Walt Gragg’s THE RED LINE Reviewed

The Red Line
Walt Gragg
Berkley Pub
May 2nd, 2017

The Red Line by Walt Gragg is an action packed political military thriller with a “what if” war story scenario. In this novel, peace is shattered as World War III has a resurgent Communist Soviet Union pitted against the US in the heart of Germany. The best way to describe the plot, “war is hell.”

Gragg uses his experiences to create this story. A former Vietnam veteran he is able to write very realistic battle scenes. He also played war games while serving at the United States European Headquarters in Germany at the height of the Cold War, which adds authenticity to the novel.

He noted, “Much of the story came from my personal knowledge while serving in Europe for three years. I knew what we expected the Soviet Union to do in such a war and what our greatest fears were. I had significant experience with American command and control systems and some of the weapons in the book. In my 38 months there, I was able to gain a great deal of insight into how such a ground war in Europe would look and what the American military feared most about a Russian attack.  What I saw was a potential nightmare of unspeakable proportions, our strengths and weaknesses versus theirs.”

The plot begins in the not too distant future where Fascists once again come to power. The new Fuhrer, Manfred Fromisch, a leader that promises unity and protection from the Communists, is able to quash the uprisings with his ruthless SS paramilitary forces. The fanatical Russian leader, a la Vladimir Putin, orders the Soviet military to invade Germany and reclaim the Eastern sector. They use the strategy of deception, sabotage, and excess manpower to potentially win this war in five days. In a bold move they catch the Americans off guard, because the US political leaders refused to accept the warning given by the military leaders.

The US President is definitely a political animal that “was written by me to be more concerned about getting re-elected than doing what is right for the country. He fails the American people and fails as Commander-In-Chief because his self-interest is more important than doing his job. He refused to allow the military to do what it needs to do, having a full alert. This led to a domino effect where Americans were caught flat-footed. The President is not cautious, but reckless because he did not follow the advice of his cabinet.”

Gragg shows how individuals play an important role with their decisions and choices. The US President appears to be part of the Vietnam Syndrome, not interested in going to war at all costs. Because of this the Americans are complacent and the losses become extraordinary. A warning, this is not a sunshine and roses book. Almost all the heroes, brave men and women, face death and destruction so readers should not get too attached to any character.

Almost all of the heroes were killed off because the author hoped to show how video games are unrealistic. “I wanted to show how good people die and never come back to life, a reality that is not prevalent in video games. There are no happy endings in the realistic theatre of war. No one should ever become immune to killing, and war should never be taken lightly.”

This is no more evident in the scenes involving Russian atrocities. They are truly evil as they use chemical weapons, and tactical nuclear weapons. The quote hammers the point home, “They arrived at Ramstein as ruthless bullies,” mowing down civilians and US forces. Their strategy was using sabotage, murder, and terror. They did everything to go against humanity in the crowded setting of Germany, with over eighty million people in an area the size of Oregon, making it even more chilling.

Although most of the scenarios in the book are very realistic, the one involving Fascists regaining power seems very far-fetched. Not only would the German people not elect them, the NATO countries would never let them regain power. There is no way an American President would be allowed to look the other way, and ignore the threat.

The Red Line is not a techno thriller, but a story of how individuals play into the equation. Readers will question what lessons were learned from World War II. This dark tale has a major message: be cautious in going to war, but sometimes war is necessary to defeat evil.