Two brothers - one a presidential press secretary, the other a maverick captain of a Navy destroyer - scramble to prevent a Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's plot to use chemical weapons against Israel and the United States in this absorbing thriller.
Jim Schmidt is a master of the spin. As White House press secretary, his job is to cajole, sweet-talk, and otherwise persuade the nation's most powerful journalists to play a story the way the White House wants it played. Bill Schmidt, Jim's younger brother, is equally skillful, but in a different realm. He is the charismatic captain of the USS Winston Churchill and he leads an able but rambunctious crew with a penchant for causing well-publicized "liberty incidents" around the Mediterranean.
Both men instinctively understand their jobs, but more important, they understand how power works: He who controls the facts controls the response. So when the United States learns of a Libyan plot to drop a planeload of chemical weapons on the Israeli Knesset, the brothers-- thousands of miles apart-- unexpectedly find themselves working together to defeat the plan. Their first step is to set "Circle William," a Navy phrase meaning to prepare for chemical, germ, or nuclear attack.
As Jim huddles with the country's top defense and intelligence officials to plot a viable strategy to prevent the strike, Bill, on the front line of the crisis, prepares to implement the plan. Complicating their mission is the inconvenient presence of Sue O'Dell, a smart Washington Post Style reporter who wants to write a story on the commander and his notorious ship.
How the brothers counter the Libyan threat and how they spin the story make Circle William as much a story of international terrorism as it is a contemporary political thriller.
Drawing from his more than two decades in the U.S. Navy, his work inside the Pentagon and from his tenure as an assistant White House press secretary, Bill Harlow combines the insider's detail of Primary Colors with the technical expertise of The Hunt for Red October. Harlow's Circle William is as authentic and as chilling as any news event and is an impressive debut by a writer with an intimate knowledge of the workings of Washington, the military, and international terrorism.
Retired navy officer and ex-CIA man Harlow crafts a clever, well-plotted debut about two high-placed, competitive brothers whose complementary talents foil a Libyan attempt at germ warfare. Older brother Jim Schmidt happens to be White House press secretary, while his younger sibling, Bill, is captain of the U.S.S. Winston Churchill; their lives don't intersect as much as run parallel in alternating chapters. The Churchill and its crew have a cowboy reputation that is amply displayed in the opening chapters, so amply, in fact, that the reader might wonder whether all those hijacks have a point to them. When U.S. intelligence discovers that the Libyans are plotting a germ warfare strike on Israel, the news can't be released without prompting General Ghadafi to order another strike with a weapon that's already been smuggled into the country. This means that any attempt to stop a preemptive Israeli attack has to look like an accident--and thanks to a beautiful and determined reporter from the Washington Post, Sue O'Dell, Bill Schmidt and the Winston Churchill receive front-page press as an accident waiting to happen. Harlow expertly sets up the perfect ruse for an "accidental" shootdown of a Libyan jet (the title refers to a shipboard defense against radiation and chemical-weapons attack), while Jim's official involvement keeps the reader apprised of backstage maneuverings. Subsequent naval scenes vie with the White House settings for authenticity; there's an especially entertaining sequence about a media flap that occurs because somebody says the truth aloud. The plot takes several interesting turns before racing to a suspenseful climax. Despite characterization that some may consider naive(e.g., that there might actually be a reporter patriotic enough to put her country's best interests ahead of a story), Harlow offers a chipper, spirited first effort that augurs well for a new career.