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the-capital-game.JPGBy Mark Combes

In Brian Haig’s The Capitol Game, it was the deal of the decade, if not the century. A small, insignificant company on the edge of bankruptcy had discovered an alchemist’s dream; a miraculous polymer, that when coated on any vehicle, was the equivalent of 30 inches of steel. With bloody conflicts surging in Iraq and Afghanistan, the polymer promises to save thousands of lives and change the course of both wars.

Jack Wiley, a successful Wall Street banker, believes he has a found a dream come true when he mysteriously learns of this miraculous polymer. His plan: enlist the help of the Capitol Group, one of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations in a quick, bloodless takeover of the small company that developed the polymer. It seems like a partnership made in heaven…until the Pentagon’s investigative service begins nosing around, and the deal turns into a nightmare. Now, Jack’s back is up against the wall and he and the Capitol Group find themselves embroiled in the greatest scandal the government and corporate America have ever seen…

haig-brian.jpgHaig has both a distinctive military and business career and those two career paths find their way into his writing.   “… the differences in culture can make for entertaining literary fodder. …  Back in the eighties, I was working in the Pentagon, and one day I called my brother who was a lawyer in one of those sprawling legal factories that litter our capital. It happened to be early in the morning, and when his paralegal said he hadn’t come in yet, but would I like to leave a message, how could I resist?  “Okay,” I said, “Tell him it’s nine o’clock in the morning, and I’ve already done more than he’s going to do all day.” Right from the Army recruiting pitch of that era, right?  And when I came back to the office an hour later, there was a return message from my brother–“It’s ten o’clock now, and I’ve just made more money than you’ll make all week.”  Usually, I’m a lot more clever than him.  Really.

Inside the Army it’s about service, medals, and getting promoted; in that order for most; perhaps a different order for others.  You don’t do it for the medals or promotions, of course. But it’s an up-or-out system so it’s a bad idea to ignore them.  I spent four years at the un-college called West Point, then, in the Army, I spent up to ten months a year in the field sleeping on the ground, got frostbite and experienced hypothermia several times, suffered through Ranger School, got shoved out of airplanes, and served under some officers who make Captain Bly seem like that guy who enjoys long walks on the beach with a Nicholas Sparks book tucked lovingly under his arm.  I also served with and under some officers who were bright, shining men, men who made you realize the system works and the American Army is the best in the world for a good reason.  But it’s a hard life.  It’s a life of sacrifice and suffering.  It’s also an adventure, but you have to stay on your toes, because, sometimes, the adventure can be bad for your health.”

Haig takes a slight diversion from his Sean Drummond series with The Capitol Game but don’t fear – Haig’s writing sensibilities are still there in spades.  “The thing is, Drummond is an inveterate wiseass, a bit of a cynic, … and the books are narrated in the first person.  So I had this caustic wise guy living inside my head for 7 or 8 years….  Plus I really wanted to try the third person for a change.  The mechanics of third person are intrinsically different – in some ways more revelatory and, in others, not.  So Jack ends up a more opaque and, I think, a more elusive character than Sean.  Partly that’s a plot necessity for The Capitol Game.  And partly, that’s the centrifugal difference between first and third person.

But Sean and Jack are, I hope, equally likeable and enjoyable characters, just in very different ways.  I prefer light thrillers, and the humor is still there. But it’s more satirical, less sarcastic, and less verbal.  Sean would drive you nuts if you were married to him; I would marry Jack.  Sean has a kind of vinegary, pugilistic gallantry.  Jack’s more considerate and smoother, for one thing, and more emotionally controlled and sly.  Also he’s filthy rich; I’m kind of shallow that way.  Do I intend to launch another series around Jack?  Maybe, maybe not….”

Mark Combes
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