CIA Assassin and Other Stories by Benson Grayson is an incredibly poorly prepared book to appear in a Kindle edition. It is sold on Amazon at USD 0.99 and is only the second novel I will return to Amazon for a refund in the five years I have been with Amazon. I will wait for a few days after this post to return the novel in case I hear from the author about this poor review. My Kindle copy is full of highlights about the poor presentation and I want to be able to point out specifics if the author wants to challenge anything of my claims.
There is one review on Amazon, s five star one. I will add my one star because I can’t figure out how to give a lower rating. The book is deficient in two areas. The most offensive is mechanical. There are several content areas that are jarring to sensibilities but at least in the content area the author can claim artistic license.
The novel started out with frequent misspellings and grammar errors. The letter “f” appeared so frequently that I was trained to accept it as the preposition “of.” Another letter frequently appearing in isolation was “t.” This error wasn’t as easy to compensate for because sometimes it meant “the” but it could also have been “that” or “then.”
There were frequent font changes between lines.
Every once in a while with absolutely no predictability either the name of the novel or the author’s name would appear in bold letters. This reminded me of a misplaced “running header.”
There was unpredictable double spacing between lines. On pages where there was single spacing between lines, every second line was truncated so that it looked like it fit in the left column of a double column page. It looked like this:
“CIA responsible for conducting espionage, sabotage and other clandestine activities abroad. Kramer came to this floor rarely,
the last time to attend the retirement party of Tillman’s predecessor as Deputy Director. As always, he was struck by the fact that
this corridor was so much better decorated than the lower floor corridors, with gold-framed”
The reader will notice the title has as one part “and other stories.” The second story, The Saudi Plot abruptly ends in mid-sentence at Kindle location 23783. The final tale, The Russian Spymaster begins at Kindle location 23948. This equates to approximately 17 pages of white space. And I never got to find out the results of the Saudi Plot.
The Russian Spymaster is divided into chapters that have no logical transition between them. Some of the chapters begin in mid-sentence but when I went back to the previous chapters, even the sentences could not be spliced together into something intelligible. The two halves were about different topics.
The Amazon author page lists professional experience and background of this author. I was impressed. That is why I purchased the book without reading a sample. While I expected much more professionalism than was exhibited in the presentation of the publication (above), I was surprised by the poor content quality as well. I also served my time in the intelligence operations trenches and I expected much better from this author who occupied positions well above my pay grade. Even taking into account that this was fiction, readers might expect a tenuous connection to reality.
In the first story, CIA Assassin, Kramer had decided to retire from The CIA just a bit early but his two years of Army service should make him eligible for a pension. He submits papers and is called to a meeting with Warren Brewster, an executive to boss Tillman. Brewster informs him that rules have changed, that Kramer is no longer eligible for a pension and that he cannot withdraw his resignation request. However, if he does just one little favor, something can be worked out. Kramer must go to Europe and kill a rogue agent. Kramer reluctantly agrees, goes to Europe, and kills the agent.
Before leaving, Kramer mentions that in all his years of service he has never killed anyone. Yet he agrees to the assignment. After a successful completion of the mission, he returns to the US and waits patiently for his pension check. Nothing happens. He calls Brewster to find out there is no Brewster. Kramer talks with the real assistant to boss Tillman and realizes he, Kramer, has been set up. Eventually, Kramer meets Tillman, a senior intelligence official, and explains the situation. Tillman promised to look into it and in the interim invites Kramer to stay the night in his house. Kramer does so, Tillman’s wife fixes him breakfast the next morning, and Tillman gives Kramer a ride back to CIA HQ the next day. The guards wave Tillman’s car through because they recognize him, Tillman guides Kramer into the building avoiding all the pesky security checks and the two talk in Tillman’s office. Later, Tillman (senior intelligence official) directs his car and driver to take Kramer home where he should wait for his retirement check.
That doesn’t work out because Tillman gets killed. There is so much unrealism in the above paragraph that the logical mind reels. The rest of the story does not get better. It seems Kramer, having been once duped into the killing, accepts the necessity of it. Recruiting an ally in the person of the wife of the man he killed in Europe, the two embark on a mission to find out who was really responsible for the mistake. Kramer promises to kill whoever that is. His latest victim’s wife tries to convince him of the immorality of killing.
The second story abruptly ended but it started out with ridiculous premises. We let Saudi intelligence capture one of our guys that we have set up to be captured. Then, in an attempt to rescue our guy we wipe out the Saudi royals with massive supporting US Air Force strikes in an “accidental” collateral damage strike that will assure the US a stable supply of oil once we put a suitable replacement government in place. I should be happy the story didn’t have an end.
The third story was a mishmash of sentence fragments. There is no reason to comment on it since I have almost no idea of what was intended.
To sum up, this was a work horrible and insulting in its presentation. It could not be rescued by the quality of its content. And I was left with one question. What did the first reviewer read?