IN THE BLACK

ANDREW CERONI

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION SUSPENSE/THRILLER

    Core Theme

    PATRIOTISM

    TIME PERIOD

    Contemporary

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    WORKS OF TOM CLANCY

    CHARACTER LIST

    DAVE MCCLURE: (M/30S-40S). AMERICAN FIELD AGENT AND ALL-AROUND BADASS.

    JACK BARRETT: (M/50S). WELL-RESPECTED AND STRATEGIC DIRECTOR OF INTELLIGENCE DR.

    ARMAND MISHENKOV: (M/60S). GENIUS ENERGY SCIENTIST WHO GOES ON THE RUN FROM RUSSIA OFFICIALS.

    PETE NOVAK (M/50S) -- WISE, ESTEEMED INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY MEMBER AND COHORT OF DAVE AND JACK.

    ARSENY VASILIEV (M/30S) -- CUNNING, LETHAL RUSSIAN OPERATIVE AND ASSASSIN.

    TONY ROBERTSON (M/30S) -- WELL-TRAVELED AND EXPERIENCED U.S. AGENT EQUALLY AS BAD ASS AS DAVE.

    Logline

    CIA’s most valuable foreign agents are being methodically assassinated one-by-one. With its intelligence network shattering, the Agency begins a desperate search to uncover the traitor within its ranks!

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Moscow, Russia; Donets Ridge, Ukraine; Budapest, Hungary; Paris, France; Emsworth, England; Washington, D.C.

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Outskirts Press

    Year Published: 2021

    Starting Description

    CIA’s valued Russian double agents are being assassinated. The Agency discovers the attacks originate from Russia, and must shut down the attacks, extracting its top agents, especially Dr. Armand Mishenkov. Agent Dave McClure must find Mishenkov and smuggle him across Europe and to the U.S.

    Ending Description

    Dave McClure and Tony Robertson receive Mishenkov from an Israeli Mossad team. Pursued by Russian assassins, they get Mishenkov to England, then out to the North Atlantic where they're picked up by a U.S. Navy submarine. A Russian assassin pursues, climaxing in an attack on McClure's residence.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    978-1-9772-4015-6

    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence, Language/Profanity

    Plot - Other Elements

    Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Quest

    Main Character Details

    Name: David McClure

    Age: 30s

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Decisive,Heroic,Masculine,Patriotic,Selfless,Skillful,Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Tony Robertson

    Age: 30s

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Badass,Aggressive,Confident,Decisive,Honorable,Patriotic,Selfless

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Arseny Vasiliev

    Age: 30s

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Badass,Aggressive,Desperate,Masculine,Narcisstic,Obedient,Blunt

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Pete Novak

    Age: 50s

    Gender: Male

    Role: mentor

    Key Traits: Confident,Decisive,Empathetic,Engaging,Honorable,Educated,Leader,Patriotic,Religious

    Development Pitch

    CIA’s most valued Russian double agents are being methodically assassinated one-by-one. At Langley Center headquarters itself—Jack Barrett, the Director of Central Intelligence, barely escapes assassination by a trusted employee. When the Agency discovers the attacks originate from a Russian top secret cyberwarfare program called Chernyy Almaz or Black Diamond, a mind-control program, CIA must respond swiftly to shut down the attacks and also begin extracting its top prized agents before they’re lost forever. Chief among them is Dr. Armand Mishenkov, the head of Russia’s research and development for cold fusion weaponry. Mishenkov makes a solitary escape to Ukraine, but safety and freedom are still far from his reach. Pursued by Russian assassins and Spetsnaz teams, Agent Dave McClure and his partner, Tony Robertson, must find Mishenkov and smuggle him across Europe and to the United States. Will McClure succeed in bringing the doctor to America—can they make it ALIVE?

    Genre

    ACTION, THRILLER, WAR

    Brief

    As Russian double agents in service to the United States are systematically killed off, the bad ass Dave McClure teams with the U.S. intelligence community to plan a counter response. Soon, Dave is called into action abroad, where he must intercept and escort a genius scientist who is fleeing from Russia. Later, Dave comes to grips with a vengeful Russian assassin who ambushes him in his Virginia home.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: EXCELLENT

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, the profile is accurate. Nothing is jumping out as an opportunity for improvement.

    Draw of Story

    This work starts off with a bang and deftly introduces a cunning, formidable villain. The inciting incident promises the reader early that a high stakes game is at play, and it bodes well for the rest of the story.

    Possible Drawbacks

    The first half of this work feels a bit complex and wordy. While it does have flare ups of action and excitement, it seems to lack a clear direction-- The characters spend much time scrambling and deliberating. They are light on a clear-cut, actionable goal, and it's only in the second half that Dave is used to his fuller potential. Also, this work seems to lack a strong enough point-of-view. It would make sense to anchor the story to Dave's experience, but this work cuts around to different players to the extent that it never feels like we meld with Dave or anyone to where we really know and root for them. It just feels spread too thin, in a lot of ways.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES HEAVILY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The hook is predicated on the promise of the genre space. You know what you are getting into with this work-- the scary Russian villain, the dauntless American hero, and the assurance of no shortage of gunplay and high-octane spectacle.

    Fanbase Potential

    Probably not. While it's an honest effort and a competent rendering, there doesn't seem to be much here to separate this work from fill-in-the-blank action/espionage heroes at large. Dave could benefit from more development and complexity. How can he and this work be differentiated from what has come before? How can they transcend what we expect and are used to? It's very tough starting from square one to build your world and hero-- It will be a steep competition if Dave is to resonate or compete with the Jack Ryans of today's marketplace.

    Awards Potential

    No, this is not an awards contender. It relies too heavily on its action elements and entertainment value. It's less humanistic and thematically resonant as the typical awards players.

    Envisioned Budget

    LARGE BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    JACK RYAN

    What’s New About the Story

    Nothing jumps out as especially original about this story. In fact, it seems to borrow quite heavily from the long established tropes of the genre space. The character of Dave would be the most ripe opportunity to differentiate from other works-- Right now he feels a bit single-dimensional and familiar.

    Lead Characters

    Although he doesn't seem to tread any new ground, Dave McClure stands out as a classical spy hero. He's is the clear-cut protagonist. He gives way to much action, and he strikes as entertaining for his almost supernatural level of badassery.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This is not a rare gem in that it seems to borrow quite heavily from the traditions of its genre. More can be done to differentiate its main character and to better delineate its plot. There also seems to be much opportunity to condense and simplify this work, especially in the first half.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio, Streaming TV Series: Limited Run / Mini-Series, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    This is a Consider rather than a Recommend in that it seems to be lacking an X factor. Much about this work strikes as familiar, especially with the main character in Dave McClure. More can be done to better anchor the narrative to his perspective and to better utilize Dave for his special talents before the second half of this work. Also, there seems to be some clutter and wordiness in the first half of this text. Better to lay the foundation more efficiently so we can get to the clear-cut actionable mission sooner. That is where this work is at its best and most engaging. To improve, the author would need to think on how to render Dave with more complexity and originality. That is what is needed if we are going to identify and root for him as much as we should. Also, it would be wise to consider how to simplify the first half of this text. The characters feel like passengers in some ways, and it prevents the first half from feeling as propulsive and efficient as the second half.

    Brief

    With the CIA’s most valuable foreign agents being methodically assassinated, agent Dave McClure partners with his U.S. intelligence community colleagues to mitigate a looming spy threat and to rescue an invaluable scientist on the run from Russian assassins.

    What We Liked

    IN THE BLACK, the fifth of a prolific series, is a sound take on the action and espionage genre. It offers a classical action hero and pairs him with a formidable Russian foe, the car chases and shootouts are aplenty, and the stakes remain consistently high. All in all, genre fans will get exactly what they pay for.

    Film: This work would function well as a film for its high-octane action elements. Akin to the Mission Impossible or Jack Ryan series, this work has no shortage of action and excitement. It will be sure to entice an enthusiastic audience of genre loyalists.

    TV: People would want to watch this story as a TV show for its high stakes and globe-trotting elements. The longer format of TV would give this work ample time to lay its foundation and to flesh out the many supporting characters. It seems to have enough meat on its bones and seeds of ideas to sustain the hour-long format.

    Key points:
    1. The intimidating Russian villain.
    2. The diverse locations.
    3. The well-envisioned car chases.
    4. The brutal hand-to-hand combats and gun fights.
    5. The consistently high stakes.

    Synopsis

    In Switzerland, a Russian double agent for the U.S. is gunned down by lethal Russian assassin ARSENY VASILIEV. Meanwhile, in Virginia, Central Intelligence Director JACK BARRETT collaborates with his team, including the wise PETE NOVAK and the formidable, badass agent DAVE MCCLURE, a newcomer to Barrett's inner circle. Dave is vetted by the team, including CHRIS SCHWEIZER and KATYA HUBBARD. All the while, another American spy asset is killed in Europe by Russian operatives, signaling a bigger security issue is at play. Dave and the Americans ponder the escalations. Soon, a respected colleague of Barrett's makes an assassination attempt on him, seemingly in some kind of trance. With that, Barrett and co. scramble to make sense of the attack.

    Soon, Chris takes his colleague Katya to a romantic dinner. Afterward, Katya is abducted by a Russian goon, who orders her to keep quiet about a malicious software that's infected her computer on behalf of Russian intelligence. Katya narrowly escapes after sustaining serious injuries, and the Americans struggle to make sense of the spiraling chaos. In the office, Barrett and co. realize that several of their colleagues' computers have been infected by a Russian software that can control the minds of the given user, forcing them to enact any command. Covertly, Chris tracks down the Russian that roughed up and kidnapped Katya and kills him for revenge. Meanwhile, Barrett, Pete, and Dave have a briefing with the president. They decide to employ an EMP-style counter response to the Russians.

    All the while, DR. ARMAND MISHENKOV, a genius energy scientist in Russia and a prized double agent for the Americans, goes on the run, hoping to avoid being offed like the several other spies. The cunning assassin Arseny is tasked with capturing the scientist, but he is too late-- Mishenkov has fled. Stateside, a mind-controlled American operative comes after Dave, but Dave successfully subdues him. An energy expert briefs the Americans on the invaluable work of Mishenkov, and the mission to rescue the genius scientists manifests. Without much delay, Dave flies abroad on a mission to intercept and escort Mishenkov to the U.S. before Russian assassins get to him first.

    In the Siberian forest, a wild goose chase ensues, with Mishenkov trekking solo with hunting dogs and Russian assassins on his trail. Mishenkov eludes a bear, and Arseny and his men have a bloody encounter with a cabin-dwelling family. Dave has a rendezvous with another rough-and-tumble, world-traveling agent named TONY ROBERTSON in Hungary as they prepare to intercept Mishenkov. Mishenkov is surrounded by the Russians, sans Arseny, but allied Mossad agents kill the Russians and take in Mishenkov, turning him over to Dave and Tony not long after. On a train to Western Europe, the trio is confronted by an armed Russian operative who manages to shoot Tony twice before being subdued. On the ground in Paris, Dave drives the men in a BMW, and a wild car chase ensues when Russians tail them. Ultimately, the Americans and Mishenkov escape on a fishing barge that leads them out to sea. There, a submarine collects them and takes them to the sanctuary of the U.S.

    Back in Virginia, the mission is accomplished. Mishenkov is situated with a new identity, while Dave is given several weeks off to spend time with his wife. However, as Dave prepares to treat his wife to dinner, a desperate Arseny shows up at his doorstep, demanding to know where Mishenkov is. A highly violent, brutal combat ensues, with Dave suffering gunshots and wounds. Narrowly, he manages to defeat the errant Russian. Later, the President personally thanks Dave, Tony, and co. for their service.

    About The Author

    Award-winning author Andrew Ceroni grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he attended public schools. He received a congressional nomination for the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, graduating with a B.S. Degree. Ceroni received his M.A. Degree from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. He served a distinguished career as a Senior Supervisory Special Agent focused on Title 18 U.S.C. Chapter 37 espionage investigations as well as counterespionage and antiterrorism operations throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim. He began writing when he was twelve years old, mostly poetry and short stories. Ceroni is an author of five novels in the thriller genre and a member of Authors Guild.