This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time about a thriller series that was fast and fun to read. I stumbled across C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice series through BookBub’s daily email telling me about Amazon book deals. My practice is that, if a free book listed in BookBub looks even remotely interesting, I download it onto my Kindle. After all, since it’s free, no harm, no foul, right?
Of course, an awful lot of the time, free books are free because no one in their right mind could possibly want to buy the darn things. They’re horribly written, horribly plotted, or horribly proof-read — or sometimes a combination of all three.
However, sometimes a free book is a wonderful little marketing surprise. My assumption is that these books are marketed as free or very cheap (usually 99 cents) to function as loss leaders. After all, if you move enough books (even if you’re giving them away), you’ll still rise up in the all-important Amazon sales ranking chart.
Which gets me to C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice novels, the first three books of which are currently available for free. The books are thrillers that feature veterans (mostly Marines) working together to foil dastardly plots against America. The two main characters are Cal Stokes, a former Marine whose father founded a hugely successful security company, and his friend Daniel Briggs, who is also a former Marine, and whose story is told here. The other recurring characters are mostly Marines, although there are vets from other branches of the service, as well as a resident computer genius.
I hope I don’t offend C. G. Cooper, who is himself a Marine vet, when I say that Cooper’s thrillers are kind of the Marine equivalent of the junk romances that I read in my down time. Please understand that there’s not a scintilla of romance in these books (at least, not so far). No bodices are ripped. No bosoms heave. No muscled hero shoots fiery glances at a palpitating heroine. The common thread between the two genres is the fantasy element.
Just as romances promise women that there is perfect romance somewhere out there, C.G. Cooper’s books tell patriots (especially men and especially active-duty or retired servicemen) that our dangerous world isn’t going to be met only with political cowardice and inertia, deadly bureaucracy, and stupid rules. Instead, there can be perfect justice — and former Marines are just the ones to deliver it.
The vehicle for delivering this justice is Stokes Security International, a highly reputable, highly profitable security company that Cal Stokes inherited from his deceased father. Every member of the staff is top-of-the-line. Moreover (and this is the romance-like fantasy) all of them have the freedom and equipment to do what actual Marines wish they could do, which is to take on all comers, destroying bad guys left and right — all the while hewing to their strong code of traditional morality and ethics, with a Corps ethos backing it all up. Seeing these guys in action is, needless to say, incredibly satisfying, especially because Cooper’s novels have a strong patriotic thread running through them.
Cleverly, Cooper doesn’t tie the patriotic thread to one political party or another. Instead, his books, while ever so slightly favoring Republicans, make it clear that patriotism is an all-American virtue, and that corruption and terrorism are all-American problems.
Here’s the other great thing I really like about the books: Cooper grows as a writer with each book. The first novel, Back to War, is in screenplay format, which took a bit of getting used to and I didn’t particularly like. (I still liked the plotting and characters, though, which is why I was willing to read on in the series.) In subsequent books, Cooper writes in actual prose, rather than the slightly awkward poetry of a screenplay.
Not only does the formatting improve with time, Cooper’s writing style improves too. It’s clear that he’s aiming for a mass market, so the writing is calibrated for about the 8th grade reading level. I prefer books aimed at a slightly higher reading level, but I’m not a snob. Good plots and likable characters go a long way to making me happy. In addition, while Cooper’s writing in the first couple of books is slightly wooden, especially when it comes to dialogue, Cooper’s writing gets looser and more fun as the books progress.
This ever-improving writing helps reveal Cooper’s real strength, which is plotting. The stories have imaginative plots and — a necessity for thrillers — excellent timing, along with nice surprise endings. I haven’t once predicted how a novel was going to end, nor have I found the surprise twists to be too unbelievable to work. Indeed, in the last Corps Justice book I read (Presidential Shift), the plot twist at the end absolutely delighted me. I truly hadn’t seen it coming, and I thought it was a hoot.
So, if you’ve got some time coming your way this Christmas holiday, and you’d like to settle back and relax into some fun, easy-going military (or, more accurately, ex-military) thrillers, I recommend C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice series.