The Rayners love the peaceful life afforded by our CAL community, but (trust me), things have not always been this quiet. A myriad of tales could be told about Ella Mae’s nursing career alone, but when you add in Gordon’s adventures with the Marine Corps, in the Border Patrol and then as a Federal Narcotics Agent in the U.S. and multiple Latin American countries, their combined history has made for quite the ride. Some days it rivaled scenes from 007!
Gordon and Ella Mae became high school sweethearts after their first date at a J.C. sponsored dance. Now celebrating their 65-year anniversary, they’ve become a testament to marriage and family. When asked what kept things together through all those years of raising three kids, multiple household moves and ever-present dangers, Gordon quickly replied, “We both put 105% into it.”
One can only imagine the post-traumatic-stress fallout from the life of a DEA Agent— some of it springing from dangerous work situations and some from profound disappointments in people and institutions. Trauma has many sources.
It was after Gordon retired from active duty, settled into the neighborhood and played golf for six years that the depression from those memories started to take their toll. Suffering from the after-effects of PTSD may have very well been more difficult than leaping over chain link fences, being dropped from a helicopter into marijuana-laden shrimp boats, and shooting at bad guys. There’s a lot to be said for adrenalin!
Ella Mae became very worried about him and ultimately encouraged him to write it all down—at least get it out of his head and onto paper. Taking what she knew from writing for a local newspaper, she enrolled in a writer’s group to help start an ambitious record of their years in Paraguay. The chapters in Foreign Service Family Style alternate between Gordon’s daily work regimen and Ella Mae’s adventures on the home front, with descriptive detail about the sights and sounds of Asunción, Paraguay’s capital.
Were the children ever afraid? Perhaps, but they turned out to be as tough as their parents, learned how to shoot a gun at an early age and collectively accepted the family’s perpetually interesting lifestyle. Ella Mae chuckles as she remembers being considered “one of the guys," playing many roles to fool the drug criminals they were trying to entrap--like pretending to be Gordon’s snazzy sister-in-law when the “red” phone rang.
“Asunción itself was not particularly dangerous or violent,” says Gordon, “just the usual burglaries and bar fights and such. Even the drug traffic there was nothing like it has become now with the cartels in Colombia.” Still, it was a tense, touchy business driven by his gut instincts and taking place at all hours of day or night. When Ella Mae was asked when her husband was coming home, the answer could be any in a category of threes: 3 pm, 3 am, 3 hours, 3 days or 3 weeks. This unpredictability of his ETA led to the humorous admission that he had to buy a lot of new underwear on the road!
After the initial publishing of their memoirs, Gordon and Ella Mae went on to publish three more books—with a fourth one nearly finished. They’re all thriller novels with plots conjured up from what he already knew and what he conceived in his very active imagination. His reading audience? Well, mainly himself, he admits, although anyone with a penchant for thrillers and authors like Web Griffin and Tom Clancy might enjoy them.
Taurus, Taurus, Taurus follows protagonist Joe Garner, an intelligence analyst, as he tracks down a US Beef Company’s Genetic Modification scientist, who went off the rails when the government interfered with his research. After the scientist was presumed dead in an explosion of his own making, he shows up 11 years later, demanding ransom and threatening to destroy the world- wide beef breeding operation.
Operation Pinata is about a wealthy Mexican businesswoman who is murdered by the Acapulco Cartel. Her husband, a Deputy Attorney General, wants revenge for her death. Frustrated with the corruption in the Mexican government, he hires a private security company that does work for US government agencies and private citizens. They launch a two-pronged attack against the cartels—one, to eliminate those directly responsible for his wife’s death, and two, to initiate a money laundering scheme that drains the cartels of their drug trafficking profits.
Operation Sandstorm is a battle between an Eastern and a Western business tycoon for world dominance and rises like a sandstorm out of the African desert. It spreads into both hemispheres, drastically impacting their lives. The story involves stolen gold, found gold, and surprising connections to Al Qaeda terrorists in Africa.
Many thanks to Gordon and Ella Mae for sharing this personal account... and also for faithfully organizing Perkins’ breakfasts and measuring rain
Ella Mae, an RN, encouraged Gordon, a retired DEA agent, to write believing it would be therapeutic as he has suffered from PTSD for many years. Together, they wrote a memoir of their life in Paraguay, which was immediately followed by a novel, Taurus, Taurus, Taurus. The therapy has indeed worked, and this book is their third adventure in their writing career.
Book 2 of the OMICRON Series. A wealthy Mexican businesswoman is murdered by the Acapulco Cartel, and her husband, a Deputy Attorney General, desires revenge for her death. Being frustrated with the corruption in the Mexican government, he hires OMICRON, a private security company that does work for US government agencies and private citizens. OMICRON develops a two-pronged attack against the cartels. First: To eliminate the people who are directly responsible for her death. Second: To conduct a money laundering scheme that drains the cartels of their drug trafficking profits.
The Bottom Line: An action-packed tale of money, war and extremism that threatens the world as we know it.
Operation Sandstorm pits the wealth, vision and egos of two sprawling tycoons against each other. Representing the West both geographically and metaphorically is Cyrus L. Livingston, CEO & President of Livingston Tec. Livingston is invested in more industries than most people have shoes. Meanwhile, out of the east comes Chechen mogul & mafia titan Vladimir Shishani, who also champions Islamic terrorism.
After an attack on one of Livingston’s mines in Morocco, the company’s head of operations calls OMICRON, a security contractor and intelligence organization that has worked with them in the past. OMICRON quickly determines that Al-Qaeda-affiliate The Sword of Allah may be responsible, and it doesn’t take long before Shishani is linked as well.
G.J. Rayner & E.M. Rayner, authors of the terrific revenge thriller Operation Pinata, prove once again that they’re hardly short on innovative ideas. The intersection of big business, private security contractors and terrorism is nothing short of complex, but the well-researched plot proves to be both plausible and entertaining. Set sometime in the early 2000s (Bin Laden is still at large, and ISIL is not yet the dominant Islamic force in the region), the intricacy of the groups affiliated with both empires is both fascinating and dizzying.
In the early going, the sheer power embodied by both titans of industry is reminiscent of a superhero novel. When the Moroccan mine attack leaves 20 dead and a month’s supply of production gone, it’s like Superman absorbing a punch from a mere mortal. The company’s operations head wasn’t even aware they had the business there in the first place. Later, an intentionally set refinery fire wipes out a billion dollars. And the character’s response? “That’s great, but you didn’t get me all the way up here just for that, did you?”
Perhaps that’s why, despite lots of intrigue and a high body count, the novel is riveting, but the stakes don’t feel high until the conflict threats to sprawl into a global holy war. And that seems to be exactly the point of the novel: companies, terrorists and military groups are moved about like pawns in a never ending war for global domination, with the planet completely ruled by big business. Action thriller fans who appreciate the nuances will enjoy Operation Sandstorm.
Members of the Low County Sisters in Crime Chapter enjoyed a busy autumn. We opened our fall meeting schedule with an informative visit from former DEA agent Gordon Rayner who—with his wife Ella Mae Rayner—co-authored Foreign Service Family Style. Gordon gave a hands-on presentation, “Firearms 101,” explaining terms, structure, and usage of firearms and including some personal anecdotes.
Several members attended Bouchercon 2015, Murder Under the Oaks, in Raleigh NC including the four high school students whose book club our chapter sponsors. Three of them served on the panel, “The Importance of YA Book Clubs,” along with SinC member and author Bonnie K. Stevens, whose first YA mystery, Fighting Chance, debuted in October. 2