Terrorist plot to revive mothballed nuclear missile drives high-powered thriller

Sanibel author applies a fresh premise to the old race-against-time plot

Pursuit of the Weapon from Hell, by William Hallstead. BluewaterPress LLC. 214 pages. Trade paperback $17.95.

Set in the 1990s, some years after the First Gulf War, Mr. Hallstead’s Doomsday techno-thriller is a real nail-biter. Based on abandoned U. S. nuclear weapon plans from the 1950s, his novel imagines a cadre of Islamic terrorists discovering the location of the relic hardware and transporting it to an Air Force base in Tucson Arizona – then relocating it to a site in nearby Mexico where a launch base is constructed (disguised as an oil-drilling operation) and the warheads are installed.  PURSUIT_cover

One of Mr. Hallstead’s many achievements is his presentation of the technology, making it convincing and accessible. We learn, as well, why the U. S. had abandoned this program – called Project Pluto – for a reason that is irrelevant to those who have now stolen it and intend to aim it toward Los Angeles.

Mr. Hallstead employs the tried and true technique of alternating perspectives to build his suspenseful plot. This alternation, by and large, consists of bad guy scenes (the terrorists) and good guy scenes (the U. S. military personnel who attempt to thwart the terrorist scheme). It’s the old race-against-time plot applied to a fresh premise.

Chief among the villains is “the man from Khash,” Sayyid Zul-Junnah. He is a hulking fellow and a true Jihad believer who commands stridently and micromanages desperately. Zul-Junnah’s hate for the Great Satan stems from U. S. support of the Pahlavi regime in Iran. This proud militant is in regular conflict with his mission’s construction chief, Nasr Ilahi.

Hallstead

Hallstead

Chief among the protagonists is Steve Gammon, a reserve Air Force captain promoted, for this mission, to lieutenant colonel. He is at the bottom of a chain of command headed by Brigadier General Oliver Madden, who has charged Major Pete Pappas with discovering who stole the Project Pluto remains, why, and for what reason. Pappas recommends Gammon as the agent of action.

The author builds Gammon into a courageous, skilled, and fully sympathetic character who pursues his responsibility with cleverness and fortitude. He is assigned a partner, the attractive Air Force Captain Laura Gorcy, whose intelligence skills exceed his own. The two pose as a married couple on a Mexican vacation in the Hermosillo area. The tension between them, as well as the attraction, is palpable.

Just how and when will the adversaries collide?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 30, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 31 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Hallstead

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