World of Books - Brinksmanship, byline William Hogan
  • In the late 1950s, aboard a carrier in the Straits of Taiwan, Charly Rohr, Navy fighter pilot and self-styled All-American Boy, reads an item in the ship's news report: "Washington – Secretary of state John Foster Dulles today responded to Administration critics who charged that the U.S. was risking a major war over two tiny islands, 'If you are scared of going to the brink, you are lost.'"

    Rick Setlowe, a former Bay Area journalist who was an operations officer aboard the attack carrier Midway during the nuclear crisis over Quemoy and Matsu in 1958 has based a novel, "The Brink," on that Dulles quote. This is a story, and a good one, that focuses on fighter pilots in their 20s and their deadly toys, the new nuclear-equipped Crusader jets.

  • Trapped in a political game, Charly Rohr and company await the beginning of World War III. In the meanwhile, they fly patrols and reconnaissance missions up and down the Taiwan Straits, sometimes playing "chicken" with Russian MiGs based on the Chinese mainland. The Eisenhower-Dulles policy was to defend Taiwan and the mini-islands of Quemoy and Matsu just off the mainland, which Chiang Kai-shek had managed to hold, and to pursue any attack on them into Mainland China itself. Setlowe's story, basically an anti-war novel, manages to squeeze a great deal of tension out of this brinkmanship, chiefly in his flying sequences, some of the most hair-raising I know of in military fiction.

  • "The Brink" is an eminently successful psychological-action drama, the most vivid novel about the Navy at work I can recall since "The Caine Mutiny."

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