The Cleansweep Counterstrike by Chuck Waldron: An entertaining thriller follow-up that almost lives up to its predecessor.

The Cleansweep CounterstrikeThe Cleansweep Counterstrike

by Chuck Waldron
Series: Matt Tremain Technothriller, #2

eARC, 312 pg.
Bublish, 2018

Read: August 7, 2018


Let me preface all this by saying that I enjoyed The Cleansweep Counterstrike, I thought it was a fun return to the characters of the first book. I had some problems with it — that weren’t so bad that they kept me from enjoying this book, but they diminished my appreciation. I do talk about them below, and to adequately express them takes some space — so much so that it dominates my post. This isn’t because I didn’t like the book — it’s just that I wanted to be sure I explained my thinking. So I’m stressing at the outset — I recommend this book, I liked it and I think that other readers will, too.

Ahab had his whale, Coyote has his Road Runner and Charles Claussen has Matt Tremain (and the others that helped him out in The Cleansweep Conspiracy). Claussen lost a lot — not just in terms of influence of money, either — when Tremain’s investigations helped bring his Cleansweep project down. Now on the run from his former bank-rollers and trying to keep under the radar of law enforcement, Claussen risks everything to get his revenge.

Tremain and his friends have moved on in their lives and careers — but you get the impression that they haven’t stopped looking over their shoulder for something to come at them for their role in Cleansweeps failure — not just Claussen, either. He may have been the front man, but no one thinks that he’s the only one that might bear a grudge.

After he gets his revenge, Claussen does plan on trying to get some mercy from his benefactors — and maybe see if he can demonstrate that Cleansweep can work in another country. But first things first.

I am so glad that Waldron took this approach to things — I went in apprehensive that this would be Conspiracy Redux — somehow the people behind Claussen were trying it in a new city/country (or worse, they were trying again in Toronoto under a different name) and that Tremain and company had taken it upon themselves to head off to the new location to do the same thing they’d done at home. I just wasn’t ready for the tortured logic that would make it possible. Instead, it’s all about the fallout from Conspiracy — good and bad for all involved, and all parties trying to go on with their lives, obsessions, and whatnot. Everyone except Claussen, that is. He’s still stuck in the moment, making him the proverbial fly in the ointment for everyone.

Like in Conspiracy, there’s some issues with time — how much time went by before Claussen starts his efforts at revenge, how long before Tremain and Carling go hunting for Claussen, for example — there’s a couple other spoiler-y items that I’m confused on the timing about, too. Yes, Waldron gives plenty of clues about the time, but some of them are pretty vague and some of them come so late into the game that by the time he says anything about it, it’s too late and the reader is already a bit muddled on details. That could just be me, but I don’t think so. On the flip side, there’s some things in Tremain’s personal life that move so quickly (I think) that they’re hard to believe. The key there is to not fight it, not insist that everything’s crystal clear — and the book will sweep you up in the hunt and you’ll stop caring. And, when it comes to the things that are important — he doesn’t miss a step. It’s only in the setup, the subplots, the background, etc. that things get muddled.

Once Claussen starts to move in and really gets the four worried about what he’s up to and what might happen to them, the book comes together and all the little quibbles vanish. There’s danger afoot, hazards everywhere and they all will have to be ready to adapt to any strange circumstance if they’re going to get out of this alive and intact.

We spent plenty of time with Claussen in Conspiracy — and we get even more here. Early on, almost every line of dialogue, every thought of his that’s recorded is as diabolically evil as it could be — which made it so hard to swallow. But after a while, that goes away. And you can almost reach the point where you want to see Claussen escape a little longer so that when he does come for Tremain, the whole thing will be a tinge more exciting.

My main problem with this novel is that we don’t get nearly enough time with Tremain and his allies — so much of that part of the story feels rushed and under-cooked. I’d like more time with Carling, Remy and Susan. Yes, Tremain is the focus — and should be — but we get almost nothing about the other three when they’re not playing backup to Tremain. Carling is the most neglected (which I don’t think will be a problem in the next book), keeping him the one I want to learn most about — Tremain’s Russian hacker benefactor would be a close second.

Angela Vaughn, Claussen’s former security chief, was one of the highlights of Conspiracy for me — and she has a great moment or two here. But sadly, just a moment or two. I’m glad that Waldron brought her back for this book, I just wish he’d done more with her.

The criminals and mercenaries that Claussen surrounds himself with and/or is surrounded with (it’s a fine, but important, distinction you can learn about yourself) aren’t as compelling. Those that are competent vacillate between almost too capable to believe and have they ever done anything more complicated than hold up a liquor store?

Conspiracy felt plausible, maybe some of it was a stretch, but it still struck me as something not too far-fetched, and the stakes felt real. On the whole, Counterstrike is probably closer to plausible, but the stakes didn’t — maybe because it felt so unlikely that someone like Claussen could be so focused on his revenge — so short-sighted about the dangers inherent in pursuing it (from the government, his backers, other enemies he’s made). But it’s that Ahab-like focus that drives the novel, so you have to accept it. Once you do — the rest is easy to buy into.

Once again, this novel is close to be a great thriller, but it misses by an inch or two on many fronts — some are minor quibbles, some are more than that — but you get enough of those and it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the book as you could’ve been. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like this is a draft or two away from being at that point (would a Toronto police detective call the FBI “the Feds”?). For every thing that I grumbled about above (or put in my notes and didn’t bring up because I was starting to feel like I was being negative), Waldron nails 3-4 other things. The story is there, I simply don’t think that Waldron told it as effectively as he could’ve.

I don’t want this post to come across as negative, I’m just underwhelmed. I enjoyed it — I don’t think it’s as good as Conspiracy, but it’s a worthwhile continuation, and should make the reader keen to get their hands on Book 3. Given where Waldron leaves things, it has the makings of a pretty strong installment.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest thoughts.

—–

3 Stars

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A Few More Quick Questions With…Chuck Waldron

Here’s Part 2 of the Book Tour stop for The Cleansweep Counterstrike — a follow-up to the Q & A from last time.

Could you tell us a little about your “path to publication”? What got you into writing and what did you do to take it from an aspiration to a reality?
It started innocently enough when I joined a class on writing short stories. Years of professional writing was transformed into story-telling. Fifty-five short stories later I went back to my first short story, wondering if I could turn it into a novel. Now, working on novel number six, the journey continues. I’m a proud indie author and haven’t looked back.
Back when we talked about The CleanSweep Conspiracy, you said, “I like Matt Tremain, the protagonist in The CleanSweep Conspiracy. He just might hang around for another story.” Of all the various things you could’ve done with Matt — what was it about the premise for Counterstrike that made you say, “That’s the one”?
Matt’s story wasn’t finished. He still had his evil nemesis lurking, waiting to do Matt harm. I decided to follow Charles Claussen after his escape and weave his story of revenge with Matt’s desire to be left in peace. Matt, realizing that “peace” wasn’t going to happen as long as Claussen was in the picture, had to act. That’s when I knew, “that’s the one.”
thing they did in the prior book, or conversely, something they said in a “throwaway line” in the first b
For me, it was trying to walk a tightrope. How could I create a stand-alone book in the sequel and yet have it be part of a continuing story? I already knew my main characters and how they acted, but how to keep their voices fresh. Stieg Larsson did it brilliantly in his series, setting a high standard.
We seemed to spend plenty of time with Charles Claussen in this volume (not that we didn’t in the preceding one), seeing things from his point of view — what’s the hardest part of writing him?
For me, creating villains has always meant digging into some dark corners of my imagination. In just about every way Claussen represents my polar opposite. I chose to create a composite of evil people I know. The hardest part writing him was to give his character something likable.
I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
I wrote a quirky fantasy Remington and the Mysterious Fedora. From all the words, a reader chose a paragraph that had some mild sexual context. She said, “I can’t believe this book. It’s not about a hat or a typewriter. It’s about sex.” It’s my only one-star review. I don’t see that as a demand bid to change my writing.
Is there a book 3 in the works, or is this the end of the road (at least for those that survive)?
This hint is the sample chapter of book three at the end of The Cleansweep Counterstrike. There’s still enough conspiracy theories to go around.
Thanks for your time, and I hope The Cleansweep Counterstrike is met with plenty of success!
Thanks for having me, and your good wishes.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Cleansweep Counterstrike by Chuck Waldron

One of the first Book Tours I ever participated in was for The Cleansweep Conspiracy by Chuck Waldron. Today I’m glad to welcome the Book Tour for the follow-up, The Cleansweep Counterstrike. Along with this spotlight post, I have a Q&A with the author (in which he uncovers the fact that I never read advertisements in books) and then I’ll wrap things up today by giving my take on the novel.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Cleansweep Counterstrike by Chuck Waldron
Series: A Matt Tremain Technothriller Book 2
Category: Adult Fiction, 312 pages
Genre: Thriller / dystopian
Publisher: Bublish Inc.
Release date: April 21, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (Adult language)

Book Description:

In this sequel, Matt Tremain is back, facing an even deadlier threat. Deceit and intrigue lie hidden behind the collapse of Operation CleanSweep. It’s time for revenge.

Instrumental in exposing the evil behind Operation CleanSweep—a diabolical “cultural cleansing” plot masterminded by Toronto billionaire Charles Claussen—investigative blogger Tremain now faces the madman’s desire for vengeance. Claussen intends to settle the score personally by luring Matt into a deadly trap.

But the clock is ticking for Claussen, too. Fraternité des Aigles, The Brotherhood of Eagles—a shadowy group that secretly financed Claussen’s Operation CleanSweep—wants answers and their money back. Consumed with rage, Claussen risks everything to get to Matt before the Brotherhood gets to him. Tremain is once again partnering with a police detective, Carling. Knowing they are being lured into a possible trap, they decide to face their nemesis, Charles Claussen.

Across four continents, Claussen sets traps, pursues Tremain, and continues to execute his signature brand of global chaos. When his fiancé’s life is on the line, can Tremain stop Claussen’s madness and still avoid getting killed?

To read reviews, please visit Chuck Waldron’s page on iRead Book Tours.

 

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Meet the Author:

Chuck Waldron

Chuck Waldron is the author of four riveting mystery, thriller and suspense novels and more than fifty short stories. Inspired by his grandfather’s tales of the Ozark Mountains and local caves rumored to be havens for notorious gangsters, Waldron was destined to write about crime and the human condition. Those childhood legends ignited his imagination and filled his head with unforgettable characters, surprising plots and a keen interest in supernatural and historical subplots.

With literary roots planted in the American Midwest and South, and enriched by many years living in the fertile cultural soil of metropolitan Ontario, Waldron now resides on Florida’s fabled Treasure Coast with his wife, Suzanne. While keeping an eye out for hurricanes, alligators, and the occasional Burmese python, visitors will find Waldron busy writing his next crime thriller.

Connect with Chuck: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook 

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The CleanSweep Conspiracy by Chuck Waldron

The CleanSweep ConspiracyThe CleanSweep Conspiracy

by Chuck Waldron
Series: Matt Tremain Technothriller, #1

Kindle Edition, 304 pg.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016

Read: May 21 – 25, 2016


Matt Tremain is a man on the run — authorities are broadcasting his picture all over, the police are hunting for him. Not a typical reaction to a tech/privacy blogger (this blogger would like that amount, not kind, of attention) — but that’s the impact that his stories about CleanSweep are possibly having. At the very least, he’s got a few very influential people paying attention, and that’s enough for the powers behind CleanSweep to want him quieted.

Thankfully, he has some allies who have his back — both in Toronto, and around the world, so he’s able to escape the initial attempts to bring him in. Unsure who to trust, he’s living as off-of-the-grid as he possibly can (while maintaining his blog as much as he can — not easy).

Still, this just emboldens him, as well as showing him that the clock is running, and he won’t be able to do anything to prevent this from becoming permanent soon. So Matt, a couple of allies in the press, one in law enforcement, and a few he hasn’t met yet, get busier at exposing what they believe to be a conspiracy devoted to stamping out undesirable elements in society. Toronto will be ground zero, but it won’t be long before this Conspiracy moves to other parts of the world, destroying privacy, civil liberties and lives along the way. Dystopia looms large in these pages, not one decades or centuries away, either; this is a 15-minutes into the future dystopia.

I can’t talk much more about the plot — or most of the characters — without giving too much away. So I’ll just say there are a lot of well-drawn characters trying to do their best at work here. Without exception, everyone of Matt’s allies would be someone I’d like to have more of (not saying that we didn’t get sufficient time with them, just that they were interesting enough to have around more).

And then there are (for wont of a different phrase) the bad guys. With one exception (Claussen’s security chief, Angela Vaughn), these are not well drawn, or that interesting — they’re evil, and that’s about it. Which makes it easier to root against them, but harder to get invested in them as characters.

I’ve got a couple of minor quibbles, and one that’s pretty big. First, for people thus concerned with being spied on, Matt and his allies sure do use their smartphones a lot. Also, the timeline is sometimes too hard to track with, it’s unclear frequently when we’re getting a flashback — and how far back we’re flashing — or when we’re back to “the present.” Lastly, governmental agencies move a little too quickly at the end — probably the hardest part to believe.

My biggest problem with the book was, to me, fairly significant, and ended up toning down my enthusiasm for recommending it. There’s a chapter (maybe two, but I’m pretty sure it was one) wherein Claussen meets with the men with the money and government clout needed to fully implement his plan. A lot of what is revealed about the plan, we readers knew and/or surmised from what had been hinted at, suggested, etc. before. But before it had been shown to us, here it was told to us. And not in a very interesting way — it was basically the part of a James Bond flick where the villain tells Bond his plan just before he leaves him to die (which, of course, he doesn’t). This time there were no Bonds around, just the people who’d enable the villain’s plan. The evil was as plain as day here, and told in the kind of detail no one needed — the only thing missing from this were the conspirators twirling their mustaches. Seriously, you take out this chapter (or edit it a lot), and this book would’ve got a higher rating from me.

Add a little more gray to this, tone down the villains just a shade, and you’ve got yourself a knock out. As it is, it’s a pretty good read — and a chilling reminder of what could be around the corner. The tech feels real, the police state imposed doesn’t sound that far-fetched, the aims of the conspirators carry the feel of legitimacy. This rings entirely of something that could’ve been ripped from the headlines — but thankfully wasn’t (I think). You will keep turning pages, wanting to know what happens to Matt and the rest — you’ll appreciate some small flashes of humanity and the courage that resides in unlikely places.

Give this one a shot. Not only will you probably enjoy this, but like me, you’ll want to get your hands on more by Waldron.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest thoughts.

—–

3.5 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Chuck Waldron

For part two of The CleanSweep Conspiracy tour, I got Chuck Waldron to A some Qs.

Why Canada? Is it because the U. S. would be the obvious and/or easy choice? Or is there something else going on?
Who would expect something like The CleanSweep Conspiracy can take place in a city known as “Toronto the Good?” After all, Toronto is part of a nation known and respected for civility, peace, and good government.

The story is completely a figment of my imagination. I could have used many places, but chose to keep it in Toronto. The setting in the original manuscript was a North American fictitious city. Since the inspiration for The CleanSweep Conspiracy was an event that took place in Toronto in 2010, I decided to rewrite my novel and let Toronto be the location.

I hope there are checks and balances in both Canada and the United States that will prevent something like this from ever happening. That said, I do believe there is an undercurrent in our society that keeps the thought of something like The CleanSweep Conspiracy a possibility.

Then again…

Clifford’s line: “Techies like you never think past high-tech solutions,” sounds like an oft-repeated aphorism. Is Clifford your cameo? If not, is there a Chuck Waldron-like character in this book?
Clifford my cameo? Maybe. According to research I’ve read, I’m of an age that should make me technologically phobic. Instead, I seem to embrace each new gadget, app, or program. At least I like to kick the tires. It may be an oft-repeated aphorism as you say, but as much as I like technology, I sometimes fear we give up part of our humanness when we reach for the high-tech cloud-world.

Part of Clifford’s role in the story was to really know Mattie. He was the link between her and Matt Tremain.

If Clifford is my cameo, I thank him for the honor.

How much of the plot (especially the conspiracy) did you have worked out before starting, and how much did you figure out mid-stream? Is this the way you normally go about things?
I lived with the idea for over two years before I started to think of an outline. I’m not sure where the conspiracy part came into it. I don’t jump on conspiracy theories like the FEMA trailers that will be turned into concentration camps. I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about Area 51.

My novel was simply a what-if idea that started to take shape as a story.

Writers talk about writing by plot or by the seat-of-the-pants. I usually have a rough outline, but I tend to be the latter. I like to let my characters dictate their story as I go along.

For me, if a character isn’t well developed it’s hard to carry a storyline.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
I was a history major in college. Lawrence E. Gelfand, my professor, is an influence. Ironically he died the same year (2010) as the event that inspired my novel. I tip my hat to the memory of Henrietta Blake, my first writing teacher. She gave me permission to write and assured me I didn’t need a license to be a writer. Writers that have inspired me include Hemingway, John Le Carre, James Lee Burke, William Manchester and much, much more. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader.
What’s next for you? I’m assuming your next book is well underway, what can you tell us?
Two, actually. I’ve never tried it, but I’m working on two storylines that I can’t seem to let go. I like Matt Tremain, the protagonist in The CleanSweep Conspiracy. He just might hang around for another story. On a recent visit to Cuba, I couldn’t avoid thinking about Hemingway and the downward spiral at the end of his life. We all know he committed suicide in Idaho. But what if there is an alternative ending?

Just saying.

The CleanSweep Conspiracy by Chuck Waldron Book Tour

Welcome to our Book Tour stop for The CleanSweep Conspiracy. Along with this blurb about the book and author I’ve got a Q & A with the author, Chuck Waldron, and my 2¢ about the book.

Matt Tremain publishes Verité, a modest blog dedicated to writing about the truth and exposing scams. When he follows up on rumors concerning something called CleanSweep, a mysterious project in Toronto, Canada, Matt needs to decide if he’s going to take a stand and reveal the truth.

Book Details:

Book Title:  The CleanSweep Conspiracy by Chuck Waldron
Category:  Adult fiction, 304 pages
Genre:  Thriller / dystopian
Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release date:  March 2016
Content Rating:  PG + M

Book Description:

Matt Tremain publishes Verité, a modest blog dedicated to writing about the truth and exposing scams. Currently, he’s following up on rumors concerning something called CleanSweep, a mysterious project in Toronto, Canada.

Matt gets his break when a whistleblower connects CleanSweep to billionaire Charles Claussen. Claussen plans to rid Toronto of undesirables, beginning with street people and extending to any citizens who don’t match Claussen’s restrictive screening matrix.

With the help of a high-ranking government official, Claussen plans to incite riots and violent unrest, conning Torontonians into sacrificing privacy and civil liberties for illusionary security and safety. Toronto will be reduced to a repressive city-state.

The information overwhelms Matt, who doubts he has the courage, skill, or readership to take on CleanSweep. But the murder of his source convinces the blogger to take a stand—although he’s too late to prevent chaos from gripping Toronto’s streets.

To get the word out, Matt’s going to need allies. He may have found some in a Toronto police detective and a local TV reporter pursuing the same story—presuming they aren’t allied with Claussen. If they are, Matt’s going to become yet another victim of CleanSweep, and the truth will be buried forever.

Meet the author:

Born in Iowa, Chuck Waldron lived in Ontario, Canada, before relocating to Florida’s Treasure Coast. Over the years, he’s held many jobs. The ones he can mention in print include US Army soldier, truck driver, office manager, mailman, real estate salesman, social worker, hardware store clerk, and shuttle driver.
Chuck Waldron
Fate played a crucial role when he walked into his first writing class, and he still honors the memory of the teacher, Henrietta. She gave him permission to write. That—along with countless writing groups, classes, seminars, and much sweat—has resulted in over fifty short stories and four novels.

Waldron often likes to pretend interest, lacks perseverance, and could generally use a good talking to—until it comes to his writing, that is. He and his wife Suzanne reside in Port St. Lucie, Florida. While keeping an eye out for hurricanes, alligators, and Burmese pythons, he’s busy writing his next novel

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