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Thriller 'Pirate:' Ted Bell at his Best

Monday, 29 August 2005 12:00 AM

Ted Bell, who exploded on the spy-action-thriller scene with "Hawke," followed by another bestseller, "Assassin," doesn't hold back the throttles in his latest offering, "Pirate."

Outdoing Ian Fleming's James Bond, Bell's own secret agent man, the dapper Lord Alexander Hawke, is off on another no-holds-barred adventure in "Pirate," which reprises Hawke and other now familiar characters, who one day may be the "Moneypennys" and "Qs" of a new generation of spy fans.

Yes, back again are Stokely Jones, the tough former Navy Seal from Brooklyn, who is always sure to arrive on the scene to save Hawke's skin in the eleventh hour, and Hu Xu, a unique and depraved villain fleshed out as a cross-dressing assassin and expert interrogator who can slice and dice like a salad-shooter.

Returning to the menu as well is "Blackhawke," the perfect spy's personal yacht fortress, a veritable dreadnaught in deep cover.

Luxurious in the extreme, Blackhawke is equipped with a stern end that unsnaps like the trunk on an Aston Martin to expose a potpourri of exotic speedboats and planes, all the better to pursue and blast the bad guys of the world.

For comic relief there is Hawke's garrulous and omnivorous parrot, who continues to sustain himself on expensive tins of beluga caviar and now, in the latest episode, even snaps up leftover lemons from Lord Hawke's eccentric health diet.

Like Bond, Hawke holds the title and rank of commander in the navy. But in Hawk's case the commission is in the U.S. Navy rather the Royal Navy. Not to be outdone by "James, James Bond," however, Alex is a unique spy who, thanks to his dual citizenship, works for both the U.S. and the island country of his hideously murdered patrician parents.

Furthermore, Alex is a crack jet fighter pilot, having screamed F-14 Tomcats through the hostile skies over Iraq during the Gulf War. Along the way he also managed to graduate from the prestigious British Special Boat Team's school, a rite of masculine military passage that reputedly makes U.S. SEAL training look like a rich kid's day camp.

Anyone who has been savvy enough to follow the saga thus far will find in the pages of "Pirate" not only a finer tuned Hawke but an author who has clearly mastered his trade.

The ingenious subplots of "Pirate" gel seamlessly to define our hero's most challenging mission to save the world and preserve civilization against an extreme enemy.

Fleming's "Dr. No" and "Goldfinger" are outstripped in their villainy, as Bell concocts a rollicking tale ripped from the disturbing headlines of our dangerous times. In the mix this time out of the gate: all the nefarious implications of La Belle France's real-life weapons transactions with Iraq, its infamous support of Hezbollah's right to raise money and its summary rejection of the European Union.

After being stirred all together in the author's imagination, there emerges from the alchemy a strangely plausible scenario in which France and China conspire to reinvent global monopoly. Perhaps too much for the Francophiles of this world, but eaters of "freedom fries" will find the concoction wonderfully palatable.

Enter Luca Bonaparte, an apparently ruthless descendant of Napoleon, who schemes to seize control of the government of France, restoring it to its long-vanished status as a major world power. Bonaparte weaves an alliance with China to achieve his unholy aims.

The unlikely partners throw into high gear a plot to occupy and control a sovereign, oil-rich Middle Eastern nation in order to utilize its most abundant natural resource and the ultimate elixir of power: oil. Alex Hawke must thwart this sinister alliance before it manages to annihilate everything and everyone in its headlong rush toward world domination.

The plot fires off aboard the Star of Shanghai in the south of France, where an American spy is held captive. He possesses vital, explosive intelligence linking the two rogue nations and some keys to the unfolding, horrifying plot.

With the captive facing certain torture and inevitable death, Hawke races to rescue him — despite the ample distractions of a beautiful Chinese actress, who just may be his worst enemy.

With the aid of old pal Stokely Jones, Hawke ferrets out the deadly connections that bind the French-Chinese axis. Together, they discover that a powerful German industrialist may hold the key, somewhere inside the walls of his Bavarian mountain lair.

Meanwhile, clues to an old and gruesome murder in Paris lead to New York City, where horrifying evidence could finally bring a madman to his knees.

In the end, as American and British forces prepare to defend the oil-rich Gulf nation against unwilling occupation, the terror builds, and the world is once more balanced on the razor-edge of a full-blown nuclear confrontation.

The publisher, Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, launched a national book tour Aug. 16 for "Pirate." Atria has coined a new word for Bell's way with words: "adrenalit," a novel containing "non-stop, high-energy, edge-of-your-seat action."

When Ted Bell, the former vice-chairman of the board and worldwide creative director of advertising giant Young and Rubicam, left the business, he took up his first love of creative writing and scored an immediate hit with "Hawke."

The Florida native, who now passes his time writing at his Palm Beach home and his digs in Colorado, admits that he had "no illusions about great literature," only providing a fun read for the escapist fiction aficionado.

That is a goal he has obviously met. "Hawke" was named as one of the best new novels of 2003 by Library Journal.

"Pirate" will only add to the luster. "The name's Hawke, Alex Hawke."

Cool stuff.

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Ted Bell, who exploded on the spy-action-thriller scene with "Hawke," followed by another bestseller, "Assassin," doesn't hold back the throttles in his latest offering, "Pirate." Outdoing Ian Fleming's James Bond, Bell's own secret agent man, the dapper Lord Alexander...
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Monday, 29 August 2005 12:00 AM
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