Bear Kotah’s Comanche background makes him a unique hero in this unique and fascinating entry into the genre.
Crossing the Red by Arch Gibson paints a portrait of a veteran who, while coping with the aftermath of war, is driven to the edge to protect his family, his land, and America’s economy from a strategic terrorist attack.
Jim “Bear” Kotah suffers from PTSD after a long career as a United States Army Special Forces operator in major Middle East conflicts, starting with the Gulf War. An expert in terrorism and insurgency, he acts as a civilian contractor and lecturer before returning home.
War is in Bear’s blood, not just through military-sanctioned operations, but also in his Comanche bloodline: his grandfather carries a war ax and trains his descendants in the ways of honorable battle. All of this weighs heavy on Bear, who withdraws from his family and their bison ranch—until an attack looms, one that makes use of incredible, nearly unbeatable technology. The strike, led by his archenemy and neighbor, pushes Bear to the edge.
Bear’s heritage is a unique feature in a field populated with cookie-cutter action heroes. His ties to the Comanche way of life are an important aspect of the story. From the strain of keeping a ranch prosperous and attempting to expand, to defending the land from a business rival, everything coalesces around Bear’s need to preserve and continue the dwindling Comanche way of life. Gibson weaves together that down-home personal drama with the overarching terrorist attack, enriching both plots.
Gibson wonderfully paints all of the Kotah clan in vivid detail, especially its head, Grandfather. At first he seems eccentric and trapped in the past, but his character evolves over the course of the novel to highlight his deep-seated urge to maintain and extend the Comanche heritage that was passed on to him. This urge also carries over to his grandson, Bear, and helps propel most of the story forward, grounding some of the more outlandish action scenes, such as Bear setting off and surviving several mortar rounds in an explosion and a pitched battle on the deck of a boat in turbulent waters.
Gibson writes plainly and, thankfully, steers clear of common “men’s adventure” story mishaps. Unlike pulp soldier-of-fortune paperbacks, Crossing the Red uses bursts of violence and weapon descriptions to punctuate the story. This builds tension as the story barrels toward its inevitable conclusion. The author also serves up a satisfying ending without resorting to an action-movie standoff, and opens up the possibility of future Bear Kotah adventures. Bear is a unique hero, and his personal story cements Crossing the Red as a fresh entry into the genre.
Fans of adventure, thrilling action, and character-driven fiction will find an enjoyable read in Crossing the Red—hopefully the first of many Bear Kotah novels to come.
John M. Murray
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