Triangle of Death, Michael Levine & Laura Kavanau

Dell, 1996, 490 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-440-22367-9

Much as most of the angry black hip-hop music is bought by white suburban kids, I’d be willing to bet that most of the military fiction out there is bought by comfortable suburban professionals like yours truly. As a law-abiding white-collar citizen, there’s an undeniable vicarious thrill in reading about fictional exploits of manly heroes who have sworn to defend our contemporary way of life by all means necessary.

Triangle of Death is a military adventure in the same vein than the Rogue Warrior books supposedly co-written by ex-supersoldier Richard Marcinko. Flavorful first-person narration “by the author”, believable authenticity, disregard for non-operative authority and movie-like heroics are the norm here. Like the Rogue Warrior series, Triangle of Death seems almost custom-made to show us civilians how we really have no clue about the sacrifices needed to protect our freedom.

Certainly, Michael Levine has traveled the same rough professional road than Marcinko: Both have served their country for a quarter-century (Marcinko as a SEAL, Levin as an undercover operative for the DEA), got shafted by their superiors, left the service in disgust, wrote best-selling non-fiction (Marcinko’s Rogue Warrior and Levine’s Deep Cover) and then turned not only to the conspiracy fringe, but also to fiction-writing. As of this writing, though, Marcinko seems to be the only one of the two who still regularly publishes fiction.

As a novel, Triangle of Death is good tasty fun. The novel grabs you by the throat early on and rarely lets up as we follow the protagonist/narrator “Michael Levine” through a deep unauthorized undercover mission to rid the world of a potent new sex drug that could do no less than shake up civilization as we know it. The no-nonsense prose is filled with macho posturing, fascinating “authentic” details, a roller-coaster series of events and an overall sense of, yes, fun.

It’s a hugely enjoyable read, especially as Levine battles impossible odds, hops around the world, gambles big, contacts friends in high places, spouts some Asian philosophy, undergoes specialized training and eventually pieces together a conspiracy involving the US government. Breathlessly exciting stuff, told in a spot-on style.

You can read Triangle of Death as a straight-ahead novel and like it a lot. If you liked the first few volumes of Marcinko’s series (before noticing that it repeated itself), this novel is the closest thing to it. As a thriller, it’s more engaging than most of its brethrens and its aura of authenticity is only too rare.

But there’s also a second level of entertainment that kicks in late in the novel, as the “Levine” protagonist announces his intention to publish a novel about the events of the story, hence blurring the line in between fiction and reality. That’s when readers with some time to lose might want to boot up their computers and do some serious research on Levine and his career.

It’s fascinating stuff, especially given that it takes us to the fringes of the conspiracy-nut memesphere. We can find traces of Levine’s radio show, dedicated at exposing the government’s incompetence and corruption. From there, we find links to documents alleging massive conflicts of interest in between the government’s official “war on drugs” and the realpolitiks of international trade and policing work. Governmental interference in police works? Say it isn’t so!

That particular brand of paranoia doesn’t serve too far-fetched or unbelievable, which makes the truth-or-fiction game even more fascinating. Triangle of Death thus becomes a veiled introduction at some serious thinking about the war on drugs, even from the point of view of someone who abhors criminals and addictive substances like Levine. What’s true and what isn’t? Maybe truth is once again stranger than fiction…

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