Way back in 2012, the With Leather Universe discovered Tank Abbott’s book, “BEFOR THERE WERE RULES: BAR BRAWLER” and I lost my mind to the point that I bought the book and recapped it. While we all wait for the second and third books to be released (They are both listed under the COMING SOON section, yay!) I found out that former NFL place kicker, Jason Elam, along with his pastor, had written a series of action thriller books centered around hero extraordinaire, Riley Covington. I instantly purchased all four books and will be recapping them on a very inconsistent schedule.
With that introduction, let us all dive into the first entry in the series, Monday Night Jihad (YUP, THAT’S THE TITLE, AND TRUST ME, IT GETS BETTER/WORSE FROM THERE)!
[Brief aside, gang, I just want to say that Elam is a dork because he keeps dropping flashback sequences in at random moments. It's a mix of an incoming game in ReBoot, and the way Benjy Compson's mind works in The Sound and the Fury. Right in the middle of some action about to go down, and whoops, time to reminesce about Scott Ross's kindergarten year because the word "hat" triggered a memory.]
Steve Yohn, Jason’s pastor and co-writer, thanks God and also his wife, Nancy. Jason dedicates this book solely to “The real Jesus” (Has Jesus been verified on twitter yet?) because I guess he hates his wife, Tamy.
Hakeem Qasim (Isn’t that the Palestinian poop-powered rocket?), nicknamed “The Cheetah” by his now-dead uncle Shakir (Wait, there are cheetahs in any part of Mesopotamia, let alone Iraq?), has just finished an important task. He and his equally ten year old cousin, Ziad (“The Lion of Babylon”, which was the Iraqi nickname for the Soviet T-72 battle tank, go fightin’ Commies!) have removed the last rock from a dirt patch-turned new soccer field (I find it weird that he’s mentally referring to it as such. Shouldn’t he think-call it a football pitch? How deep has the Great Satan infected this poor child’s brain?), meaning they can actually play a game tomorrow without worrying about getting ripped to shreds on the debris brought on by the Great Satan’s bombing runs. The boys tease each other a bit while Ziad’s mother, Hakeem’s aunt, Shatha, calls them to dinner and afternoon prayer. Since it’s Friday (TAIF, am I right?), uncle Ali will be joining them for the meal, which excites Hakeem. Ziad’s a little sketched out by Ali, though, partly because there are rumors he has close ties to Uday Hussein, but also because Ali creeps on Shatha on the reg ever since Ziad’s dad Shakir died fighting in Iran three years ago.
Hakeem doesn’t really care about that, though, he’s thinking back to the time he took a ride in Ali’s Land Rover (Ditching the “friends” that always accompany Ali in their own vehicle in the process) when Ali presented Hakeem with a gift: a 7.62x39mm round threaded onto a gold chain that Ali claims was taken from an unexpended AK-47 “clip” (Argh, improper nomenclature, I must nerd-rage!) that Saddam Hussein himself had been firing (Wait a second. So Ali grabbed a magazine, removed a round, took out the bullet, dumped the powder, extracted the primer, drilled a hole, threaded it onto a chain, and then re-seated the bullet, all to give to his nephew? I need to step my Mother’s and Father’s Day games up, then, dang). Ali explains that the devious Jews and the Great Satan have always been trying to prevent the proud Muslim people from worshipping Allah, and that one day soon the Great Satan will try to destroy Iraq, but Saddam and the Republican Guard will save the country, though Hakeem may be called upon to fight for his homeland (Little did Hakeem or Ali know, but just four years prior, the youth of America had been informed of their duty to fight for an even more important cause by three righteous prophets, their right to party).
Hakeem is violently brought back to the present (Of 1991) with a soccerball to the head from Ziad, prompting more teasing and wrestling before Shatha calls out to the boys a second time. They prepare to race back to Hakeem’s house, and while on the start line, Ziad knocks Hakeem over at “set”, before dashing off on his own “go”. Other than checking the status of his teeth (All still in place, hooray!), Hakeem’s not too concerned, since he knows that as “The Cheetah”, he’ll be able to catch up with and overtake Ziad, no matter how big a lead the “Lion” gets.
Hakeem finally enters the race when an explosion devastates his house and knocks him to the ground. As with any youngster, Hakeem’s only thoughts are to reunite with his mother, who will make everything okay. As he scrambles through the wreckage, Hakeem falls into a hole, but manages to grab hold of a hand to pull himself out. Unfortunately, the hand belongs to a body that’s crushed underneath an enormous concrete block, and even worse, Hakeem recognizes the ring on the second finger of the hand as his mother’s. Distraught, bleeding, crying, and vomiting, Hakeem passes out (Welp, I’m really depressed now, anyone else?).
Operation Enduring Freedom
Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Riley Covington, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) second lieutenant, is posted at a security point, counting boulders on lookout, while also day-dreaming about his future. He was a star linebacker while at the Air Force academy, earning three consecutive WAC/MWC defensive player of the year honors (Sweet, sweet WAC-tion, how I miss thee), in addition to being named the Butkus award winner as the top linebacker in the country his senior season (Suck on so many eggs, Rocky Calmus!). Unfortunately, his commitment to the military meant that despite his skills and ability to injure other players, Riley fell to the third round, thanks to the Colorado Mustangs taking a gamble on the man nicknamed “Pach”, after the AH-64 “Apache” attack helicopter.
Back to counting rocks, and it’s consistently been 36, but now he’s looking down from his hill at 37. He checks in with the other man on watch, Armando “Taps” Tapia, but Tapia’s northern position is fine. Thinking it must have been a mistake, Riley starts counting again, and this time he gets 38, and instantly realizes something is wrong (Gee, ya think, DiNozzo? *SLAP* Sorry, I watch way too much N.C.I.S. before Raw starts), just as one of the ‘boulders’ fires off a mortar round. Covington shoots back at the two new rocks, sending one back down the hill, and keeping the other in its position, compromised to a permanent end, as a militia force begins an assault on Riley and his team.
Riley scampers back to his team’s position to find several of his men down with shrapnel wounds. His second in command, Scott Ross, points out a Mark 19 grenade launcher near a Humvee, so Riley takes off to grab the weapon. Riley takes a grazing round to the hip, but he’s a leader, and bullet wounds don’t stop leaders. He gets to the Mk. 19 and rains down hellfire and brimstone (BAH GAWD!) upon the charging militia, putting them on a hasty retreat. Covington knows the reprieve will be short lived, so he turns to his remaining men to formulate a plan.
Riley Covington’s squadmates are largely ineffective and barely deserve to have names. Scott Ross is the brainy one, Skeeter Dawkins is a jacked-up Boo Radley, Kim “Tommy” Li is somehow not called Jet/Chun/Bruce (Oh, also, he’s got tattoos and an itchy trigger finger, which Covington internally chides him for) and Posada is Jason Elam being clever by not naming a guy ‘Brooklyn’ and instead going with a player for the Bronx-based Yankees at the time of writing. Also, Posada ‘does machines’, but outside of Ross and Dawkins, Riley might as well be slogging through Afghanistan with Stinky, Fatty and Topsy for all the characterization they get.
Despite his encumberence of idjits, Riley manages to lead a successful counterattack because he’s so good at reading the insurgents’ offense before they even begin their assault (I assume the second book covers the investigation and trial surrounding Riley’s unfair use of drone flyovers to learn the militia’s attack patterns before the operation began). Well, that and the appearance of two Apache helicopters (You know, like the thing he’s nicknamed for!), thanks to Riley telling Posada to call in an airstrike.
With the airstrike also comes a medical evacuation for Riley and the other wounded. As he’s getting loaded into the helicopter, football is the last thing on Covington’s mind (I guess that means he’s thinking about soccer) before he takes a little pain-induced nap.
“You realize that this will be the site of your great humiliation,” Ziad taunted in the pompous language they used when teasing each other.
“Tomorrow, Ziad, your pride will be shown to be as empty as your mother’s purse!”
- DUDE, NOT COOL, HAKEEM! Also, Elam totally tapped into the youth culture and perfectly nailed how kids talk.
Riley preferred to call them the “nasty little black ones.” – Okay, he’s actually talking about scorpions, but until we get to the explicit racism, this out of context racism will have to do for now.