Mark Berent's first two novels of three extraordinary men in the midst of the Vietnam conflict, Rolling Thunder and Steel Tiger, met with widespread critical acclaim. The New York Times Book Review called Rolling Thunder an "unusually arresting book" and named it one of its "Notable Books' of 1989. The Washington Post Book World praised Steel Tiger as "a real tour de force," calling Berent "an experienced warrior who can artfully spin gripping, compelling tales of his craft."
In Phantom Leader (May 9, 1991) Berent, himself a highly decorated Air Force Pilot, once again captures the intensity of the most controversial war in modern history. Phantom Leader shows readers exactly what it was like to be a pilot caught between the immediate reality of death and the distant decisions of Washington.
It is January, 1968, and with the fury of the Tet offensive about to burst, Berent's courageous men find themselves at the very heart of the Vietnam War. As the Viet Cong attack in full force all over Vietnam, FAC pilot Toby Parker sees the North Vietnamese moving PT-76 tanks down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but his attempt to acquire proof fails. Captured by the enemy, Parker finds himself trapped square in the middle of the tank attack on the Long Tri; Major "Flak" Apple, the first black Air Force Fighter to be shot down in Vietnam, becomes a prisoner in Hanoi's infamous Hoa Lo Prison; USAF Major Court Bannister needs only one more shootdown to become an ace but violations of the Rules of Engagement over North Vietnam force him to fly secret night missions over Laos, Bannister must make a decision that could make him Vietnam's first ace -- or end his military career forever. Special Forces Colonel Wolf Lochert settles accounts with an old enemy, only to meet an enemy he cannot defeat in battle; and General "Whitey" Whisenand stretches to protect the troops in the field while fighting a rear-guard action in Washington.
Both politics and interservice rivalries add to the chaos at the front lines in Phantom Leader. Berent, drawing on his own experience as an Air Force fighter pilot, is able to translate the complexities of war into an enthralling action-adventure. Phantom Leader brings us the reality of war through the authentic voices of those who fought in Vietnam -- this story is a lasting tribute to every American who served his country in Vietnam.