Reads ripped from the headlines

Headline news stories in the recent few days reported the U.S. Army’s disciplining of Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was once seen as a hero for his service with the Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Golsteyn was accused of killing an Afghani bomb-making suspect and forced out of the Army. Another news story reported that the 81-year-old former dictator of Panama, Manuel Antonio Noriega, remains in prison in Panama.

These stories are closely related to two of the four books I am recommending for your summer reading.

The first is written by North Carolina’s Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata. Tata, is a retired Army general and former Wake County schools superintendent. Writing under the pen name A. J. Tata, he is also a popular and prolific author. His recent novel, “Foreign and Domestic,” is a spy thriller that is a perfect beach read.

The central character, Capt. Jake Mahegan, led an unsuccessful operation in Afghanistan to capture a turncoat known as the American Taliban. During the mission Mahegan killed a dangerous bomb-maker. Like Maj. Golsteyn, he was accused of an unlawful killing.

As a result, Mahegan left the Army in disgrace. He is determined to clear his name, and when the American Taliban returns to domestic soil, Mahegan is the only person who knows how to stop him.

Tata brings the action to the North Carolina coast where a rogue military contractor is connected to the American Taliban, whose terrorist activities in America solidify the need for the contractor’s expensive services.

Jake Mahegan takes Tata’s readers on a wild ride with gun and knife fights, high-tech weapons, a parachute jump into the open ocean for action on the high seas, and lots of deception and dead bodies. All of it leads up to a surprising and satisfying ending.

Another book by a North Carolina public official, Court of Appeals Judge J. Douglas McCullough, tells how an abortive marijuana smuggling operation on the North Carolina coast led to the downfall of General Noriega. “Sea of Greed” explains the connections in a page-turner that reads like fiction. McCullough had a big role in bringing hundreds of drug smugglers to justice, but he focuses on the audacity and careful planning of the smugglers and how their carelessness led to their downfall.

When something happens to their child, like a life-threatening disease, a severe physical condition or a learning disability, the child’s parents face their own toughest challenge. In his book about his son’s autism, “Journey with Julian,” award-winning television journalist Dwayne Ballen shows that such an experience, though challenging, can make a family stronger and more appreciative of each other.

Durham resident Ballen is a familiar face, appearing on the Golf Channel, Fox Sports and other sports networks. But this book is about family and especially about his son Julian, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 years old. Julian, now in his 20s, becomes the central and winning character in this poignant and inspiring story.

Lynne Hinton grew up as a preacher’s kid in and around Fayetteville surrounded by family and other rural and small-town characters like those in her early books that were set in our state, including “Friendship Cake,” “Pie Town” and “Welcome Back to Pie Town.”

Her latest, “The Art of Arranging Flowers,” however, is set in eastern Washington state, where Hinton recently served as an interim pastor. With a few changes in location names, the small Washington town where her main character, Ruby Jewell, runs a florist shop, could be in North Carolina.

Hinton, writing under the name Lynne Branard, tells a gentle story in which serious problems get solved by a florist who knows more about births, deaths, weddings, parties, love affairs, celebrations and mourning than anyone else in town.

All these books are great vacation reading. They will soon be featured on UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch.”

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on UNC-MX digital channel (Time Warner channel 1276) on Fridays at 9 p.m.