Loose Cannon (2011) is an omnibus edition of the two Alternate History novels in the Tom Kelley series. It includes Skyripper and Fortress. These stories feature the same main character, but are set in different timelines.
Tom Kelly is a former noncom who worked for the National Security Agency. During the sixties, he was part of Radio Research teams listening to enemy communications. He was a tough soldier with a compassionate streak that he seldom displayed.
Skyripper (1983) has Kelly recalled from civilian life by the Defense Intelligence Agency to help a Russian scientist defect. Evgeny Vlasov is a hero of the Motherland and has developed a new technology that would use a nuclear explosion as the energy source of multiple particle beam weapons. The Russians do not yet have the technological base to build the device.
Vlasov also believes that aliens are trying to kill him to stop the development of this device. According to him, the aliens are going to invade the Earth in the near future and only his device could repel the enemy ships. Since Russia cannot build the device, Vlasov looks to the United States of America.
The best time to get the scientist out of Russian hands is during an international conference on nuclear energy. The conference will be held in Algiers, but American representatives will not be attending for political reasons. The local DIA representative has made contact with the Kabyles, the Berber people of North Africa.
Kelly faces several adversaries in his attempt to liberate the Russian scientist. Naturally, there is the KGB, Russian soldiers, and the Algerians. The Central Intelligence Agency is also monitoring his actions. And there are the mysterious men who visit his hotel room.
Fortress (1987) has Kelly recalled from civilian life by a mysterious government agency. He is met at the office of a congressman for whom he has been working by a man and woman and then taken to a section of Fort Meade. There he is shown the body of an alien being and briefed on the discovery.
The alien and a human body had been found together in Istanbul. The human was a Kurd who had been trained by Kelly during the Druse War. Kelly was asked to find out more about the aliens among the Kurd community in Istanbul.
The woman becomes his case officer. She picks him up at the Istanbul airport and takes him to the Sheraton. As he has requested, they have gotten him a room facing the Golden Horn. A team is scanning the room for bugs when they arrive.
The team goes to the room next door to scan it. Kelly goes with them and talks with his case officer as they work. He inserts a wave guide into the couch after they finished looking for active transmitters.
Later, Kelly changes clothes and goes out. He takes several taxis and finally gets out near a temple. He talks to the brother of his former trainee and gets the name of an exotic dancer. Then he goes to visit the mistress of a friend and picks up a microwave transmitter.
Kelly loads the transmitter into a taxi and drives to another hotel near the Sheraton. He carries the transmitter up to a reserved room and sets it up to bean microwaves into the case officer's room. The hidden tape recorder in his radio receiver captures sounds captured by wave guide in the next compartment.
Then Kelly returns to his hotel. He passes the name of the exotic dancer to his case officer. Then they go out to eat and return to find a case file waiting in her room.
When Kelly plays back the tape, he learns that his support team are pushing him to meet the exotic dancer. They believe that she is working for a Nazi group. So does Kelly.
In Skyripper, Kelly was a Vietnam War veteran. In Fortress, Kelly was a veteran of the Druse War. In both timelines, he had faced the enemy and survived.
Kelly has little respect for most officers and politicians and despises political officers. In some cases, his superiors have died in peculiar circumstances during enemy actions. He is a dangerous man to cross.
Kelly was a noncom in the service; he worked for his pay. He uses straight forward methods, but with technological subtleties. He has working relationships with other soldiers and a good grasp of tactics, but does not fret about strategy. Why worry if he is going to die anyway.
These works are basically tachnothrillers in the Tom Clancy tradition. But the alien characters push the book over into science fiction.
I had read these works when they first came out. I recognized the plot situations as I was rereading the book. However, the only scene that really stuck in my memories was the image of the flying saucer taking off.
Recommended for Drake fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of armed combat, covert operations, and dedicated agents. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin