After his successful book Viper Pilot, about his days as a fighter pilot, Dan Hampton has written a very compelling novel, The Mercenary. Although this book is fictional there is a lot of information in it that draws on Hampton’s real life Air Force experiences.
The plot is definitely in the spirit of a Nelson DeMille thriller: intense with very well developed characters. The plot begins when a mercenary, known as the Sandman is hired by the Chinese government to attack a supposedly indestructible US missile battery in Taiwan. After successfully destroying it from the air he takes on another mission, to avenge the personal tragedy from his past. The second part of the book has a plot where a supposed serial killer is targeting high-ranking military officials by passing themselves off as military officers.
Hampton told blackfive.net that he wanted to create a book in the format of The Day of the Jackal where the main character is only known as The Sandman, until the end of the book when his name is revealed. It is surprising that one of the most powerful scenes in the book, the tear-jerker funeral of the Sandman’s wife and children, did not happen in the prologue, but instead was placed ¼ of the way through the book. It is a testament to Hampton’s character development that he is able to allow the readers to form a likeable and caring connection with the mercenary after the opening scene where the Sandman attacks America’s ally Taiwan on behalf of America’s adversary, China.
The supporting cast includes Doug “Axe” Truax, whom the author editorializes is a “part of a dying breed in the Air Force. A fighter pilot who was content to be so. One of the few who did not view operational flying assignments as an inconvenience between staff tours.” After interviewing Hampton about this quote it became obvious he was talking about himself. He noted, “There is a big disparity between those who live and work in the field and those that exist in headquarters. There are exceptions but most will never get above the rank of Lt. Colonel. I am hoping I painted a realistic picture where maybe, just maybe, those in the Air Force, might think about reinvesting in operational officers instead of thinking about those in staff jobs. After a certain rank most promotions are based on politics not ability.”
The other supporting character was Air Force Major Karen Shipman who was part of the defense intelligence team. She is a likeable, no nonsense character who reminds readers of DeMille’s famous FBI character, Kate Mayfield. Major Shipman is able to hold her own with anyone, partly do to her quick intelligence. She calls out those who do not consider her competent, and who will look at her shape before her brain. There is a scene in the book, which most women can relate to, when Shipman states, “But I’ve never failed yet and I don’t intend to start now… Now if you’d stop staring at my ass maybe we could get to work.”
Hampton told blackfive.net that he is working on his next two books. The Iron Ring, a novel that deals with Israel asking the Sandman for his help, and Lords of the Air, a non-fiction book about aviation from the turn of the century to the present. He wanted to write it as “a history of fighter pilots: how they got started, the progression through various wars, and what affect the influence of technology had on them. My theory is the make-up of the fighter pilots has not changed over the ages. I was even able to uncover some medical evaluations of fighter pilots from 1917. I am enjoying the challenge of writing about this subject.”
Anyone who is looking for a suspenseful, riveting novel that has realistic insight about the workings of the military should definitely read the e-reader novel, The Mercenary. It is a fast-paced thriller that readers will not want to put down.