Post by @swafford_s.
Source: The Sequel to China Sea
Post by @swafford_s.
Source: The Sequel to China Sea
A horrific terrorist bombing in Bali, Indonesia, claims the lives of 150 Americans. When the Indonesian leader asks the U.S. president not to meddle in the investigation, he reluctantly complies, choosing not to upset the head of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. But when Roy Mancini learns of the U.S. president’s decision, he takes the terrorist attack personally, having lost his two closest Balinese friends in the bombing. He enlists his partners in Asia and the United States to launch a private mission to identify, track, and assassinate the bombing’s four principal operatives. Vividly portrayed in settings throughout Southeast Asia, this second book in the series involves cyber espionage, humint, and an international cast of intelligence professionals and underworld characters that will keep you guessing until the explosive end.
JAVA SEA will be published on Amazon and Kindle in September 2016.
It’s been a while since we last spoke. I’ve been busy – writing the sequel to CHINA SEA. The title of the second novel is JAVA SEA. The story takes place twenty-seven years later. Roy Mancini and Cynthia got married and had a couple of sons. Roy and his oldest son, Marc are the main characters in JAVA SEA.
The story begins with a bang – literally and figuratively. Marc and his fiance, Ayu, are engaged in a torrid sex scene at the very moment there is an explosion in the distance. There is a massive terrorist bombing in Bali.
Later on the president of Indonesia warns the U.S. president not to get involved in the investigation. And that is where Roy and Marc Mancini enter the picture. They plan and execute a mission to identify, locate and terminate the bombers – one by one.
The settings for the novel are in Indonesia, from Bali to Aceh, and the Visayan islands and Mindanao in the Philippines.
We will publish the novel later this year. Stay tuned.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.
The horror of this past week has been traumatic for most of the world, for all religions and all nationalities. This is NOT a clash of civilizations. This is seventh century barbarism.
The sheer savagery of the Paris massacre is beyond description. The revelation of seemingly half-hearted counter-terrorism effort in Belgium is deflating. The stay-the-course anti-Assad position of the U.S. administration inspires angst. It’s like we’re all aimlessly herding cats. And the evil ones take charge, and celebrate, because of all that confusion.
There is a lot of talk about the need for American leadership in the world. What does that mean exactly? It means learning from recent history for one thing. And that history tells us that a strategy of regime change is a failed policy. The results in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya scream: STOP IT.
“History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” -as Mark Twain put it.
The United States has wasted something like 2 trillion dollars and countless lives changing regimes during the past thirteen years. The results: bloodthirsty Sunni radicals appear to be better organized and more motivated in each area. ISIS discovered a void in these locations (one hesitates to call them cohesive nations). And in the case of Iraq, the terrorists have propagated in a milieu of Sunni vs. Shia hatred where the brave Kurds hang on for dear life. ISIS would have lasted about five seconds under Saddam Hussein. Libya was probably better off, more stable, under the iron fist of wicked Gadhafi than it is with the anarchy and incipient Sunni ISIS caliphate. Is Afghanistan ISIS’s next target?
My point? It is that the United States must desist from a strategy of regime change in Syria. Rather we need to refigure our objective of getting rid of Assad. As evil as he (and his late father) is, he pales next to the barbarity of ISIS. The United States should indeed lead. And it needs to lead an AD HOC coalition of forces in Syria and Iraq that is focused on one thing: the obliteration of ISIS. Leave the status of Assad to diplomacy (as vague as that may sound); on the back-burner. But when it comes to warfare, it needs to be focused on one, repeat one, enemy. And that enemy is ISIS.
It seems obvious to even the most casual observer that the oil-rich Sunni nations in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the rest) will not be effective members of a coalition that is hell-bent on wiping out a gang of Sunnis. We’re back to square one (the subject of my earlier blog post): Sunni versus Shiite.
And square one is my contention that the United States of America and Iran have the potential to be AD HOC allies, if not close friends, in the war against ISIS. An ideal for me in the effort to squeeze ISIS out of existence is a coalition of the USA, Western Europe, Iran, the Kurds and perhaps Russia – going after the terrorist caliphate from every direction, on land, sea and air. No more playing “Mr. Nice Guy”. No more political correctness. No rules of war. Do what it takes, Mr. President. While you’re at it, forget about regime change: anywhere and everywhere.
A Spy’s Life
Roy Mancini is living the good life in San Francisco, California. A year later he’s operating under deep cover as an Arabica coffee bean merchant in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Sulawesi and Bali.
If you’re curious about what the life of an actual intelligence officer is like, CHINA SEA will captivate you. The story is loaded with the author’s real-life experiences: the secret agents, the settings and the people in Southeast Asia where he operated.
Follow the high-wire escapades of a talented jazz musician, sailboat racer and undercover Cold War spy.
Read CHINA SEA by Stanton Swafford.
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ITUNES: Search for China Sea by Stanton Swafford on your iPad or iPhone.
I’m an accomplished jazz musician (piano) and bandleader. And I’m an author of fiction. I’ve published my novel, CHINA SEA – an espionage thriller with settings in some of the Asian locations where I have lived for 30+ years. And during the writing process, the likeness of improvising music and creating fiction has become apparent. Here is my take.
One can study theory, proper form and technique in music schools and become a very good classical musician. But the schools cannot teach the emotion or the hard-to-define “soul” that one needs to become a first-rate jazz soloist. It’s a talent that is really not teachable. It only develops through a lot of listening and life’s experience.
A jazz musician does of course learn about form. He or she, for example, needs to be able to improvise confidently on the twelve-bar blues form and on the thirty-two bar popular standards form. But what made Miles Davis a great jazz musician, not just a very good one, was his ability to tell a unique story on those basic forms.
And so it goes with writing fiction. Gurus can teach technique-plot, structure and so on and so forth-to the point where one’s eyes glaze. However, I’ve become convinced, as I write, that it is really all about very good STORYTELLING. You have it (Somerset Maugham had it) or you don’t. And without having lived the life of which you write, and done a great deal of reading in your genre, the odds are you don’t.
I do strive to tell a story, to entertain – whether improvising on a soulful minor blues or writing the next chapter of second novel, a sequel, JAVA SEA.
So enjoy the journey. We’ll swing around Asia – some of the scenes off the beaten track, the cultures and a bit of the politics. And may I suggest that you play your favorite music in the background as you read. That’s what I’ll be doing as I write.
ITUNES: Search for China Sea by Stanton Swafford on your iPad or iPhone.
The fun and games in Singapore begin at the Raffles Hotel.
Roy Mancini goes undercover.
ITUNES: Search for China Sea by Stanton Swafford on your iPad or iPhone.
I left the embassy before noon, and recalling the adage about Englishmen and mad dogs walking in the noonday sun, I hailed a taxi.
We drove past the Cricket Club where I had learned to play tennis on the pristine grass courts as a kid. And nearby there was the old Parliament building which looked as though it could have been transplanted from London. On our right we passed the large Padang, the massive well-tended grassy field that these former British colonial cities maintain in the center of town. The traffic that hummed along on Saint Andrews Road was orderly, one might even say polite, every vehicle traveling within the speed limit. My overall impression of Singapore so far, above all else, was that it is a city-state defined by its orderliness.
A few minutes before the scheduled meeting at five-thirty I took the stairs down to the lobby. As I walked down two floors I could hear the hushed voices and the occasional men’s laughter from the Long Bar which was off to the side.
I conducted a brief, imaginary dialogue with myself as I descended.
“An entrepreneur. That’s what you are now Roy, a globetrotting Arabica bean merchant. Live your life well as a young American trader, out to make his fortune in Asia. You can forget the rest of the spook business for a minute. But never lose track of your coffee trading legend. Never lose that focus. If you can live your Arabica coffee bean cover, the rest of it, the undercover intelligence work, will fall into place.”
“A soldier of fortune, is that what you think you are now?” The sarcastic voice of my father exclaimed as I continued down the stairs.
“No, Dad. But close. I am out to make a success buying and selling coffee beans. At the same time I’m engaged in something I’m good at but not allowed to tell you much about. I think you’d be proud of me.”
“Well then, son. A warning. Don’t fuck up. Don’t get sent home with a blown cover.”
I broke off this whimsical conversation as I reached the bottom stair. A quick glance at the reception desk and I saw the same pretty Chinese lady who had checked me in the night before was on duty. We smiled at each other and I gave her a brief wave. The two uniformed bellmen, standing at ease, greeted me with slight bows of their heads as I made a right turn into the Long Bar.
McCoy was standing at the far end of the bar. The room had been appropriately named, it might well have had the longest solid African mahogany bar in existence. There were no stools. There was a brass rail that ran along the floor, the length of the bar. A customer was expected to stand with a foot on the rail. There were rattan table settings beneath rotating ceiling fans for those who chose to sit and drink. A long mirror extended across the entire wall behind the bartenders. The mirror was convenient for a patron who was standing at the bar and wanted to see who was walking up, or seated, behind him.
There were six men at the other end of the bar, talking with posh London accents. The Englishmen wore suits and ties despite the heat and humidity. Steve and I nodded to each other, and I walked over to him.
“Greetings. And welcome to Singapore’s oldest and finest drinking establishment.” Steve turned to me. He had changed into civilian clothes. He wore a batik short-sleeved shirt and loose-fitting white tropical pants.
“I see you’re drinking a Tiger Beer. What, no Singapore Sling?” I commented.
“Too sweet. All that cherry brandy. It’s for tourists. What can I get you?”
“The same. Make it a Tiger.” Steve motioned to the bartender standing in front of us to bring another bottle.
A party of four matronly western women entered the bar together, talking audibly and fanning themselves. I could see them in the mirror in front of me. They took their seats on the rattan dining chairs at a table beneath a ceiling fan. A white-jacketed Chinese waiter rushed to their table to take drinks orders.
“Did you hear the story about the live tiger that entered this bar?” Steve asked me as he too stared at the chattering women in the mirror.
I laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“True story. One day these British rubber planters were having lunch here. Or it may have been in the Tiffin Room next door.” He pointed to the hotel’s cool white restaurant beside the bar. “And in strolled a real live, honest to goodness, tiger. Escaped from a zoo or the jungle. I think one of the planters got up and nailed it with his shotgun.”
“Those were the days.” I took a long delicious swallow of the cold Tiger beer.
“So let’s discuss Hong Kong,” he said in a lowered voice, glancing at the six men further down the bar.
I looked at the mirror in front of me to make sure we were not within earshot of anyone.
He continued in a quiet voice, “We need to come up with a name don’t we?” His use of the plural did not escape me.
“Yes, we do.”
“Well, as I was standing here, before you arrived, I came up with an idea. You see all of those bottles beneath the mirror. Must be a hundred of them.”
There were indeed. Every brand of spirit – scotch, gin, brandy, vodka, liqueurs… even the odd bourbon.
“This is going to be fun. But first, let me order you another beer. It will take some creativity on our part.” He signaled for another beer and pointed to me. The bartender removed my empty bottle and placed a fresh cold one in front of me. He walked away from us speaking Hainanese to his colleague at the other end of the bar. I recognized the dialect. Our family’s chauffeur and cook had spoken it with each other.
“Let’s pick a name from those bottles. And we’ll come up with a name for the new company. Do you follow me?”
It occurred to me that McCoy and Sommers, both officers of comparable rank, could not have been more different in their approaches to clandestine intelligence collection. Steve was starting to impress me. We had been cut from the same cloth. I appreciated a fellow wit who liked to improvise, who can be spontaneous, and not take himself too seriously.
“All right. Let’s name the company.”
“You go first,” he said.
I scanned the bottles that were lined up in front of us.
“I like the scotch bottles. The names have a certain eminence,” I commented. “They convey tradition.” I looked Steve in the eye. “Although this can’t appear to be a name that we created in some barroom. No need to inform Springfield how we came up with this, is there?”
“Nope. And, yes, one of those scotch brands might appear like some old-school firm that goes back generations. So I second the motion. Scotch it is.”
I focused then on the several brands of scotch whiskey along the bar below the mirror.
“I like Haig and Haig, sounds like a proper family business,” I said. “On the other hand, that might sound too obviously like a brand of whiskey. We’d better compress it to Haig & Company. That’s it, Haig & Company Limited. International maritime consultants.”
And thus the name of the Hong Kong firm was born at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel.
“Well, lo and behold. The CIA station chief just entered the room.” Steve was looking at the large mirror in front of us. I followed his gaze and saw three men walk into the room and sit down at a corner table. “That’s Hunter Lenihan. He’s the one wearing the tropical white suit, bow tie and the Panama hat. Looks like he’s auditioning for a part in Casablanca. A good man. Tells me he worked with Tom Hiatt in Beirut ten years ago.”
“Does he know about me? That I’m here?”
“No. there’s no reason he should…yet. When you come back here to recruit or debrief an agent I’ll have to clue him in. But right now, he doesn’t have a need-to-know.” I saw Lenihan and McCoy make eye contact in the mirror.
“Who’s the guy sitting beside Lenihan? The tough looking hood in the brown shirt?”
Steve glanced at the mirror before answering. “His back is to us. I can’t tell.”
“I saw him walk in just before they sat down. He was on my flight yesterday. I’m sure of it.”
“Interesting coincidence. He’s Agency from the looks of it. I recognize the older guy with Hunter. Oscar, one of his case officers. I don’t know the one in the brown shirt.”
I stared for another moment at the mirror. The man kept his back to us.
“During the flight from L.A. to Tokyo I’d needed to go to the head. The lavatory door was locked, so I waited. Finally the door opened and this guy, the heavy-set dark-haired one sitting there with Lenihan, walked out, zipping up his fly. I remember he stared at me. I didn’t think anything of it until now. I forget names. I don’t forget a face.”
“Like I said, a coincidence.”
“You know, Roy, this is a peculiar relationship we have with the Agency. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who we report to in the chain of command, is higher up the White House totem pole than the Director of the CIA. I think if push came to shove over a clandestine collection issue that affects the military, the Chairman might prevail. But at our micro level, the CIA sets the rules. We need to keep them informed and receive their blessing for a lot of what we do. What I’m saying is, it behooves me to keep on the good side of Hunter Lenihan.”
McCoy motioned for the bartender to bring him the check.
“Let’s have dinner. I’ll introduce you to the American Club up on Scotts Road.” We finished our beers. McCoy paid with cash. No tip was left on the bar. I took one last look at the pock-marked face of the man on the plane.
i goes undercover.
Time to ramp up the tension. There’s a double-agent in our midst in this chapter of CHINA SEA. Eager to read more, and read it now? The novel is available on Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, B&N, KOBO and Google Play.
ITUNES: Search for China Sea by Stanton Swafford on your iPad or iPhone.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Have a seat.” The Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Johnny Zinger, greeted the two men from the Institute. “Nice to see you again, Frank.”
“Afternoon, Admiral. I believe you know Tom Hiatt, the Institute’s Deputy Director,” Frank DuPont replied.
“Yes. We’ve met. Glad you could be here, Tom”
Tom Hiatt stared without expression at the fourth man in the room who was seated beside Admiral Zinger.
The admiral said, “Tom, I suspect you might know George Sikelman, being that you’re ex-CIA. George is now chief of staff of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. The chairman of that Board has requested he attend meetings of this sort. The president doesn’t want to see any more “loose cannons”, as he puts it. George’s job is to randomly monitor the military’s humint collection activities on behalf of the PFIAB. Do I have that right, George?”
“Correct, Admiral. The new president is adamant. He wants to put the scandals of the past years behind us. He has given the Board authority to monitor the clandestine activities of both the CIA and the military branches. A lot of what has come out of congressional hearings has been particularly embarrassing to the executive branch. There are to be no more Howard Hunts. The president’s words.”
Hiatt continued to stare at George Sikelman. He knew him. He had never trusted him. Senior officers at the Agency had called him ‘Clark’ behind his back. With his perfectly trimmed moustache, dark freshly barbered hair and expensive three-piece suits, his dead-ringer resemblance to the actor Clark Gable was uncanny. Except that he spoke English with a foreign accent.
Hiatt and Sikelman had both joined the Agency during the first year of the CIA’s existence. Sikelman had been an interrogator with Army intelligence in Europe during World War II. He was born in Hungary of Hungarian parents. He spoke fluent Hungarian and German. At the end of the war, the Army sent him to Hungary with the mission of recruiting former Nazis, Germans and Hungarians, to spy against the Soviet Union.
What Tom Hiatt didn’t know and what was not known among senior Army and CIA staff was that George Sikelman was Jewish. And that the task of recruiting and running these Nazis, who had done their utmost to kill every Jew in Europe, made him sick to his stomach. Literally. Sikelman became a double-agent in 1949. That year he was recruited by the Soviet NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB, under a false-flag ploy.
The NKVD case officer who recruited Sikelman was, like Sikelman, Jewish. One of the very few in the Soviet intelligence services. The Russian lied to George Sikelman and told him he was a Zionist and that he was engaging George on behalf of the new state of Israel. Sikelman agreed to do whatever was necessary to neutralize, and in many cases terminate-with-extreme-prejudice, the ex-Nazis he was recruiting to operate against the Soviets. It was only a matter of time until Sikelman learned that his true paymaster was the NKVD, eventually the KGB, and not Israel. By that time the Russians had a firm handle on the Hungarian-American spy. He was now, in 1974, the most highly placed KGB ‘mole’ operating inside the U.S. intelligence community.
“Hello, Sikelman. Long time, no see,” Tom Hiatt uttered at last to the man sitting across the table from him.
“Tom. Congratulations on the new job. I’d heard you left the Agency the same time as Helms. Seems you’ve landed on your feet,” Sikelman replied with a bland smile.
Hiatt ignored the comment. He was not at all comfortable having George Sikelman involved in this meeting.
Admiral Zinger glanced at his watch and continued. “Let’s discuss your pending operation in Southeast Asia, Frank. You have the floor.”
General DuPont briefed the admiral and Sikelman on aspects of Roy Mancini’s operation plan. They would recall later that the PFIAB chief of staff took copious notes during the briefing.
The target, DuPont explained, was the naval order-of-battle of the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China and North Korea. Mancini would operate under two separate covers. He would operate from Malacca, Malaysia. And he would undertake maritime missions in the seas and ports of China and the USSR, as well as the Indian Ocean littoral.
Admiral Zinger interrupted DuPont at mention of the Indian Ocean.
“Frank, this reminds me. We need to add a target. Lately our submarines on patrol in the Indian Ocean have identified suspicious activity in the Gulf of Aden. We’ve picked up Russian submarines. And in that confined area these subs don’t appear to have any mission that we can determine. We know they are Soviet subs because our skippers have observed the markings on the superstructures during the few times the Russian boats have surfaced. Foxtrot and November class submarines. Their objectives remain an enigma. We need the Institute to do what it can to unravel the mystery.”
“Well, Admiral, Mancini’s trading cover can take him to East Africa. Kenya and Ethiopia are coffee producers.” General DuPont made a note.
“This may be sheer coincidence,” the admiral said. “But these Soviet submarines appear a month or so before there is some major terrorist event where the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is identified as the culprit. You recall the hideous Ma’alot massacre last May. There was a Foxtrot submarine observed at night on the surface near the Red Sea a month prior, in April.”
Tom Hiatt said, “We never assume a coincidence.”
“All right.” Admiral Zinger looked at the man sitting beside him. “Unless you have something else to add, George, I believe we can adjourn this meeting. The Navy needs the Institute’s human intelligence to augment what we’re getting by other means.”
Sikelman shrugged. “Mancini’s mission sounds okay to me. I’ll inform the Board. Good luck with it.”
When George Sikelman left the Pentagon fifteen minutes later he did not return directly to his office at the Old Executive Office Building beside the White House. Instead he drove to a pay phone in downtown Arlington. He phoned the picture framing shop which was owned by his Russian cutout.
“Orlov Gallery,” the man answered the phone with his heavy Slavic accent.
Sikelman responded. “This is Rene. Is my stunning Monet completed yet?”
Igor Orlov hesitated before answering. “I will check. And call you later.”
George Sikelman waited precisely one hour before again phoning the gallery.
“This is Rene. Is my stunning Monet completed yet?”
“It will be completed in the morning on the seventh of next month.”
The message informed Sikelman that his Russian case officer, Boris, would meet him on Sunday (the seventh day of the week) at 4:00 in the afternoon. The meeting would take place along a trail in Rock Creek Park.
That Sunday George Sikelman parked his car just off 16th Street at 3:30 in the afternoon and walked into the park. He conducted very active counter surveillance along the park’s paths for twenty-five minutes before entering the trail that Boris had selected two years earlier for their infrequent meetings. At precisely 3:58 he stood beneath a tree, looked up and feigned an interest in birdwatching. He tucked a copy of the Baltimore Sun under his left arm. This was the safety signal that would indicate to Boris that his agent was not being followed. They had synchronized their wrist watches that morning with a BBC broadcast. At 4:01 Sikelman saw Boris walking up the path toward him. They greeted each other and continued walking together.
Boris insisted they conduct their meetings in German, a language in which they were both fluent.
“So George, you must have something very interesting for you to request a personal meeting. Am I right?” the Russian asked.
“Yes. And it should be worthy of a generous bonus.” Sikelman smirked as he said this. He had been handled by six different Soviet case officers over the past twenty-five years. By now he had a sense of the tail wagging the dog in terms of his relationship with the Russians.
Boris chuckled. “You are already paid very well . . . we shall see. What do you have for me?”
“There is a new intelligence agency under the auspices of the Department of Defense. Like your GRU. It is called the Institute.”
“We know. I hope you did not disturb my Sunday afternoon, George, just to report that to me.”
The American scoffed. “Of course not. I attended a meeting at the Pentagon on Friday where the Institute’s commanding officer and deputy director briefed Johnny Zinger about a new mission, targeting the Soviet navy.”
“They are sending a case officer to Asia next month. He will run agents into Russia to observe and photograph naval shipyards and warships with emphasis on your Pacific Fleet submarines.”
Boris stopped walking and held Sikelman by the arm. “You have the details? The case officer’s name and where he will be based?”
“Of course I do. I took notes. Here.” He removed sheets of paper from inside the folded Baltimore Sun and handed them to Boris. The Russian quickly placed them inside his jacket.
The two men walked in silence for a few minutes. The American waited for the Russian to speak.
At last Boris said, “You must order the new counterintelligence chief at the CIA to keep the Institute’s case officer under close surveillance in Asia. Understand? And have the CIA report back to you, and only to you. You come up with a reason for that, George. Maybe CIA and the Institute are less-than-friendly competitors, like KGB and GRU. You are good at planning that sort of thing.”
Sikelman thought for a moment before replying. “It is fortunate, Boris, that James Angleton will soon leave the Agency or I wouldn’t attempt this. Angleton may be paranoid. But he is smart. Perhaps the new CI chief, Angleton’s deputy, will wish to ingratiate himself with my Board. He might go along with my request. Let’s see. I will update you through the dead drop.
“And before I forget, there is another thing you should know. Your submarines in the Gulf of Aden are easy for the US Navy to identify because of the markings on their superstructures. Foxtrots and Novembers. That’s from the admiral. He wonders what those subs are doing up there since the Suez Canal is still closed and they are not performing any obvious mission. Zinger suspects a link to Palestinian terrorists.”
“That information could be bonus-worthy, George. I’ll pass it along to the naval attaché at the embassy.”
The Russian case officer handed his agent an envelope containing fifty untraceable $100 bills. He knew better than to ask his agent for a receipt. The two men parted in separate directions.
The next day George Sikelman paid a visit to Langley and on behalf of the PFIAB ordered the future head of counterintelligence to place Roy Mancini under close surveillance, beginning with his departure from the US and continuing with his activities throughout Southeast Asia. The CI deputy chief had no choice but to comply, and curry favor with the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.