Rick Ainsworth
VRA Publishing (574 pp.)
$29.95 hardcover, $9.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-0-977036-2-9; December 21, 2015



In Ainsworth's debut novel, a wildly popular president quickly consolidates extraordinary power and threatens the fabric of democracy.

When this tale of political intrigue begins, President Hortense Hamilton Preston is a weakened leader with rapidly diminishing approval ratings. She responds tepidly to a terrorist attack on American soil and then gets embroiled in a scandal that implicates her health care panel in comically inappropriate misuse of funds. When four Syrian fighter jets attempt to force down an American plane, she again responds with a measured caution that's generally perceived as pusillanimous hesitation. Finally, the Mexican Army invades Texas, intent on reclaiming territory that it claims the United States stole. M.Spencer Howell, the well-regarded, charismatic governor of Florida, soon rides this wave of civic disillusionment into the White house and immediately implements a ferociously aggressive, divisive agenda. He promises mercilessly strict immigration reform, involving the deportation of undocumented Mexicans en masse. He intends to drastically cut government spending by excising a host of social welfare programs, and he pledges to rehabilitate what he sees as a decayed military and enact protectionist trade measures that would drastically redraw the nation's economic alliances. All the while, he resorts to incendiary rhetoric that fans the flames of racial and ethnic discord. Furtively, he also oversees a secret military program called "Ezekiel's Wheel", which is developing a chillingly powerful weapon, and quietly constructs his own private militia for domestic use, seemingly without congressional oversight. Ainsworth deftly tracks the arc of Howell's power as it grows more tyrannical. Even more impressive is the author's depiction of the profound consequences of widespread disenfranchisement and the blindness of the public when it's deeply disappointed by its supposed representatives. Sometimes it seems as if the novel is about the corruption of a politician by absolute power, but Howell shows clear signs of being an autocrat long before he becomes president. Also, the strategic scheming of Mexico and Russia is confusing, as it's hard to imagine why it would serve their individual interests. Overall, though, this is a very timely book, given that we live in an age of national frustration, and it artfully captures the precariousness of even the best democracies.

A well-crafted parable about the vulnerability of democracy to demagoguery.

Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Medial LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744



American Dictator

by Rick Ainsworth
VRA Publishing

Reviewed by John E. Roper
U.S. Review of Books

"For several minutes, no one spoke, the scientists busy with their computer programs, and the generals seemingly stunned. Only the little man in the back of the room seems nonplussed by the events."

The timing of Ainsworth's book is impeccable. Appearing when the U.S. presidential primaries re dominating the news channels, the author's novel about a fictitious campaign, election and initial actions of a powerful American president has built-in appeal to appetites already whetted by current events. That is has so many parallels to our existing political climate and personalities only adds to its lure. But this book is much more than the average timely offering that fades once the interest of the news media and public shirt to other matters. It is the beginning of a much larger and sobering tale that describes just how quickly a nation that prides itself on its freedom can fall into bondage.

Republican presidential M. Spencer Howell is a hard man to dislike. A happily married man of unimpeachable character and integrity, he inspires loyalty among all those who surround him. A military veteran with a firm desire to see America regain and then maintain its strength both domestically and abroad, his message speaks to a broad base of voters who are fed up with the weakness of the current Democratic administration headed up by President Hortense Preston whose approval rating at times dips below twenty percent. Understandably, some of Howell's ideas, such as his tough stance on immigration, worry those of a more liberal bent and spark waves of protests, but the general mood of the nation seems to have shifted to the right after four failed years of ineffective leadership in Washington. That same disenchantment seems to also indicate that both houses of Congress may soon be dominated by the Republicans.

Supporting Howell in his bid for the White House is a dedicated staff led by Jeremy Holt. Despite their unswerving loyalty toward the candidate, Holt and others on his team begin to have some misgivings about others associated with the campaign, especially the enigmatic Horatio Tremane, and are frustrated when they are deliberately kept in the dark about certain matters. Also worrisome is the fact that through the efforts of Howell's running mate General Zachary Taylor Morton and his advisor Tremane, a large and nationwide volunteer militia answerable to Howell has been trained to provide crowd control, a move that brings to mind the Brown Shirts that supported Adolf Hitler. Additionally, the staff leadership has become aware of a powerful new weapon system that has been secretly under development for several administrations, but that will soon be fully functional. As much as Holt and his colleagues trust Howell, what if something should happen to him and another leader with fewer scruples should take over the reins?

In this first volume of what looks to be a riveting and chilling trilogy, Ainsworth blends political machinations, romance and international intrigue into an entertaining and well-written saga that fans of the the television series "West Wing" will undoubtedly enjoy. Equally appealing are the author's obvious, if often unflattering, parodies of current political and social leaders. Yet perhaps the most important aspect of this novel is the point it raises about how easy it could be for a charismatic leader to gain near total control of the country by capitalizing on national dissatisfaction with a current administration's policies. The author's exploration of this frightening and thought-provoking scenario alone is worth the price of the book.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review





VRA Publishing, Las Vegas, NV hardback, (512p)
ISB: 0-9770376-0-6

Adventure, romance, racism and loyalty are set against a backdrop of life aboard a U.S. Naval vessel during the early 60's in Rick Ainsworth's exciting novel, "Thunder and Storm: The Haverfield Incident." The narrative revolves around the lives of new recruits as they embark on a journey as they embark on a journey that will be a life changing experience. It is also a coming-of-age story of the protagonist who grows from a defiant young man to a mellower and more mature person with a determination to excel in life. When he gets into a spot of trouble in San Diego, R.J. is transferred by his higher authorities to the island of Guam and assigned to work aboard the old and worn out ship USS Haverfield DER-393, patrolling islands in the U.S. Trust Territory. The ship's new skipper, Lieutenant Commander Paul Oliver, is a friendly and ambitious officer who zealously plans to renovate the ship and transform it into a top-notch Navy vessel, as well as aims to train the sloppy and lazy crew into an "outstanding deck force." Despite being demanding and issuing instructions for an exciting training schedule, he is loved and respected by R.J. and the other crew members.

On the other hand, Chief Machinist Mate Twitchell is a totally different kettle of fish. A bully and an open racist, he is despised by the crew and tolerated by the higher-ups because of his engineering expertise. Twitchell is a thorn in the flesh of R.J. and the Sample brothers, Rafer and Andy, two young African Americans from Alabama. He constantly harasses them or provokes them at every opportunity, and takes great pleasure in having R.J, and Rafer sentenced to brief spells at the brig for insubordination.

While coping with the rigors of hard work and authority, enduring harassment and racism, living through the fateful day of President Kennedy's assassination, battling with the elements, participating in welcome ceremonies and the equator crossing initiation, learning the history of the U.S. Navy, and trying to keep their esprit de corps high, the shipmates forge meaningful friendships and lasting bonds. R.J. shares a sense of camaraderie with one and all. He is especially a source of great comfort to Rafer and Andy whose feelings and crusade for equal rights he can well understand.

During this period, , R.J. meets Annie and is instantly attracted to her. However, he finds himself caught in a conflict because she is married, albeit unhappily, to another sailor. Paul Oliver is also drawn in a clandestine affair with Lorelei, the wife of Admiral Prescott. He is so obsessed with her that he fails to notice the storm brewing aboard his ship until the eleventh hour.

The growing hostility and tensions between Twitchell and his racist group and the African American sailors leads to a "dramatic and unprecedented incident" on the very night that the Haverfield must combat a surprise attack by North Vietnamese PT boats. The horrific event, which later comes to be known as the Haverfield Incident, lingers on forever in the memories of R.J. and the Sample brothers, leaving them scarred for life. When almost forty years later R.J. is approached by Rafer's son to know about the events of the day on the ship, R.J. is able to exorcise his and his friends' demons of the past.

"Thunder and Storm: The Haverfield Incident" is a compelling page-turner that combines deftly portrayed characters, a gripping plot and meticulously researched historical details Apart from being clear and crisp, the narrative also captures the exciting atmosphere aboard a Naval ship. By interweaving Edgar Allan Poe's poems into the thought process of R.J., Ainsworth adds an interesting touch to the narrative. This riveting book will appeal to fans of Naval forces, as well as a wider audience.


Book Wire Review
October 4, 2005



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