Last Tuesday, N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata—the shit-canned former superintendent of Wake County Public Schools who, after joining the McCrory administration in 2013, became a prominent backer of the governor's going-nowhere-fast infrastructure bond proposal—abruptly stepped down. This was ... strange. And unexpected.
He said the thing that politicos always say, that he was quitting to spend more time with his wife and kids, and to evaluate "what opportunities might be out there," which probably means a run for Congress. But Tata, retired Army brigadier general, also cited his apparently burgeoning career as a military suspense novelist, five books in all, on Amazon.
And so we pondered: Was there any chance these books were actually, you know, good?
The answer, of course, is no. They are terrible, awful, LOL-worthy dregs of literature, bush-league Tom Clancy affectations with one-dimensional characters and enough plot holes to drive a Mack truck through, works of suspense that draw their mystery from their Rube Goldberg-esque contortions of logic.
Or maybe we are being cynical. Who knows. But we did take the time to speed-read—or at least speed-skim; Netflix dropped Wet Hot American Summer on Friday and there went our weekend—four entries in Tata's catalogue: his three-book Threat series and his newest offering, Foreign and Domestic.
Below you'll find brief synopses of these works, as well as an assemblage of some of the choicest lines Tata has put to paper—and trust us, there are some doozies.
Warning, in case you care, which you don't: spoilers ahead.Sudden Threat
Intelligence gurus have taken codes names for each of the Rolling Stones (well, except for Mick Taylor and Brian Jones; the spooks are apparently not fans of the pre-1976 era), then meddle in a confusing CIA paramilitary operation in Pakistan. Here, soldier Matt Garrett, so close to pulling the trigger on Osama bin Laden, gets reassigned to the Philippines: mortus interruptus.
Somehow, and we couldn't follow this, distracted as we were by the attempted-rape scene ("Don't you want to make love to one of the most powerful men in the world, Meredith?"), but the action also takes us to Japan, where people are not only bombed, but also knifed to death. We're still not sure which side won. And we don't really care.Hidden Threat
American Sniper meets The Young and the Restless in this war-torn soap opera. Zach Garrett, brother of Matt, has spawned an ungrateful daughter, Amanda, with his gold-digging wife (now his ex, Melanie), who has poisoned Amanda against him. (Please consult your flowcharts.)
Zach, ostensibly killed in action, leaves Amanda $500,000 deliverable upon her 18th birthday. In the process of getting the booty, she learns that Zach was not a deadbeat dad, but rather her mother and grandmother had been siphoning money from him, and essentially had been using her as a personal ATM.
Leave it to the unreliable, evil, wicked media, Del Dangeur, who (rightfully) believes Zach is alive. Tired of writing reviews of Aerosmith reunion albums, Dangeur's out for a scoop, and incidentally, a little hot sex with Miss Barely Legal, aka Brianna, a best friend of Amanda.
By the end, Amanda's high school journalism teacher is wielding a pistol at Melanie, Amanda has a lighter, some people scream, there's a fire. We don't know who survived. Hopefully no one.Mortal Threat
Once a bratty, rich teenager and a soldier's daughter featured in Hidden Threat, the blond, well-toned Amanda Garrett returns to save the world as a med student.
She and several American doctors have been working on a super-duper-top-secret project in Africa and, whoa, you won't believe this, but they've found cures for both Ebola and HIV.
Not so fast, smarty-pants. Leaders of the Islamic State want to steal the secret formula, claim it as their discovery and thus convince all the African nations that Muslims are the good guys.
Meanwhile, President Jamal Barkham (hmm, this name sound like it belongs to a black guy) is convinced that the Book of Catalyst, a 30,000-year-old African text and counter-narrative to the lily-white Book of Genesis has fingered him as the Messiah. What's more, the Garden of Eden was really in Tanzania. Then shit gets really crazy.Foreign and Domestic
There's an incoherent international conspiracy involving an American Taliban and his father, a (spoiler!) high-ranking Pentagon official. There's a separate conspiracy centering on stolen gold and a scheme to snatch Al Qaeda militants and turn them over to a North Carolina-based contractor that acts a whole lot like Blackwater. There's some babbling about Croatan Indians and Virginia Dare. There's the cardboard characterization of a woman who is of course hot and nubile but also needs a strong man to rescue her. And there's that man, that chiseled, strong-jawed man, Chayton Mahegan, a soldier with a troubled past and heart of gold.
But hey, noted literary critic Newt Gingrich blurbed that "General Tata's experience as a combat veteran and paratrooper is captured in realistic scenes and characters we care about," so what do we know?
1. Urine never hurt anything.
2. Vice President Dillon leaned against the windowsill and stared at the Washington Monument sticking into the sky like a middle finger.
3. "I killed children smaller than you in Rwanda. I am Cheetah."
4. Looking down at Democracy in America, de Tocqueville's magnum opus, she found his writing pedestrian but still necessary.
5. Are we products of mere bacterial evolution or did God truly create us?
6. The alcohol had flipped a switch in his brain, sending an electrical current to his penis, thereby relinquishing all control to the lower appendage for the time being.
7. "These political appointees have their hands so far up their asses they can't see straight."
8. Takishi, who had been given the codename Charlie Watts, pulled out his satellite-enabled phone and sent a text message to his contact, who demanded he use the ridiculous alias, "Mick Jagger."
A moment later "Mick Jagger" sent a return note.
Let it bleed
9. "Well, with a blond Virginian as a gatekeeper I must be doing something right."
10. Sure he loved Asian women but there was no replacement for a girl-next-door American knockout such as the one standing in front of him right now.
11. Leaning over the admiral's corpse, he whispered to the man's lifeless face, "Politics? This is about national survival, my dear friend."
12. "If we're going to one day get married like we've talked about, I don't want you having all these man-hating feelings."
13. The aphorisms rushed from her calculating mind like horses from the opening gate at the Preakness.
14. Amanda's mind swirled with confusion, a stormy sea tossing the vessel of her soul against competing swells.
15. His talents were too great, in his view, to waste on proclaiming that Les Miserables was passé or that Aerosmith Reunited was like, totally awesome.
16. Nina stood motionless, years of poison and Old South genetics boiling around inside her.
17. "You're nothing but your mother's money bitch."
18. The water rippled outward, inviting the coming day. The vee eventually disappeared, and he wondered about his life path. What was left in his wake so far?
19. Mahegan noticed she had placed a gold necklace around her neck, which suspended a large gold C on the torn T-shirt above her moderate breasts.
20. He just wanted to cruise through life, hammer some chicks as often as possible, and make more money than everyone he knew.
21. He felt his emotions begin to gallop away from him like a herd of mustangs, but he kept them in check.
22. He flashed white teeth that looked like a row of Chiclets.
23. "This needs to be quicker than a Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pit stop, understand?"
24. Streaks of blood and muck angled across his face like a football player's black eye. For a moment, he felt like a Croatan warrior, bare-chested, camouflaged, and defeating the scheming interlopers.
25. "On the outside you're this reasonably hot chick with quirky connections to the sheriff and other locals, plus in DC and the Pentagon."
26. She had showered and smelled like fresh citrus.
27. "All of us are brothers in arms and we are more brutal than ever before. Some may call us the Junior Varsity. Well, okay. Put me in, coach!"
28. Nix scoffed. "First-class lying bitch. Other than that, she's good. Wildcat in the sack."
29. "This thing is coming apart faster than a Kmart sweater in a washing machine."
30. "You know, I graduated from the Academy in 1979. As I said the other day, we were the last class with balls. All male. They brought the bitches in for the class of 1980."
31. "Well, this chat has been useful, but now I must get on with the business of killing you, a federal agent, on live video streaming."
32. "You can't be Chief of Staff with a son who is The American Taliban."
33. "I said call the medics, captain, that's an order!" Bream shouted.
By now, Mahegan had picked up Bream's general officer Beretta pistol. He looked at Bream and said, "Order this."
Then shot the general twice in the forehead.
Reach the INDY's Triangulator team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Don't quit your day job, Tony Tata"