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Hot Times in Panama

Hot Times in Panama

Frank Babb

 

Life has a way of bringing about changes that you often do not expect. Sometimes the predictable becomes the unexpected as Frank Blake and two other young men find out when the army decides to send this Missouri boy drafted during the Korean War into a job that would change his life forever. Starting out going for French and winding up in Spanish because of his girlfriend, Katie, Frank never knew that this one decision would change everything. Friendships solder then gone after high school. Worrying about his number in the draft and hoping to finish school Frank forges ahead but not before encountering several bumps in the road. Meeting Katie then finally Joan, his wife he winds up not in Korea but Panama and not in the military the way he thought but chosen with two other for counterintelligence school. As the book opens we read the prologue and we hear Frank’s voice as he and several others are handling a mission that places him in a storage closet along with a woman named Julia and several other enlisted men. Teasing the reader from the start we learn little about her and wonder what happens to hear when the mission is completed. Send to the CIC detachment in Panama. His wife Joan at his side his job to get Intel to get around what the communists are doing. We forward to the evening before this mission and we hear both Joan and Frank enjoying an evening out but you can free the tension rising within him as the new guy on the block and fearful of what might happen. Added in his short time and one night with Julia.

 

From Fort Bliss where his training began to Fort Holabrid where you hear more about his new assignment the voice of Frank Blake is heard describing the rules, protocol and what is expected of him in his job and personal life. The counter intelligence school changed their dress requirements making it mandatory for CIC agents to wear uniforms and not civilian clothes at all times. These agents, secret or special were college graduates and often had graduate degrees. As the narrator describes the intense training and the off-base exercises and the surveillance techniques the reader begins to learn more about counterintelligence and what the training and job entails. Included in his training and that of the other agents was knowledge of the Cold War politics and learning about traitorous activities including the Rosenbergs and other spies.

 

Next the character and the author shares his initial experiences in Panama, meeting with the man whose place he might take, learning about the two he would be reporting to and the many important things he needs to survive in this country. It is during this time and you might say initial briefing that one of the men, Herb, brings up Julia. The description of the hotel, the lack of cleanliness and the move to his permanent quarters gives the reader a sense of what he and Joan will have to endure during his time in Panama.

 

The author describes the many missions, operations and the end result of what it takes to go into a country, find out what you need about the Communists, spies and many others in order to protect our freedoms. Included his the night he spent in Room 113 in the Hotel Central and Julia who seemed to have disappeared. The extensive training he and many others receives, the many sections of his unit, some involved in positive intelligence operations and sometimes counterintelligence investigations. His unit working together with the Policia Secreta Nacional de Panama. The author graphically describes the history of the country, its government, the politics and how his unit and others are run. The reasons they often went after the Chinese, how they took down a Czech and why and the men that he reported to, the trust he had in some and the skepticism in others keeps the reader interested and wanting to learn more. Information, handlers, informants and more are what keeps these spies alive and in good favor with those above as Frank learns during his time in Panama waiting to be released to go back to school. Luis is his immediate supervisor and while he is forthcoming with much of the information needed to complete an operation at times he holds back. The camaraderie among the men is often infectious, the tension before and during a mission palpable at times but Frank is sharp, honest and definitely can read the locals and understands that a smile does not mean that you are home free or the person “ likes you.”

 

Jorge is an integral part of his team and when he decides that someone needs to be eliminate in order to avenge another death what happens is a well orchestrated operation that not only keeps Frank in check, his heart racing and palms sweaty, but will raise you blood pressure too until you find out the conclusion. The politics, the many presidents and the allegiances follow and then the author tells something about Julia to remind the reader that she was an integral part of the main operation where the book begins and in the prologue but what did happen to her still remains to be seen and why is Frank so taken with her? Jorge, Luis, Ruby, Alejandro and Frank make up most of their team with a man named Herb introduced at the beginning whose place Frank is taking. But, there is much more he will accomplish and endure before leaving.

 

The women that he meets, the secretaries and their functions, the jobs he had as a cover for his real vocation and the support he received from his wife Joan are only a fraction of what happens during his time in Panama. Just how far will you go to protect your country? Interesting question! Hot Times In Panama has multiple meanings in my mind. It could refer to having fun at a bar with tons of women and drinking, or it can mean missions that ignite your energy and create tension and fear. The General’s shoeshine man seemed to have Communist connections and agents were assigned to follow him and find out. But, what happens you have to read for yourself and the final conclusion will make you wonder just how paranoid these people were and whether it was worth sending so many agents to follow one shoeshine man that well I won’t tell you what happens this one you have to read for youself.

 

Friendships that turned tragic, overthrowing governments, informants that gave him information and one chapter titled playtime I will leave to the reader to enjoy, author Frank Babb allows the reader to go along with Frank on his journeys in Panama, the missions, operations and bullfights to make your feel as if you are experiencing the events along with Frank. Imagine meeting a famous bullfighter and having your own barman! But, will he be discharged and will he get to leave?

 

Going through life as if he was an actor in a play or movie is how the author describes Frank’s perceptions of what he left and did in the army when you read the chapter titled Will Won’t I Be Discharged or I you will understand more and then we learn the truth about Julia. The Epilogue ties it all together as the author gives the reader a brief history about the United States, the end of WWII and Korean War, the role of the CIA and the final outcome for Paco. But the chapter that will bring tears to your eyes and is quite enlightening is the one where you will meet the real Julia titled: Julia Postscript. Find out who she was, what really happened and her tie to someone close to Frank/Paco. This is one book that everyone should read and the stories related to Central America, The Cold War, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam Wars remind us of why our soldiers are so vital to our freedoms and why Americans fight so hard for our country and our freedom. Characters that are strong, straightforward and quite charismatic and as you hear the voice of our narrator, the main character, Frank Blake you will definitely understand just how far some will go to protect our country.

 

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

 

 

About Just Reviews by:gabina49:

author educator book reviewer for authors reading and writing staff developer Book reviewer for manic readers, ijustfinished.com book pleasures and authors upon request blog tours on my blog and interviews with authors I am the author of five published books. I wrote three children's books in my Bertha Series and Two on Alzheimer's. Radio show talk host on Red River Radio/Blog Talk Radio Book Discussion with Fran Lewis the third Wed. of every month at one eastern. I interview 2 authors each month feature their latest releases. I review books for authors upon request and my latest book Sharp As A Tack or Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Is an E book, Kindle and on Xlibris.com Some of the proceeds from this last book will go to fund research in the area of Brain Traumatic Injury in memory of my sister Marcia who died in July.

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