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.”