Backazimuth is a gripping military thriller about a jaded army officer whose unconventional code of honor sets him on a dangerous path to vengeance, from which there can be no turning back.

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Backazimuth earns four stars from Foreword Clarion Review

 Foreword Clarion Review



Mike Smith



Four Stars (out of Five)

Mike Smith’s first novel, Backazimuth, is a tidy thriller set in the Arabian Desert. Bill Slade, West Point graduate and combat engineer, is a reformed drunk, with bottle-fueled misadventures scattered along the tracks of a nearly derailed military career. He’s assigned to the 24th infantry division, poised on the Saudi-Iraqi border and waiting for Operation Desert Storm, the attack order to liberate Kuwait. Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard lurks across the horizon, which provides danger enough, but Slade has discovered a conspiracy, one which has left a trail of dead bodies leading back to a California military training center.

Major Slade’s life is at a crossroads; he is seeking redemption from an unhappy childhood, a devastating revelation at his mother’s death, his misfit West Point years, and a floundering military career. Slade is not a sympathetic narrator, and the story is slightly flawed from the beginning, since the seminal change that alters his character occurred before the novel opens.

Backazimuth encompasses forty-eight chapters, many of which are flashbacks to Slade’s early career or to incidents that reveal the conspiracy. To differentiate between the settings, the font changes from standard roman, to boldface, then to italics to relate each flashback. The chapters are short, and the story is told in the first-person by Slade.

Somewhat off-putting is the overuse of the phrase “fungus green” to describe images seen through night-vision goggles. The narrative also relies too often on clichés like “heart raced,” “drilled into my brain,” and “disembodied voice” rather than utilizing original, well-crafted phrases. That’s disappointing, considering the author can ratchet up the tension with able action scenes. For example, Smith writes:

An artillery barrage couldn’t be adequately described. There were simply no words to express the noise, the violence, the blast, the heat, and the terror. This blast knocked me off my feet and propelled me forward about five meters…Staying where I landed with my face in the dirt, I couldn’t feel my body, and I couldn’t hear anything.

Smith’s effort is tautly written, and the author’s own military experience—he is a West Point graduate and served as a combat engineer officer—makes his work believable, right down to his sardonic descriptions of military “types.” Slade describes his battalion commander as one of the “dilettantes and charlatans,” who are “more interested in promotion, social climbing, and name dropping than in doing any actual work. You can usually find them at the Officer’s Club or the golf course or some congressman’s reception.”

Readers should be warned. Backazimuth ends with only partial resolution. “To be continued” means that readers must wait for Line of Departure, the second book in a planned trilogy.

Backazimuth is a page-turner with an action film feel that could easily be transformed into a screenplay.

Gary Presley

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Help make Backazimuth An Amazon Bestseller on September 28, 2010

at 4:04 pm

I’m working on the cover for the sequel and it would be great to put the words “Sequel to the Bestseller . . .” on the byline.  And while Backazimuth sales have been OK, it hasn’t made the bestseller list, yet.  So here’s the plan to make Backazimuth a bestseller.  Amazon Bestseller list is located here: and it is updated daily and hourly. 

I need your help.

If you have already bought a copy: 

  1. Send an email or FaceBook notice to everyone you think would be interested and ask them to take part in the effort.
  2. After you have read it, go on AMAZON.COM and provide a review.  Right now there are four, each a five star review.  Add your voice.

 If you plan to buy a copy:

  1. Go on AMAZON.COM on September 28, 2010 and buy the copy that you plan to purchase. 
  2. Take steps 1 and 2 above.

I’ll be sending out notices over the next few days, so I’ll keep you posted on the results.

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About Backazimuth

Backazimuth is a gripping military thriller about a jaded army officer whose unconventional code of honor sets him on a dangerous path to vengeance, from which there can be no turning back.

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith is a graduate of West Point and a decorated veteran of Operation Desert Storm. During his career with the U.S. Army, he lived in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Germany, with postings in Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Georgia. He served as an army combat engineer. Since his retirement from the army in 1995, he has worked in the defense industry. Backazimith is his debut novel and the first of a three-book series. A native of Alabama, Mike and his wife, Beth, live today in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They have four children.