A Novel Experience

The purpose of this page is to allow the reader of my novels, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors, Funhouse Mirrors, and Afghan Mirrors to gain further knowledge and experience with some of the locations, food, and gear featured in the novels. I hope this will further your enjoyment of these books.

Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors

Fort Meade


NSA_fort_meadeThe Headquarters Building was only five years old at that time and it looked absolutely gigantic to me. It was said that the US Capitol could fit inside it four times with room to spare. This building was reputed to have the longest uninterrupted hallway in the world. It had darkened one-way glass and looked like a gigantic elongated black cube.


Model 360-95Next the digitized Cyrillic characters would be transferred onto the hard disk drives of our IBM System/360 Model 95. This was the largest supercomputer that IBM made at the time. It could perform a whopping 330 million multiplications per minute. The laptop I am using today to write this book can perform about 10 billion multiplications per SECOND, so you can see how slow this behemoth actually was compared to today’s computers.



Chello KababChelo Kabob was pretty much the national dish when I lived there and it tasted simply wonderful to me. Unique to Iran, it was made from ground lamb flattened and then grilled on skewers. It was then served on top of buttered saffroned Persian rice, flat bread, and grilled tomatoes. It tasted divine!


Grand BazaarTehran was an extremely modern and cosmopolitan city, yet still had a very ancient bazaar district: the Grand Bazaar. This was an amazing place, and was split into miles of corridors. Each corridor specialized in different types of goods: copper items, gold, carpets, spices, and innumerable other things. Modern goods and appliances were even available there. It was located in the southern part of Tehran and its corridors actually totaled over 6 miles in length.

Tehran SkylineTehran had a population of almost 5 million then and was located at about the same altitude as Denver. It sat right at the foot of the snow-capped Alborz mountain range. The climate was semi-arid, with the large central desert located immediately to the south of the city and a mountain range to the north. It was really a gigantic desert oasis.

KFC TehranI was put up in a Hilton hotel right in the heart of the downtown and just a short distance from the Ministry of War building. Improbably, right down the street from the hotel was a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. It was actually the only US fast food franchise in Iran, but when I first arrived it was a bit of a shock to me to see it there.

Yet Another Tehran Street SceneTehran traffic was simply horrendous, even in the middle of the day.

Russian Embassy TehranJake then said: “The big building on the right is the Soviet embassy.

cropped-violent-demonstration.jpgThe next month riots broke out in Tabriz and the police killed more demonstrators. Businesses, movie theaters, and banks were being burned to the ground there.

Iran AirI hurriedly loaded my suitcases into the cab, jumped in and shouted “Mehrabad”, the name of the International Airport.


PeykanThe streets were jammed with Peykans, a locally manufactured compact car.



WurstOne of my very favorite meals in this city was “wurst und semmel mit kraut”: a simple sausage on a roll with spicy mustard and a side of sauerkraut, all served on a paper plate. They were sold from little food carts stationed on street corners throughout the city for easy access by hungry lunch seekers. Simple food, but absolute taste perfection!

GoulashThis was followed by an amazing Austrian goulash, much richer and heartier than the Hungarian version of this dish…


StadtparkUpon my arrival I checked into the Hilton Hotel by the Stadtpark, a large park in the center of Vienna that contained a famous gilded statue of Johann Strauss.

StreetcarThe apartment was just off of Hietzinger Haupstrasse, a busy thoroughfare filled with restaurants, coffee houses, shops, as well as some small hotels. The Strassenbahn, or streetcar system, had a route that ran right down this street, making it easy for me to get around Vienna even without using a car.

Ministry of InteriorFrom there it was a short walk to the Ministry of Interior building where Captain Lehner’s office was located. The Ministry was located in a Hapsburg palace that had been built in 1811.

CobraI visited the headquarters of the GEK, the anti-terrorist and hostage rescue unit of the Gendarmerie. They put on a special training exercise just for me and I was amazed at how well they performed.

schloss-schoenbrunnI went back and visited the Schoenbrunn Palace again and walked every foot of its beautiful grounds.

Cafe-MozartHe asked me to meet him at the Café Mozart at 1:30 PM. When I arrived, I found it to be crowded with tourists.

cafe-dommayerOne Saturday morning I was sitting in a local coffee house near my apartment enjoying some sweet pastries and coffee, and reading the International Herald Tribune.


PPandP232002Franz insisted that we have a shooting contest between just the two of us. My Sig P230 against his Walther PPK.

Funhouse Mirrors




He had also ordered a Sacher Torte, just because it had the name of their hotel associated with it. He had no idea this was a classic and world famous Viennese dessert that had been created by Franz Sacher in 1832 for the Austrian Prince Metternich. It was a piece of chocolate cake unlike any dessert he had ever tasted.



I drove my car over to the airport’s General Aviation building and parked right in front of it. At this time of night there was no problem finding a close-by parking place.


They finally came to the Hotel Sacher, where the conference was being held and where they would be staying. As they arrived, uniformed bellhops greeted them and tried to take their suitcases.


The dead drop was near the Reumannplatz U-bahn station Kalin used every day when riding the subway to and from his home and the Bulgarian Embassy.


This is what we call a shoot house. You can see all of the bullet holes in the walls, which is why it’s surrounded by these dirt berms and the hillside behind it. We do live fire training in it and the dirt berms and hillside absorb the bullets flying through the walls during the shooting. Inside, you’ll find hallways, rooms with open and closed doors, and people. Well, not real people, but cardboard images of people. Some of the people are innocents, and some are very bad people, indeed. The bad people all have guns that they want to use to kill you. So, what you need to do is to safely navigate through the shoot house leaving the innocents alone, and shooting the bad people before they can kill you. I’ll teach you how to do this. You’ll need to learn to use concealment and cover, how to avoid being ambushed, and how to neutralize the bad people without harming the innocents. So, are ready to learn how to do this?



Stephen, it’s no toy. The Mini-Uzi is the newest model of the Uzi. It’s actually small enough to conceal under a coat with a special holster. I’m going to give you one of those, too. The Secret Service detail protecting your President now carries concealed Mini-Uzi’s.




His favorite breakfast was actually symiki: cottage cheese dumplings served with jam and sour cream, but he didn’t want Galya having to cook anything for him in the morning.



It was a fine June day in Moscow, so Artyom decided to skip the bus and walk to work. It would take him about forty-five minutes and would give him some time to think about what he would say to his boss, the Director of the Institute, about getting Galya medical treatment in the West. He passed by many modern high-rise apartment buildings on his way there, strolled past a park, and soon found himself at the Institute.

Northern Virginia



We soon fell into a routine. Art and I would rise fairly early each morning and come down to the kitchen for an incredible breakfast prepared by Martha. We soon arrived on a favorite for the both of us: eggs benedict. Martha could make this dish better than anyone else I had ever encountered. We had it at least three times a week.



He then asked to go for a ride to the nearby town of Manassas and to walk around in a supermarket there. While in the market, he kept going on and on about how he couldn’t believe the amount of food and the number of varieties available in the market.



The spacecraft weighs 2.2 tons and features a main engine and seventeen thrusters, enabling it to accomplish any conceivable orbital maneuvers, even the very energy demanding inclination change of its orbital plane. It is packed with explosives and maneuvers close to its target, explodes, and peppers the target with masses of high-velocity shrapnel.


Afghan Mirrors

Camp Perry (The Farm)



After all, everything here at The Farm is really a test, isn’t it?



The next day it was the M21 Sniper Weapons System that I was to tackle. I would spend the last two days of the week working with it. Shooting a sniper rifle was a different world from shooting a standard military rifle.

Harvey Point



Al thought to himself: this is bad, really bad. ‘Look John, I know how pissed off you are at Connor, but do you really want to do this to him? My God, he’ll either come back from Harvey Point in an ambulance or a body bag. Just because he hurt your pride?’



I ran field exercises with SAD/SOG members in ambushes, retreat under fire, and urban combat.




There were a few buildings on the perimeter of the camp, but it mainly consisted of small tents. Thousands and thousands of little tents in every color of the rainbow. They stretched as far as the eye could see. They were tightly crammed together, sometimes even touching the other tents around them. These were the homes of tens of thousands of refugees who lived in this camp, and it was just one of hundreds of camps in Pakistan. It was simply a staggering sight to behold. I had never seen or even imagined anything like it in my entire life. I couldn’t believe that people could survive in such cramped and squalid conditions. Yet, I was just about to see even worse.



Parachinar had been everything he had been told it would be. A completely lawless frontier town filled with criminals and bandits. He had actually been afraid most of the time he had been there. Afraid he would be killed when he showed the money for the items he bought there. He had forced himself to not show the slightest hint of his fear and appear to be casually confident and worry-free. It was a trick he had picked up over the years when dealing with desperate and violent men, and it had always worked.




It had been a brutal 7-day hike, but we had finally made it to Daryush’s village. During the hike, it seemed to me as though there was no flat land at all in Afghanistan. We had spent the entire trek either climbing or descending, sometimes on quite precipitous slopes. It had been difficult even to find a small patch of flat ground on which to sleep at night.



“It looked like at least 10 MI-24 helicopters were headed our way. This was looking bad for us, very bad. The MI-24 was also known by its NATO codename, the Hind. It was a very dangerous weapon that was actually a hybrid. It was both a heavily armed and armored attack helicopter and a troop transport. It could only carry eight passengers, but is a wonderful assault helicopter and greatly feared by the Mujahideen. They called it “Satan’s Chariot”. It carried a Gatling-type machine gun and rocket pods. The Hind could carry up to 80 rockets. They were protected by heavy armor and we didn’t have any weapons capable of shooting them down.