providing tremendous leadership for his men. I like the “Delta Force” part of the book that showed the hostages and terrorists conflict in the skies. I think that part was fairly well written although I still have doubts on why the terrorists didn’t just land in an urban region making a rescue attempt much more difficult. My only complaint with the book is this: it is the third consecutive book that saw Vic as a prisoner. The first book he became a willing prisoner of Islamic terrorists. The last book had Vic and his whole team behind bars in a Colombia. Again, Vic is captured in this entry making it very predictable. I am really hoping this isn’t a trend by the author. We’ll see whenever I can hunt down book four.