The Last Phoenix

The Last Phoenix

by Richard Herman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061951435
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/02/2009
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 276,196
File size: 653 KB

About the Author

A former weapons system operator, Richard Herman was a member of the United States Air Force for twenty-one years, until he retired in 1983 with the rank of major. He is the author of ten previous novels, including The Warbirds, Power Curve, Against All Enemies, Edge of Honor, and The Trojan Sea, all published by Avon Books. Herman currently lives and works in Gold River, a suburb of Sacramento, California.

Read an Excerpt

The Last PhoenixChapter One

Oakland, California
Saturday, July 24

The formal dedication ceremony of the Matthew Pontowski Presidential Library was over, but Madeline O'Keith Turner did not leave. Instead the president of the United States strolled down the hillside garden chatting with two former presidents and savoring the unusually clear and mild August day. From time to time they would stop and take in the magnificent vista overlooking San Francisco Bay with its view of the Oakland Bay Bridge and the city on the hill. A breeze washed over them, gently ruffling the president's hair, creating a charming effect not lost on the TV cameras that were held at a distance on the veranda of the small library building.

The presidential entourage hovered in the background, nervously checking their watches. Only her personal assistant, Nancy Bender, was unconcerned with what the delay would do to the president's carefully crafted campaign schedule. She alone knew what was on the president's mind.

The deputy chief of staff rushed up to Nancy. "How much longer will the president be?" the young man asked. "I've got a campaign to run ... can't delay much longer."

Nancy stifled a sigh. Like so many who worked in the White House, he had an overblown opinion of his importance because of the position he occupied. "Yes you can," she replied. But she immediately relented. He's got a point, Maddy. Madeline "Maddy" Turner had just emerged from a hard-fought primary campaign and turbulent convention to win her party's nomination for president. It had been a near thing, which was unusual for an incumbent. Now her old rival and nemesis, Senator JohnLeland, was determined to deny her the election and get his boy elected, the former congressman and now governor David Grau. Leland and Grau's opening salvo was an attack on her legitimacy. They claimed she was a political lightweight and incompetent, not capable of leading the United States, and had come to the presidency only through the vice presidency and the death of President Quentin Roberts. It was turning into a savage personal fight, and the fall campaign and run-up to the November election promised to be a brutal, take-no-prisoners battle.

A woman reporter floating behind Nancy said, "She may be the most beautiful widow in the United States." Nancy agreed, for Maddy was at her best on this particular day. The president's brown eyes sparkled with life, and her makeup was perfect for the sunlight, accentuating her high cheekbones and smooth complexion. "That white linen suit is very elegant," the reporter continued. "She has a fabulous figure."

Indeed she does, Nancy thought. She waited for the inevitable question.

"Off the record," the reporter ventured, "is there anything to the rumor about Matt Pontowski?"

Nancy knew better than to deny it. "Only what the president has said," she answered. "They're good friends and have the same mutual interests as any parents." She didn't have to explain what the "mutual interests" were. The reporter knew that the president's and Pontowski's fifteen-year-old sons were best friends attending New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. Nancy saw the cause of the delay move down the veranda and walk across the lawn toward the presidential party. She glanced at her watch and went in search of the deputy chief of staff. She found him still fretting over the delay. "Thirty minutes" was all she said. The young man scurried away to set the wheels of the campaign back in motion. "Oh, Maddy," Nancy breathed. "He does light your fire, doesn't he?"

The "he" was Matthew Zachary Pontowski III, the president of the library and grandson of the late President Matthew Zachary Pontowski. Every person, not to mention the TV reporters, at the dedication ceremony of President Pontowski's library was talking endlessly about the physical resemblance of Matt Pontowski to his famous ancestor. Pontowski was exactly six feet tall, lanky, and with the same piercing blue eyes and hawklike nose. His shock of graying brown hair with its barely controlled cowlick was an exact replica of the late president's, and he even walked with the same limp. Like his grandfather and father, he had flown fighter aircraft in combat, but no reporter really understood the significance of that. Still, it was the stuff that made news good entertainment, and they played it to the hilt.

Secretly each reporter hoped there was some truth to the rumor of an affair between Madeline Turner and Pontowski. But a strong sense of self-preservation held them in check — for always lurking in the background was Patrick Flannery Shaw. No one knew exactly what Shaw did as the special assistant to the president; however, he had direct access to Turner at any time and any place. That, plus a well-deserved reputation as the president's pit bull, made it mandatory to stay on his good side. The one White House reporter who had gotten crosswise with Shaw had suddenly found himself reporting local events in Pocatello, Idaho. It was an object lesson that didn't need repeating.

The TV cameras on the veranda zoomed in on Pontowski. "Matt," Maddy called, "what a wonderful ceremony." She extended her hand. "I was quite moved by your words. He was a wonderful man."

"Thank you for coming, Mrs. President," Pontowski said, gently taking her hand. The TV cameras recorded that they touched for a few seconds longer than required by protocol. But that was all. Pontowski shook hands with the two former presidents, and both were eager to recall the last time they had met. The reporters scribbled in their notebooks that the friendly reception was proof that Pontowski had a future beyond that of running the presidential library.

"What a magnificent view," Maddy said, leading the small group to the one secure observation point. Because of two attempted assassinations, the Secret Service made sure that no one was within earshot or, for that matter, any other kind of shot ...

The Last Phoenix. Copyright (c) by Richard Herman . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Last Phoenix 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story is quick-paced with accurate depictions of air and ground combat operations, combat aviators and military aviation in general. The premise of fighting on two fronts against enemies who coordinate their attacks is believable as is the notion that some of our politicians may sacrifice the common good for their own ends. There is a good bit of the machiavellian student in many of the characters. I read this in two evenings, so the story interested me a good deal. Although I could forecast the ending, I was interested in how the story achieved that goal. The book is fine escapist literature and I recommend it to those who enjoy military and political topics. It is not Pushkin.
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