“Collusion” a novel by Newt Gingrich and Pete Earley, by Harper Luxe, New York (2019, 512 pages).
Reviewed by Steven R. Maher
When I first saw this book, I was drawn to the title (“Collusion”) and to one of the names on the byline: Newt Gingrich. I thought it was a defense of Donald Trump during the Mueller investigation. When I saw the words “A Novel” and, upon the strong recommendation of the librarian, I decided to take a chance and checked the book out.
Newt Gingrich is not my favorite politician. He approaches issues from the Trump right – I am on the other side. Yet Gingrich here has written a fantastic novel about a conflict between U.S. and Russian intelligence services. I couldn’t put it down. It is truly amazing that someone who supported Donald Trump could write a book like this!
The name Trump doesn’t appear in this book. The President is not portrayed here as a raving lunatic, sitting in his sun tanning booth, tweeting out insults at 3 a.m, and given to making bizarre statements.
This is a novel about a Russian secret police effort to set off a chemical weapon inside the U.S. Capitol building, with the help of a domestic American terrorist organization called Antifa. If you like spy versus spy stories, this novel is for you. Gingrich weaves into the tapestry of this counter-intelligence tale a surprising number of current issues: the ongoing war against terrorism, the opioid epidemic, and other issues fresh out of the daily newspapers.
But Gingrich’s mind appears to be mired in the 1980s cold war, an era seen by Republicans as the golden age of Reaganism, peace and prosperity. He dedicates the book to the journalists killed by Vladimir Putin; quotes Putin on the first page as saying the Cold War never ended; and concludes the novel with long lists of Putin’s victims who were killed since Putin emerged as a Russian strongman in the early 2000s.
Gingrich’s background as a former Speaker of the House and Congressman, as well as Washington DC insider, equipped him with the knowledge of how the intelligence agencies work, and he was able to draw into the novel an understanding of opioid addicts, cyber-warfare, and other modern technologies incorporated into the computer age. The reader can learn a lot from this book.
The White Hats
The Good Guys:
• Former Navy SEAL Brett Garrette. The supposed hero of this novel, Garrette became opioid-dependent when he was treated with pain killers after he was badly burned while conducting a raid into Cameroon to free hostages held by Boko Haram. He becomes an opioid and then heroin addict. He is depicted as putting suboxone tabs under his tongue while on stake-out. Nonetheless, Garrette’s disease surfaces at the worst times: he is often fighting both the Russians and his withdrawal symptoms from opiates simultaneously.
• CIA Director Harold Harris, who lies about Garrette’s episode in Cameroon. This leads to Garrette being dishonorably discharged after serving an 18-month jail term.
• U.S. Senator Cormac Stone, whose son was killed during the Cameron raid. Because of the way Harris misrepresented Garrette’s actions, Stone holds Garrette responsible for his son’s death. Stone is out for revenge, which clouds his judgment.
• Thomas Jefferson Kim, a cybersecurity expert who provides critical assistance to Garrette during the effort to stop the weapons of mass destruction event.
• Antifa member Aysan Rivera. This is the one thing I take issue with Gingrich on this book. There has been no credible evidence tying the real Antifa to the Russians. That Gingrich is portraying Antifa as useful idiots and Russian assassins speaks more to Gingrich’s fears than to his knowledge.
The Bad Guys
The bad guys are General Andre Borsovich Gromyko, the Russian President’s chief adviser; Russian President Vyachesian Leninovich Kalugin; and Deputy Russian foreign minister Yakov Prokoyevich Pavel.
The story starts off with Pavel’s daughter and son-in-law being assassinated by the Russian secret police using a highly toxic poison, supposedly by Gromyko acting through the FSB, the Russian secret service. Pavel then announces to the CIA his desire to defect with his grandson; the grandson is his only remaining family member. What follows is a nail-biting book of twists and turns sprawled out over 500 pages. Never once did the reviewer feel bored by what he was reading. The book ends on a surprising note that I am not going to reveal here!😉