Monday, February 26, 2007

"Killer Elite"

Michael Smith writes on defense and security issues for the Sunday Times and New Statesman.

His books are about spies and special operations. The latest is Killer Elite The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team.

Michael applied the "page 69 test" to Killer Elite and reported the following:
Killer Elite tells the story of the Activity, a US special operations unit formed to fight the war on terror long before anyone thought to call it that. Page 69 is the first page of Chapter 4, entitled “Make the Ground Shake.” It describes the first Islamist terrorist attack on America, the day in April 1983 that the front of the US embassy in Beirut was sliced off in a bomb attack, exposing the interior like some gigantic doll’s house and killing 63 people. The events are described through the eyes of someone who was in the building at the time, as much his story as it is that of the bombing. A small team from the Activity was sent in to ensure no such attack happened again, reporting back that the US Marines barracks in the Lebanese capital was a major risk. Their warning was shelved. The chapter title is the order given by Tehran to its terrorists in Beirut six months later which led to a second bomb attack, this time killing 241 US Marines. As I write this the Pentagon has just claimed that Iran provided the technology for a series of bomb attacks on US military vehicles in Iraq. Whatever the truth, the terror continues and no-one seems capable of coming up with a solution that will do anything other than make matters worse.

Page 69 of Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team:


DUNDAS MCCULLOUGH was running a little late. The 25-year-old consular official from Berkeley, California, was talking to one of the Lebanese who regularly crowded into the visa section in the seven-storey US embassy in Beirut. It was lunchtime on Monday 18 April 1983. The Avenue de Paris, the palm-lined promenade separating the embassy from the Corniche, was busy with lunchtime strollers. McCullough was a stickler for routine and would normally be eating a sandwich at his desk at this time. For just a fraction of a second, the back of McCullough’s brain registered the sound of rolling thunder. There had been squalls earlier that day and he initially thought that this was just another thunderclap. Then he realised it wasn’t. There was a big flash of light, the room seemed to contort, first inwards and then outwards. He was knocked to the ground as a wall collapsed on top of him. The air was full of choking dust. “There was complete darkness,” he recalled. “I thought what might kill me, aside from the explosion, was suffocation. When the air cleared, there just wasn’t much left.” The whole of the front of the building had disappeared, including his office....
Read an excerpt from Killer Elite.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.