Punk's Fight - Ward Carroll I read Punk's War several years ago and really liked it. This one was published in 2004, shortly after the invasion of Iraq and after the war in Afghanistan had been put on the back burner for a while. This book is not for you if you are looking for some literary exegesis of some arcane ennui. On the other hand, if you've always wanted to fly F-14's and get an authentic flavor of life on an aircraft carrier, and war on the ground, you will love this book.

Carroll was an F-14 RIO and served in F-14 squadrons for 20 years before becoming the editor of military.com so it's natural that he would have an accurate depiction of life in an aircraft carrier squadron, but his portrayal of the ground war is delinieated with striking authenticity with a mixed bag of CIA, Ranger, and Afghan soldiers of extraordinary realism. He says on his website that he was reading typical techno-thrillers while flying off carriers. The problem was he didn't recognize any of the characters. So he started writing.

This book could easily be divided into two distinct sections: flying off the carrier and Punk's fighting with lone Rangers and CIA operatives and occasionally with warlords, on and off horseback, stepping on mines, having extraordinary bouts of diarrhea (every see that happen to John Wayne? Of course, he would have had one of the stunt guys shit for him had it been in the script,) and suffering sticks of bombs dropped by B-52 pilots flying at 45,000 feet who congratulated themselves on another successful mission targeted by a Predator drone being controlled by a PFC in California. (http://shock.military.com/Shock/videos.do?displayContent=217730) Carroll's take on the war was prescient and it shows in the interactions between Punk, his rescuers, and the local tribesmen.

In an interview Carroll conducted with Seven Pressfield who is writing a novel about Afghanistan, Pressfield remarked that Afghanistan is not a state as we think of it; it's a collection of tribes which need to be won over "one tribe at a time." As to how long he thinks that might take? Pressfield guesses about 100 years.

"Heck, thanks to our special forces on horseback and a few warlords we befriended (suitcases full of money didn't hurt the effort), we had the Taliban on the ropes during the winter of 2002. And had we not suddenly decided to invade Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan would have been a flourishing democracy by now, with six-lane expressways from border to shining border and a World Cup-contending soccer team." Carroll Op-Ed on military.com August 2009. Tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Excellent read.

From Carroll's blog: Q: Did all the events in your books actually happen?

A: More or less. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. If a novel is going to be believable it has got to blur the line between truth and fiction. Actually in several cases life has imitated art in that I wrote a scene and then the event took place exactly as I'd written it. Of course nobody's going to believe that because the book came out after the fact, but it's true. Remember: I used to teach ethics; I have to tell the truth.