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“Marine One” Crashes Into Bookstores

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  • “Marine One” Crashes Into Bookstores

    New book foresees the stormy death of an American president flying in his helicopter; By Ron Donoho

    Bestselling author and former Top Gun fighter pilot James W. Huston has made a habit of predicting world events. His politico-legal thrillers have delved into al-Qaeda attacks, torture techniques like water-boarding and terrorists using airplanes to attack U.S. targets—all before they became actual stories on the world stage.

    “I hope there’s nothing too prescient about my latest book,” says Huston, a lawyer who works in the San Diego office of Morrison Foerster, and lives in Escondido with his wife of 30 years and five children.

    Huston’s sixth novel is “Marine One” and it’s about the helicopter used by the President of the United States, which crashes, killing the President and launching an investigation led by lawyer/former Marine pilot Mike Nolan.

    Huston, who’s sold more than a million books, is technically sound. “Marine One” starts with a bang—literally—and looks at the accident through the eyes of a lawyer. Huston barely touches on how the country—and the world—is affected by the loss of the U.S. President. Huston and his protagonist, Nolan, don’t have time for sentimentality. Nolan represents the French company that made the helicopter and is being sued by the crash survivors, including the former First Lady.

    Should President Obama fear for his life? The real-life fleet of helicopters that serve as Marine One definitely made the news because of their price tags. “There’ve been numerous stories about the runaway cost,” says Huston. “And like in the book, they’re made by a foreign company. In real-life, Lockheed claims to be the manufacturer, but they’re really made by a European consortium.”

    “Balance of Power” (1998) and “The Price of Power” (1999) were Huston’s first two books. They deal with the rise of terrorism, and the ability of a government to declare war on individuals rather than countries.

    For 2000’s “Flash Point” Huston created an Osama bin Laden-like character who operates from a mountain retreat, sends out orders and operators while remaining in hiding in primitive conditions.

    In May 2001, “Fallout” anticipates the use of airplanes to attack American targets. In the book—which preceded 9/11—Islamic individuals attempt to crash planes into the nuclear reactors at San Onofre.

    Water-boarding used as a means of torture to extract information from captured terrorists came to play in “Secret Justice” (2003). Huston experienced water-boarding during his Navy training, and says he is in the majority category of 95 percent of people in the world who would tell you everything you want to know after 10 minutes of being water-boarded.

    An avid reader, Huston spent part of the 1990s in the Naval Reserves doing intelligence. He began to pay close attention to the terrorism scene after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

    Before that, after several years on the East Coast, in 1984 he moved to San Diego permanently, where he’d trained on F-14s for a year while stationed at Miramar.

    Huston entered the writing sphere by producing op-ed pieces for the former “Times-Advocate” newspaper (now the “North County Times”). When his editor moved to “The San Diego Union-Tribune,” so did Huston’s pieces.

    The full-time lawyer never thought he’d be a novelist. “The advice people give you to don’t try it because you’ll never get published is probably good advice—it’s really hard,” he says. But a decade after breaking in, Huston’s sixth novel is now, as they say, available in most bookstores.

    About the author: Ron Donoho is the former executive editor of San Diego Magazine. He has won more than three dozen Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists awards. His work has been published in Men's Health, Men's Journal, Maxim, Glamour, The Christian Science Monitor and several other national publications. He is also a daily featured contributor on
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