We’re happy to be hosting R. Lawson’s THE CIA INTERNATIONAL THRILLER SERIES Book Blast today! Existential Threats is Book 4 and The Carrington Prophecy is the latest and is Book 5. Pick up your copies of this fantastic thriller series!
Title: Existential Threats (Book 4 of The CIA International Thriller Series)
Author: R. Lawson
The CIA’s incoming Director of Counter Terrorism, Biff Roberts, is inheriting a multitude of challenges. For starters, there is the existential threat of a nuclear Iran. Added to that, the Middle East has become enmeshed in a surge of radical religious extremism ranging from fanatical Muslims of the Islamic State to the Taliban, groups who commit unspeakable atrocities using violence to pursue their atavistic goals. Syria’s civil war could result in Assad’s weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of the splintered groups of Islamic Jihadists fighting there. This radical ideology has now spilled over into Africa with furious intensity.
And as if these international problems were not enough imminent threats to confront, Iranian mullahs have issued an Islamic death warrant fatwa on Biff, and those hoping to see it through are chasing him to the ends of the Earth.
Things move closer to home when CIA intelligence discovers that Iran has dispatched Mahmoud Abu Javari, the notorious IED bomb maker to the U.S. Biff now faces a Homeland threat of 9/11 proportions and has to thwart a bomb plot in San Francisco without knowing the target or timing for the planned act of terror.
For More Information
- Existential Threats is available at Amazon.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, ITALY
New Year’s Day
The assassins hid behind a huge boulder above the timberline, giving
them an excellent view of the ski slopes below.
“In the red parka at the top of the Tofana piste,” the handler, Rashid,
said, spotting the target first. He spoke in Arabic with a distinctive French
inflection, his calm voice belying his excitement. “Look to the right side of
the slope. He’s just inside the tree line, leaning on his ski poles and talking
with the woman and her children. See him?”
Beside Rashid, Mustapha frowned as he peered through the scope of his
rifle. “Your binoculars have a wider field of view,” he complained. His accent
was foreign to Rashid, an African version of Arabic that fell heavily on
Rashid’s ears. In addition to disliking his accent, Rashid found Mustapha’s
facial tattoos—tribal markings apparently—distasteful. But Mustapha had
a reputation as a skilled shooter and he seemed dedicated to their mission.
“Big guy, blond hair,” Rashid said as he laid his Bushnell binoculars
on the hood of their snowmobile and pointed. “About six hundred meters
down to the right. Use my binoculars if you can’t spot him.”
“Okay, now I have him,” Mustapha said, grinning. “He’s much bigger
than I imagined, good target. But there’s a tree branch in the way
now. I’ll wait until he skis out to the first mogul, then I’ll have him in my crosshairs.”
* * *
Biff Roberts stopped at the top of the Tofana run, enjoying the rest and
the magnificent early morning view of Cortina below. The gondola had
dropped them off at over ten thousand feet, and after traversing over
to the piste, they were even higher. It was easy to get winded at this
“Let the youngsters go first, Patricia,” Biff said. “I doubt we can match
“Okay, Biff,” Patricia said, smiling warmly. Patricia DeBartola was
in her fifties, but Biff thought she looked better than most women thirty
years younger. Like him, she kept herself in great shape, another reason
they were a great match.
Biff was enjoying a rare break from work before the next big step in his
career. After four decades in the CIA, he was about to take on his most challenging
role yet—as the head of Langley’s clandestine Counterterrorism
Division. He was looking forward to getting started, but first he wanted to
spend time with Patricia and get to know her kids better.
“Watch out for ice on the downside of moguls at this hour,” Patricia
told him. “It’s so easy to catch an edge when you check and turn downhill.
And although it’s a black diamond run, it’s really not too difficult if you
control your speed. That’s essential. Rest if you start to tire.”
Patricia could see from Biff’s smile that he didn’t mind her advice. But
she realized she might be overdoing it.
“Don’t do anything crazy trying to impress me, okay?” She smiled to
try and hide her concern. “I know how you are sometimes.”
Maybe I do worry too much, she thought. But she was an expert skier
and this was a challenging slope. Biff was strong and athletic, and he’d
told her he could ski, but could he handle this steep hill? She didn’t want
to jeopardize their holiday vacation with an injury. In retrospect, maybe
she shouldn’t have brought him up here, but the Tofana chute was her
children’s favorite run, and the view was absolutely spectacular. She would
just have to watch him closely.
“You got it, lady,” Biff said. “I promise to take it nice and easy.” Biff
didn’t want her worrying about him today. Biff’s work meant he was
often in danger, but this was time to relax and get to know her family
Patricia glanced at her daughter. “Alessandra, I suggest you go first, in
case you fall. Your brothers will follow to pick you up.”
Her daughter remained silent, not taking the bait.
“Right, Enzo and Donatello?” Patricia added. “You’ll look out for your
baby sister? She might be a bit rusty.” Alessandra had given birth last year
and missed the ski season. “Be sure to keep a close eye on her, okay?”
“No problem, Mom,” Enzo replied without hesitation, smiling widely.
Unlike his sister, Enzo appreciated his mother’s sense of humor, which
was often half in jest, half in earnest.
“Same old predictable Mom, looking out for her brood,” Donatello
said quietly beside Enzo. Donatello leaned on his ski poles, raring to go.
They had both heard that refrain for years, to look out for their baby
“Yeah, right, Mom,” Donatello said loudly. “No problem.” He replied
like a good son should, no matter his age. Their dad had disciplined
“Doubt we’ll keep up with her, though. She’s definitely the
best downhiller in the family, maybe the town,” Donatello reminded
her, as if she wasn’t cognizant of that well-established fact after all these
‘Baby sister’ had been a top notch ski instructor on this mountain
and the winner of many alpine competitions before she married ten years
ago and started her family. Now the mother of three, Alessandra still
had a cult-like following of aspirant young female skiers in Cortina who
stopped her on the streets for her advice on training exercises and hints
on succeeding in timed trials.
At Donatello’s remark, Alessandra just politely smiled, shunning the
time-honored family banter, and pushed off. She checked adroitly on the
first mogul and swiftly weaved her way gracefully down the fall line, starting
the five-thousand-foot vertical descent to the Dolomite village in the
Biff watched her glide effortlessly down the steep slope, darting
through the moguls like a rabbit, changing direction unpredictably but
“The whole scene is definitely like an edited Warren Miller ski clip,”
Biff observed. “Good show.”
“She’s a talented skier,” Patricia replied. She was clearly proud of her
family, especially her daughter, and rightfully so.
“She doesn’t look a bit rusty to me,” Biff complimented.
“She’s still got it at thirty, hasn’t lost a move.” She nodded to her sons.
“OK, boys. Go catch her, if you can.” Patricia laughed delightedly, realizing
she hadn’t been this happy in years. She had been nervous about
having the kids meet Biff, but everything was going wonderfully.
The brothers immediately set off after their sister, laughing. They were
strong, athletic skiers but lacked their sister’s grace as she short turned in
the fall line, taunting them to catch her.
“A classic display of sibling rivalry?” Biff suggested. “You raised some
great kids, Patricia. Look at them go, having a ball.”
“Thank you. This is always a big part of our family New Year’s tradition.
They’re trying to make an impression. They intend to test you out as
a prospective stepfather, so heads up.”
“Natural thing to do, I suppose.” Biff smiled down at Patricia. “You
sure scored impressively with my family last week.” Patricia had gone to
Arizona with him for Christmas festivities. “You turned Caroline’s life
around, thank God.”
Patricia smiled, pleased. “She just needed some motherly TLC. I
understand what she’s going through.”
“You gave her helpful insight, dear,” Biff said. “It’s been a whirlwind
experience introducing our kids, judging if they’ll accept our relationship.
Like you said, so far, so good.”
Less than a year ago, Biff’s wife and childhood sweetheart, Mary Beth,
had been gunned down by an assassin, in place of Biff. Many years ago,
Patricia’s husband, the Italian ambassador to Israel, had been assassinated
by Hamas while visiting Gaza on a peacekeeping mission. It was that
shared experience of traumatic grief that had brought Biff and Patricia
together so quickly and so intensely. His children, rather than angered at
his finding love again so soon, seemed to understand all the more that life
was short and precious, and should be lived to the fullest. Patricia’s kids
seemed to want the same happiness for their mother.
“We better catch up with them,” Patricia said. “I see them waiting
downhill for us, joking around. Look, they’re waving to us to come on.
Let’s go. Try and keep up.”
“Keep up with them?” He grinned. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Well, let’s try and not let them out of sight. You’re next, I’ll follow.”
She smiled, thrilled at the positive start to their vacation and family
introductions. After her family tragedy, she’d doubted if she’d ever be
deeply happy again. Yet in Biff, she’d found someone to spend the rest
of her life with, someone who had experienced a similar misfortune.
Empathy drew them together, and the whole was greater than the parts
that bonded them.
“Be patient,” Biff said. “It’s been a while since I last skied at Tahoe.
And I’m not in your kids’ class, believe me. But it’s just like riding a bike,”
he added, smiling. He took off, bouncing off the first mogul, trying to
imitate her kids’ skillful execution of a check turn and hot-dogging it.
Despite Patricia’s warning, he immediately caught an edge on the
mogul’s icy downhill side. Biff lost his balance and began to fall.
His fall was a fortunate event as it turned out. Just as he began to slip, a
.223 caliber bullet ripped through his left shoulder, sending red fragments
of his insulated parka flying. Groaning in pain, he crashed head over heels
downhill between the steep moguls.
Patricia noted the muffled sound of a gunshot fired through a suppressor
from uphill an instant before Biff fell. Despite the silencer, the rifle’s
resonance followed instantly through the clear mountain atmosphere. She
had heard that unforgettable “bap” sound before, and her years of association
with Mossad conditioned her response. She glanced furtively uphill
at the ridge. She saw no one, but suspected more incoming fire.
Had the shot caused Biff’s awkward spill? It all happened too quickly
for her to tell.
“Biff!” she called as she immediately skied to his assistance, not fearing
exposing herself to danger. He could be shot, and she had to help him.
Title: The Carrington Prophecy (Book 5 of The CIA International Thriller Series)
Author: R. Lawson
Biff Roberts, the CIA’s counterterrorism director, receives actionable intelligence that a rogue regime is planning a sneak attack with the goal of exploding a nuclear device above the United States, triggering an unnatural Carrington Event.
The cosmic storm of the Carrington Event’s electromagnetic pulse waves released by the explosion would cripple all electronic systems and power grids in the U.S., leaving the homeland defenseless and vulnerable to conventional warfare.
With North Korea looking to be the most likely suspect, Biff is tasked to intervene and prevent this attack without triggering a global world war. Collaborating with NIS, the South Korean Intelligence Service, Biff and his team work to thwart the impending disaster, while also leaving the CIA with plausible deniability.
For More Information
- The Carrington Prophecy is available at Amazon.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
After brief conversation, considerable reflection, and two bottles of vintage champagne, Biff Roberts and the other members of the CIA’s counterterrorism team finally slept for the remainder of the flight from San Francisco back to Andrews Air Force Base. It had been a long, harrowing week that thankfully had ended in averting a national disaster. They had successfully aborted an Iranian terror plot, one potentially of 9/11 dimensions that could have killed thousands.
Upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Biff noticed the CIA’s DCI Admiral Delaney, his attaché, and an entourage of Langley officials and security guards were waiting to greet them on the tarmac. As the CIA G-4 taxied to its designated parking spot, many in the crowd waved excitedly. Biff also noticed the DCI had a large dossier under his arm.
That’s usually not a good sign, Biff thought. Something’s brewing — something big.
Biff and his team descended from the plane into the smiling crowd. They received a combination of applause, thumbs up, and salutes as acknowledgement of their lead role in thwarting the terrorist plot in San Francisco.
“Fine job, Biff,” the admiral said. “Welcome back.” They shook hands and exchanged pats on the back.
Admiral Delaney was sincere in his admiration of his top field operative, recently promoted to Director of the Counterterrorism division. Even after all the long hours and stress of his work in San Francisco, Biff seemed as sharp as ever. His energy and appearance were the envy of many younger men. His six-foot-four athletic frame was still packed with muscle well into middle age, and his thick, wavy blond hair belied his age.
“Extraordinary how you pulled it off, Biff. Impressive tactics,” Delaney said as they walked toward a line of waiting cars. “You never cease to amaze me. That Switchblade drone/flash bang caper will become a classic in our CIA annals.”
“Thank you, sir. I had some good help.”
“Word is Javari will talk at GITMO,” Delaney said. “They’re confident they’ll break him. Another good move, whisking him offshore as an enemy combatant. We’re sure to get some blowback, but what the hell. I’m certain we’ll get valuable intelligence from him that will outweigh any misguided liberal bellyaching about enhanced interrogation.” The admiral shook his head. “They can’t fathom the distinction between harsh interrogation and torture. They should take a sabbatical in the Middle East and observe the prisons there. Their methods are torture. And when they’re finished with you, they cut your head off.”
“Jihadists and terrorists don’t fall under Geneva conventions,” Biff said. “The treatment at GITMO is harsh, but humane. I’ve personally observed the methodology.”
“Enough of this interrogation method talk,” Delaney said. “I’ll manage the blowback… Back to your San Francisco exploit. Job well done, my good man, glad I made you a director. You’re making me look good. After that Snowden NSA fiasco, we needed to score some points. Our NSA colleagues over in Fort Meade caught a lot of flak over that security lapse.”
“They sure did,” Biff said. “I appreciate your comments, sir.”
Biff and the admiral reached the line of cars, pausing in front of a limo.
“I want you to spend a week at Rose Hill with Patricia. You deserve a good rest.” The admiral gestured toward the vehicle beside them. “Our limo will drop you off.”
“Thank you again, sir. Glad to be home.”
“I bet. Listen, when you get a chance, please review this information carefully and let me know your thoughts. It’s very important to get your input before I advise the Chiefs of Staff next month with our intelligence estimate about how we should manage this grave situation.”
The DCI handed the dossier to Biff like a hot potato, as if he couldn’t wait to get it out of his hands. This was more than a homecoming reception. As Biff had anticipated, something big was brewing, and Biff sensed he’d soon be in the middle of it.
Biff noted the thick folder was marked CARRINGTON EVENT – Classified: Top Secret – B.C. ROBERTS V’s copy (# 2 of 5)
“Know anything about this subject?” The DCI asked as Biff looked at the cover title.
“The Carrington Event?” Biff said. He paused, probing his memory. The subject did ring a bell, setting off his remarkable recall, a trait that had distinguished him at Yale and contributed to his successful CIA career.
Biff nodded. “A cosmic event involving the sun’s electromagnetic pulses, a flare or burst of gamma rays. A major solar storm occurred in the mid-1800s. The Carrington Prophecy says that the event may recur every 150 to 180 years or so, as a natural catastrophic event.”
“Your recall is incredible, Biff. Actually it was September 1, 1859. A solar super storm hit the earth with the flare power of a billion atomic bombs exploding. Night became day. Telegraph systems went down worldwide and electrical outages occurred nearly everywhere, resulting in general chaos. That geomagnetic interruption was like a dirt road compared to today’s information superhighway. Our almost total dependency on electronics in modern life makes us frighteningly vulnerable to another solar storm of that magnitude.
“Think about the ramifications of a foreign attack generating a massive electromagnetic pulse,” the admiral added, “a form of sabotage that would elicit a similar catastrophe.
“It’s a scary scenario, Admiral, very threatening. Not sure I want to go there.”
“I like your choice of words, Biff. But I’m concerned we will have to go there. Consider a nuclear device detonated in the stratosphere over the U.S. That scenario would make the Carrington Prophesy come true, maybe much sooner than a natural occurrence. It would paralyze all of our power grids, bringing all electronic communication and basic functions to a halt. It would pitch our IT-based society into perpetual night, vulnerable to attack.”
The admiral’s expression was grim. “That’s our next existential threat, Biff. It’s essential for us to avert such a doomsday scenario.”
“You’re thinking of an ICBM attack?” Biff asked. “Iran? China? North Korea?”
“Who’s got the craziest leader, the loose cannon?”
Biff didn’t have to think long about that one. “Kim Jong-un.’’
“Precisely. Come up with a plan. You’re our Counterterrorism Director.”
About the Author
R. Lawson is a retired vascular surgeon and served as a captain in the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon. With over 120 academic works under his belt, he moved into the fiction genre and began writing thrillers with a focus on terrorism, cyber spying, national security and more.
He hopes that you enjoy his CIA International Intrigue series featuring Biff Roberts, veteran CIA agent, as he travels the globe thwarting threats to the United States and its allies.
His latest books are Existential Threats and The Carrington Prophecy, Book 4 & 5 in The CIA International Thriller series.
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