Review: Bryant Wieneke's (Niger 1974-76) new thriller

Bryant Wieneke is an assistant dean at a California university and has self published several novels. The latest, The Mission Priority, is the third in that series. A fourth will soon be published and a fifth is now being written. “It became a vehicle,” says Wieneke. “The two main characters have opposite foreign policy objectives.”  This latest book is reviewed by the intellectual tag-team of Lawrence Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) and his son, Ezequiel. The first in this series by Wieneke, Priority One, was reviewed in 2005 on Peace Corps  Writers by David Gurr (Ethiopia 1962–64).

mission-priority-140The Mission Priority
by Bryant Wieneke
Peace Rose Publishing
335 pages

Reviewed by Lawrence  (Honduras 1975–77) and Ezequiel Lihosit

Do you miss the Bush era colored coded paranoia? I sure do. That was even better than building fallout shelters during the 1960’s. I only wish they had introduced some kind of anti-terrorist uniform with cool patches, maybe a Youth Bush League. Yellow today but maybe orange tomorrow! Go buy that plastic and duct-tape right now and start taping up your house. Forget the reality that nerve gas is absorbed through your skin, not necessarily breathed in. As Country Joe McDonald proclaimed, “Ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee! We’re all goin’ ta die.”

For us nostalgic old coots, there are books. Bryan Wieneke has written a political suspense book like a modern day Robert Ludlum for lovers of suspenseful political thrillers. He spins an elaborate espionage tale that forces the reader to turn pages. Set in Southern California, the reader understands that terrorism has come home. Like Ludlum novels, a pair of American crusaders fights evil.

This is the third in a series featuring the protagonist Kendall Smith. Set in the present day, Smith and two other agents are assigned to the Riverside Hotel for anti-terrorism security after a Presidential debate. Kendall Smith, an accessible and everyday character, works for the Department of Homeland Security, yet he is not a typical soldier type. Wieneke’s own experiences in the Peace Corps helped shape the main character’s special view on foreign policy and his search for diplomatic solutions.

Kendall, his partners Jason Perez and his Perez’s wife Allison search the Riverside hotel, site of a big Republican donor dinner after the Presidential debate. They also follow up any leads that suggest the involvement of the terrorist organization, Serpent Cracheur. The search for clues is meticulous and like Ludlum’s famous detail, enthralls the reader. Kendall (no expert in surveillance or anti-terror procedures) has an intimate knowledge of the organization due to his African work.

What Smith lacks is information from his boss. Kendall resents his boss and the two butt heads over everything from strategies to dinner choices but Allison mediates. After Perez’s intuition proves correct, Kendall learns to respect his rival. Kendall feels the pressure to uncover any bomb or plot since he and Allison are the hotel protection until the secret service arrives. After Perez gets a tip about some people living in an abandoned house, the team learns that the Serpent Cracheur is active near the hotel’s site and they have left a message. From then on, the team works with a frenzied passion to search every window, drawer, and crevice to stop terrorism before it interrupts our own Presidential Debate.

The heart of the novel is a foreign policy clash. Jason Perez, presents the no frills, bombs away approach. He believes in the Allen Dulles view that the United States needs to use force to protect “legitimate business interests.” Kendall feels that the United States foreign policy is “unnecessarily violent and he did not want to be a part of it. He believed in a non-violent approach.” These two manners of diplomacy have been argued for decades, yet the military usually prevails.

Though Serpent Cracheur attempted to kill Kendall at the end of the last book (Santa Barbara Priority), he understands their plight with oil companies. He does not agree with terrorism but having worked in Africa he cannot eliminate the target. What Wieneke infers is that one’s life experiences differently shape someone’s reaction. His time in Africa inspired a different foreign policy for poverty and disease made him question capitalism.

I suspect that Bushites appreciate this venue: right and wrong, for us or against us. While great literature is supposed to present struggles between good and evil, wrapping those terms around empire politics is somehow reminiscent of The Little Prince. Much like sleight of hand, the reader is soon marching, lock step, towards Fatherland security. You can almost hear hard-nailed boots clicking and stiff leather jackets crinkling.

Ezequiel K. Lihosit is a former newspaper editor and author of Essays and Stories. Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) is the author of several books. His latest, Whispering Campaign; Stories from Mesoamerica, is available on

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