Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review of Strong Justice by Jon Land & a Special Interview with Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger

I'm excited to introduce Caitlan Strong, the heroine of Jon Land's new series.   I'm fond of characters that have a strong moral compass and ready fighting skills.   Whether the book is To Kill A Mockingbird or a Jack Reacher novel, when the main character is willing to undertake great personal risk to do what they believe to be right or to right a wrong, I find myself wholeheartedly rooting for them.

    Strong Justice: A Caitlin Strong Novel    Strong Enough to Die: A Caitlin Strong Novel

In Strong Enough to Die: A Caitlin Strong Novel and Strong Justice: A Caitlin Strong Novel, we meet his newest hero. Caitlan Strong is a fifth generation Texas Ranger who fights as shoots better than most men.  Like the Texas Rangers of previous generations, Caitlin's job requires her to suppress all criminal activity in any given area within the State of Texas "when local officials are unable or unwilling to maintain order."  In practice, this means Caitlin dives into dangerous situations with almost no support.  With her wits, her carefully honed sense of danger,  and battle skills, Caitlin Strong will voluntarily walk into a crazy volatile situation -- something that on TV or in a movie would require a full hostage rescue team.  Though she's nervous and is clearly aware of the danger, because she knows that no one else is willing to step up, Caitlin will do it.

She's tough, determined, and has a strong sense of justice.   I hadn't known much about the Texas Rangers before reading Jon Land's  Strong Enough To Die.   But reading about Caitlin Strong and her family's history got me curious about The Texas Rangers and their past achievements.  To be honest, I found it amazing that at present the Texas Rangers still exist and that there are Rangers who have the powers and responsibilities described in these Caitlin Strong novels.   

Strong Justice, Jon Land's second Caitlan Strong novel comes out in hardcover today.  The first Caitlan Strong novel, Strong Enough To Die, was recently released in paperback.


Folks, we have a special guest here today.  Caitlin Strong has kindly dropped by for a brief chat.  I don't want to embarrass her, but let's all welcome Texas Ranger Caitlan Strong. *Loud applause with nods and smiles*  Welcome,  Caitlin.   Please make yourself at home.  I'm honored to have you here! 

Interview with Caitlin Strong - June 22, 2010

Gaby:  Caitlin, I know you must be busy, so I really appreciate your taking the time to answer a few questions.  You're one of the few women Texas Rangers and you've developed a reputation for toughness and courage, almost a disregard for your personal safety.  I'm sure that you've heard the nature versus nurture debate often.  What's your take on that?

Caitlin Strong:  Well, I haven’t really given it much thought.  It’s not the kind of thing you think in the midst of a gunfight and I’ve had plenty of those in my time.  But now that somebody asked, namely you, ma’am, I think it comes down to a combination with a bit more emphasis on the nurture side.  Being a woman I certainly wasn’t born with the kind of skills normally associated with a man.  But I got indoctrinated into the Ranger way real early thanks to my father and grandfather who both spent the better part of their lives in service to the Rangers.  I took that code as my own ‘cause it was all I ever knew.  And that doesn’t even account for the hours spent at the shooting range with my granddad, the great Earl Strong, from the time I was seven or eight.  He gave me his Colt Peacemaker just before he died when I was around twelve and that old pistol remains in shooting condition today.

Gaby: As a fifth generation Texas Ranger and the granddaughter of the legendary Earl Strong, when did you decide that you were meant to join the Rangers?  When do you most feel the teachings and training that you received from Earl Strong come through?

Caitlin Strong:  Guess I kind of already answered that.  Truth is I knew I was meant to join the Rangers about the time I learned how to walk.  While most girls were playing with Barbie, I was playing with guns and I shot my first gun, a .22 rifle, when I was five and my first pistol when I was six.  Lots of kids, especially in Texas, get their first experience with guns through hunting.  But both my granddad and dad never cottoned much to that.  Always said they spilled enough blood out Rangering to see the need to spill anymore.  As for the teachings and training I got from my grandfather, well, that started with him putting me to bed at night with stories of his exploits riding with the Rangers.  He’d retired by then and my dad was out following in his footsteps and my mom died when I was four.  So I guess you could say Earl Strong practically raised me and he raised me to be a Ranger from the time I was born.

Gaby:  Aside from an unconventional upbringing, your circle of friends has caused some talk.   Your friendship with the notorious Cort Wesley is the prime example.  I understand that you'd arranged for him to be deputized to aid in the investigation of the disappearance of young girls.  What do you say to those who criticize your judgment?

Caitlin Strong:  I say judge me by the results of that investigation.  And I also say don’t judge Cort Wesley Masters just on what you’ve heard—I should know since I’m the one who wrongly arrested him based on planted evidence and cost him five years of his life.  You wanna criticize my judgment, that’s fine.  But you need to see this man with his kids, as a father, and you need to realize he left the outlaw he used to be behind when he took over responsibility for their upbringing.  The simple fact of the matter is as of late I’ve come up against some pretty tough bad guys and Cort Wesley is the only man I know, short of Jim and Earl Strong, skilled and resolute enough to help me take them on.  Man was a Green Beret in the Gulf War, but nobody ever talks about that, him being a war hero and all.

Gaby:  Your friend Cort Wesley's training and skills are outstanding -- at par with your own -- but he's had a very different experience with law enforcement.   The discovery of his children and has made him examine his lifestyle and his work.  I know that you've built strong ties with Dylan and his brother.  I sympathize with Cort and his sons.   What can be done to ensure that people like Cort Wesley and his sons are able to maximize their talents, develop their judgment, and stay on the right side of the law?  Any advice for  Cort and Dylan? Any suggestions for our policymakers?

Caitlin Strong:  That’s a bit over my head, ma’am, and I really don’t think it’s an issue for lawmakers.  I think it comes down to evaluating people based on your own experiences with them and not being prejudiced by what you’ve heard or what others say.  Comes down to context.  You look at somebody’s actions you don’t necessarily approve of, you gotta consider the reasons behind those actions.  Do I approve of Dylan, a fifteen-year-old kid, cutting school to run off with a runaway Mexican girl?  No.  But when I learned he’d run off with the girl to save her from a man who turned out to be a serial killer responsible for the murders of maybe 400 like her, my mind got changed in a hurry.  You can legislate values and maybe it’s unfortunate for Dylan that he’s got a pair of modern day gunfighters for role models.  But I’ve never known him, or his father, to do anything but the right thing when you look at the whole picture.

Gaby:  When was the last time that you had a vacation?  If you could take a month off from work, how would you spend it?

Caitlin Strong:  Man, that’s a tough question.  I got no idea how I’d spend that month ‘cause I love what I do so much I can’t imagine being away from it for that long.  I don’t think my dad or granddad ever took a real vacation in their lives—you know, like sitting on a beach or something like that.  First off, and say what you will about this, I’m just not comfortable without my gun and I haven’t seen many bathing suits that adept well to holsters.  Being a lawman, at least the old-fashioned kind the Texas Rangers remain to this day, isn’t something you can turn on and off.  Cort Wesley and I have talked about going away together but it wouldn’t be for long and it wouldn’t be too far, I can tell you that much.

Gaby:  Do you ever have time to read?  What's on your nightstand at the moment?   Is there anything that you wish you'd been asked in previous interviews and would like to share with our readers?   Caitlin, thank you so much -- it's amazing to meet you in person.  More power to you and I wish you all the best!

Caitlin Strong:  I appreciate that good word, ma’am, I truly do.  Answer to your question is I’m not much of a book person, truth be told.  I read some nonfiction, especially about Texas history and the history of the old West ‘cause that fascinates me, mostly since it doesn’t really seem times have changed as much as folks think they have.  We still got more than our share of bad guys out there looking to do harm to civil folks like you and it’s my job to stop them or punish them after the fact.  Unfortunate thing is these kind of folks don’t like being stopped any more than they did back in the day of my granddad.  That’s where the Texas Rangers come in.  That’s where I come in, and God help anyone who gets in my way when there’s justice to be done.  May sound like a cliché, I know, but it’s who I am and I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.

Gaby:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and for all the hard work that you put in.  I'm sure that you don't hear it enough, but we all sleep safer  -- even us folks out in New York -- because of the work that you do.   So, a heartfelt thank you from all of us!

Now that you've actually met Caitlin, let me tell you about her recent adventures in Strong Justice. 
Strong Justice: A Caitlin Strong Novel 

The blurb:
Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back, pursuing justice the Ranger way.  She takes on the case of a Mexican girl on the run from white-slavers.  For Caitlin, the case evokes memories of her legendary grandfather's run with the Rangers, even as it brings her face-to-face with a serial killer who's left a trail of bodies along the Mexican border.

Pursuing the killer brings Caitlin to a sleepy Texas town suddenly riddled by violence and to the site of a major water find.  The connection between these two disparate places lies buried beneath the plains of West Texas: a deadly weapon with the potential to give a new enemy the means to terrorize the United States.

Her grandfather's past collides violently with Caitlin's present as she fights to save her world in the same border town where he fought to save his.  Caitlin will learn, just as he did, that only strong justice can save the day.  But this time, outmanned and outgunned, even that may not be enough to keep Caitlin Strong -- and the country itself -- alive.

In Strong Justice, Land returns to three key figures of Strong Enough To Die a few months later: Guillermo Paz, Cort Wesley, and Caitlan Strong.

Touched by Caitlin Strong's example, Guillermo Paz has returned to Mexico and tries to make amends for his past.  Paz's willingness to protect the downtrodden won him a reputation that's part myth and part legend in his new town.  Paz's admiration for Caitlin leads him to head North when he starts to suspect that she might be in grave danger.   
Caitlin has been busy investigating the kidnapping of young women along the border between Texas and Mexico.   While it first appears that the victims are young women entering illegally from Mexico and being forced into white slavery.  As Caitlin traces the first disappearances to a particular small town, a disturbing pattern slowly emerges.

Meanwhile, Cort Wesley has been struggling to keep his family together.  While Wesley's real and well deserved reputation for toughness has kept him safe, his reputation may cost him his sons.  The social worker assigned to his case has been threatening to take away his children.  Cort tries to convince Social Services that he should retain custody and that he is, in fact, a good father.  Against his better judgment, circumstances force Cort to reach out to his former employers for the money he needs to raise his children.

When Cort's teenage son Dylan stumbles into trouble, he calls on Caitlin for help.  Somehow Dylan, Cort, and Caitlin (and eventually Paz) find themselves facing unexpected and unnatural evils together. 

Also, while on his way to help Caitlin, Paz researches Caitlin's grandfather, the legendary Earl Strong.  Through flashbacks, correspondence, Texas Rangers archives, the memories of survivors and their descendants, and Caitlin's recollections, Land tells us the story of Earl Strong and Texas in the 1930s.  Through Earl Strong, we can picture what life was like when Texas Rangers were given the mandate to keep the peace in isolated and lawless towns. Though things haven't changed that much in Caitlin's time,   the stories of Sweetwater, Texas in the 1930s tell us much about Texas's history and Caitlin's legacy.  

Caitlin Strong is one of my favorite heroines, so I knew that I'd enjoy Strong Justice: A Caitlin Strong Novel.   Land also builds on Cort Wesley's personality and history -- he's another hero of sorts who deserves more from the world.   The introduction of Earl Strong and the events in the 1930s also give Strong Justice another important story and treat us to a glimpse into the Strong legacy.  The book is about the trying to do what is right against desperate odds, just as it is about working to keep the peace and the Texas Rangers but it does this in two time periods and it does so with top notch action and fighting.   In Strong Justice, Jon Land gives us heroes to root for and a fun, satisfying, action packed read!

ISBN-10: 0765323362- Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Forge Books; 1 edition (June 22, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the author.

Here's an insightful and entertaining interview of Jon Land by Andrew Peterson where he discusses his inspiration for Texas Ranger Caitlan Strong, his writing career, his commitment to paying it forward, and his involvement in Thrillerfest and International Thriller Writers.

Jon Land

About the Author:
Jon Land is the acclaimed author of numerous bestsellers, including The Seven Sins, The Last Prophecy, Blood Diamonds, The Walls of Jericho, The Pillars of Solomon, A Walk in the Darkness, Keepers of the Gate, and The Blue Widows. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


  1. Nice review! Looks like a fun read - will have to add this to my growing TBR pile.

  2. Making the party rounds and checking out all the reviews!

    Happy Reading,

    Bitsy Bling's Book Review