Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wordcraft – A book for the deadly serious reader (or writer)

100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation
by Clint Emerson, Navy SEAL, Ret.
It’s that time of the year—when people start asking what you want for Christmas, or Hanukkah, or your birthday. Whatever the season, there’s always some gift giving occasion at hand. In the past I’ve used these pages to suggest a variety of gift suggestions. Why not books? So I’ll be posting short reviews this month, featuring books with Texas authors.

I already have some recipients in mind for 100 Deadly Skills by Frisco, Texas, resident and former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson. Despite the title, many of the skills in this illustrated guide are highly compatible with life and often applicable to civilians. These include instructions for avoiding such holiday (and year-round) annoyances as car thefts, carjackings, home invasions and burglaries. The best hint: never leave your keys in your car. We all know this, but when the advice comes from somebody who can also tell you how to steal a car, maybe it will sink in. And that valet key some car dealers put in your owner’s manual? Repeat after me: it’s a key. Put it in a safe place that’s not in your car.

For travelers over the holidays, Emerson offers such tips on hotel safety as asking for a room midway between elevators and stairways. And why you probably don’t want a room on the ground floor.

Every skill (usually discussed on a single page) is broken down into its critical parts, has a bottom line takeaway, and is illustrated with clear line drawings by storyboard artist Ted Slampyak.

I had hoped not to have to deal with the discussion of active shooters (Skill #073) or other armed aggressors, but recent events in Paris and San Bernardino, California, make these pertinent. Those of us who aren’t hero wannabes will be relieved to know that people finding themselves in such dire situations can often be saved by following Emerson’s commonsense tips that don’t require the response of blazing guns, at least not from civilians.

In fact, his first recommendation for evading danger is to run. His second recommendation is to hide. Fighting is always the last option.

When running, remember it’s harder for a shooter to hit a moving target, so run in a zigzag pattern or from cover to cover. If running is not an option, hide out of the shooter’s view, silence digital devices and follow Emerson’s additional suggestions for preferred cover objects and improvised ballistic armor.

Fighting unarmed against a gunman? Emerson says it can be done successfully, but I’ll leave readers to check out his tips for themselves.

Aside from practical skills, the book has enough juicy material on SEAL and other covert operations tactics to make it a must-read for any writers in the mystery and thriller genres on your holiday list. Everybody’s favorite groaner is the rectal concealment device. Consider making your own to give to the naughtiest acquaintances on your naughty list. Or if they continue to annoy you, see Emerson’s discussion of body disposal, including the tips for burial at sea which, I assume, were followed in disposing of the body of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Want more of Emerson’s suggestions? Follow him on Twitter. 100 Deadly Skills is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

How do I go about reviewing books? I don’t get paid to write reviews, either at this site or on Amazon  or Goodreads. This means you’ll seldom see a review from me with fewer than three stars. I once reviewed a novel I could only give two stars to because, despite the author's awkwardness as a fiction writer, her knowledgeability about her subject and her book's premise were intriguing. But in general, if a book doesn’t grab me, I’d rather stop reading than slog through for the dubious privilege of posting a low-starred review.  And I assign star ratings to books based on how well they do what their authors intend them to do. Giving a how-to book five stars doesn’t mean it’s classic literature. It just means it’s a really good how-to book.

For more about tips about reviewing books, I found the discussions at Writing-World.com and The Writing Center helpful.

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