THE ADVOCATE – Bill Mesce Jr. and Steven G.Szilagyi

“The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations.[1] The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.”  Or, “(The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently — like the effect of a fog or moonlight — gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.)

THE ADVOCATE begins in that fog.  Charlie Gresham and his wife live on a cliff overlooking the English Channel.  Since the beginning of the war in 1939, Charlie has been a plane spotter, calling in on his radio, the type of aircraft, the number of guns, and the nation for which the plane is delivering its payload.  By the summer of 1943, Charlie is so expert on recognizing planes that it has been a long time since he has found it necessary to check the chart he has hanging near the radio.  “The old man moved the family Bible aside to consult the direction markers taped to the wireless table.  ‘I have three American P-forty-seven Thunderbolts heading my position….One aircraft is trailing smoke.’ …. The crippled plane dropped toward the water and, in another easy motion, the attacker pulled smoothly out of his dive and began to climb and bank…the Thunderbolt slid into another dive.  He had watched it all, but it had not registered.  Suddenly, he understood.  ‘Run’, he croaked to the woman.”  The Thunderbolt was aiming its guns at them.

Lieutenant Dennis O’Connell, the pilot of the crippled plane, was driven into the water by another American pilot.  Charlie Gresham and his wife are witnesses to an act that cannot become public.  It is not long before members of the JAG Corps move the Greshams into protective custody and out of their home.  Colonel Joseph Ryan, formerly of Newark, New Jersey, is the judge advocate and he wants his boyfriend and confidant to take over the investigation of the attack on O’Connell’s plane.  Major Harry Voss is a moderately successful lawyer in civilian life but he has no experience in criminal law.  He tries to convince Ryan he is the wrong man for the job, but Ryan is a man who has risen in the ranks of the military because he sees the big picture and the picture he wants to see requires Harry’s participation.

Immediately after the downing of O’Connell’s plane, Major Markham and Captain Anderson are taken into custody by the military police.  Neither man denies his role in the execution of O’Connell but neither will say why.  Markham, in particular, talks to Harry Voss for hours, giving him every detail of the attack on the plane but without the “why” there isn’t enough information on which to charge the two officers.

Eddy Owen is a newspaperman from Scotland who left part of a leg in Singapore.  He is tired of doing stories on happy homecomings; he is not a part of the shooting war but his instincts are well-developed.  There is a story and a cover-up in play and Eddy knows enough about men to know that Harry Voss is painfully determined to get to the truth.  That truth is precisely what the American military machine must keep buried so Eddy makes Voss his personal crusade.

THE ADVOCATE is the story of a murder committed in the midst of the wholesale slaughter of military personnel and civilians of all ages.  Can the death of one pilot on the same day that a squadron is destroyed be more important than all those other lost lives?  Yes, because this one airman was deliberately killed by his own.

Even in war, there are rules.  The loss of a soldier means one less finger on a  trigger.  The death of a pilot and the loss of his plane, puts all the other pilots at greater risk.  Harry has to figure out why O’Connell?  The author takes the reader step by step through the labyrinth of military law and a world with an unbreakable code of silence.  Loose lips sink ships and careers.   In the fog of war it is nearly impossible to know who is on the side of the angels.  This is an anti-war story in a setting in which the declared enemy doesn’t have a role.

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6 Responses to THE ADVOCATE – Bill Mesce Jr. and Steven G.Szilagyi

  1. Bill Mesce says:

    Dear Beth —
    Speaking for Steve and myself, it’s very flattering to see our novel get this kind of attention — in fact, ANY kind of attention — so long after publication (Bantam published the hardcover in 2000). You did a beautiful job of synopsizing the book. It’s been so long since I’ve looked at it that reading your write-up got me thinking, “Hey, that’s a book I’d like to read!” Seriously.
    Again, thanks from both of us.
    Bill Mesce & Steve Szilagyi

  2. Beth says:

    I read all three books in the series as they were published. I am in the process of re-reading them because they so perfectly capture the ethic of war – the situation determines the response. Harry Voss is a man who can’t fit into that mold. It goes a long way to explaining why he has little experience in criminal law.

    Harry should have been around for more than three books.

  3. Bill Mesce says:

    Sorry for the belated reply. I just saw your comment. Your feeling was Bantam’s feeling, but I couldn’t keep it up. By the third, I was burned out.
    Also, Bantam and I — not to tell tales out of school — had serious “creative differences” over the third book. I knew going in it would be my last and had written a more expansive draft than the one that was published to provide a concluding Third Act to the series. Bantam, still hoping I would hang with the series, had a big problem with that and more than half of the manuscript was cut to produce the version of THE DEFENDER that was published. C’est la guerre…

  4. Beth says:

    I have learned a lot about author/publisher relationships since I started the blog. It seems that they don’t understand that the publisher works for the author. With the exception on Soho. I never buy a book based on the reputation of the [publishing house.

    It is the reader’s loss that the series did not continue.

  5. Pingback: AUTHORS I – M | MURDER by TYPE

  6. Rita Gonzalez says:

    Hey Bill. Just nwanted to say HI. Rita

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