Last Man Standing (novel)

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Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing - baldacci - bookcover.jpg

Hardcover edition
Author David Baldacci
Country United States
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Grand Central Publishing
Publication date
November 6, 2001
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 548 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 978-0446525800

Last Man Standing is a thriller novel written by David Baldacci. The book was initially published on November 6, 2001 by Grand Central Publishing. [1] [2] The novel follows the protagonist, Web London, through a series of harrowing events. London is the only member of his elite FBI Hostage Rescue Team unit to survive after they are ambushed when executing a high risk raid against an apparent drug operation.

David Baldacci American author

David Baldacci is a bestselling American novelist.

Grand Central Publishing

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group. Formerly Warner Books, Grand Central Publishing came into existence in March 2006 after Time Warner sold the Time Warner Book Group to Hachette Livre.

Hostage Rescue Team government agency

The Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) is the elite tactical unit of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The HRT was formed to provide a full-time federal law enforcement tactical unit capability to respond to major terrorist incidents throughout the United States. Today, the HRT performs a number of national security and law enforcement tactical functions in high-risk environments and conditions and has deployed overseas including with military Joint Special Operations Command units.



Web London and the FBI's super-elite Hostage Rescue Team are sent down an alley for a surprise attack on a drug dealer's lair. As they move with stealth precision towards the target, they are surprised to see a boy in the dark alley. When the kid sees them, he utters the queer words "Damn to hell" and cackles. Uncharacteristically, this kid unnerves Web. But he proceeds with his team, working on getting his pulse beat to sixty-four and visualizing the next moments, as the team gets in position for the signal to move to "green." When the Tactical Operations Center radios to give the go ahead for the final move to the front door, Web freezes. It isn't fear or runaway nerves; Web has been doing this far too long for that. And yet, even with every muscle straining all he can manage to do is to take a few faltering steps and fall down on his gun. At five seconds to impact, Web lays helpless as he watches the Charlie team proceed and then one by one fall to the ground, all dead in seconds. Ironically, Web is the only one alive.

For a HRT guy, out-surviving team members is a personal hell, nothing to be grateful about. The other FBI guys are suspicious and, even worse, distrust him to go out on mission. He can't bear the silent accusations of the widows and fatherless children who'd just as soon trade him for their lost loved one. And the press is having its usual field day, only this time it is his story they are exaggerating and manipulating. In a single moment Web London goes from hero to pariah. Web needs to understand what happened in that alley, specifically who set up his team for an ambush. This job is his life; he needs to prove his innocence to gain the trust back from the guys and for himself. There is no room in his job for less than absolute perfection and bravery. A good HRT guy does not freeze and let their team be killed without them.

Web begins a two-pronged investigation, one external to seek whoever set Charlie up and one internal where he signs on with psychiatrist, Claire Daniels. The key for both investigations seems to be the boy in the alley. After Charlie team was killed, Web still struggled with trying to move. When he saw the boy start to run directly into the line of fire, Web managed to yell at him to stop and slithered himself over to the boy. He gives the boy his hat and a note, warning of the ambush, for the boy to deliver to the reserve unit that TOC is sending in. But somehow, the FBI loses the boy before they have a chance to talk to him. Missing also is the undercover agent that provided the information on the drug lair.

Meanwhile, a judge, a prosecutor, and a defense counsel are killed in three separate and apparent unrelated incidents. When Web sees this in the newspaper, he makes the connection between those deaths and Charlie team's ambush. He knows that it is the same group who caused half his face to be torn off during a hostage rescue mission. David Canfield was the only hostage from that mission who died mere feet from Web. Web had given this boy hope and the boy had died while looking at Web, Web carries guilt from this operation.

Web London is not the only one who's wondering about the ambush. Francis Westbrook, a giant of a man whose moniker is the apt "Big F," is the leader of a small drug empire. The building that HRT was taking, is in his territory, but it is not a place that he has ever used, nor does he run a business on the scale that would warrant that kind of attention. The missing boy is Westbrook's brother and he will do anything, including giving up his entire business, to get that kid back. Notwithstanding his concern for his brother, he's alert to the fact that he's got a traitor in his top echelon.

Last Man Standing is a complex psychological thriller in which the suspicions run rampant as to who set up Charlie team. At the center of this novel is a team of alpha males in which Baldacci reveals the characteristics of the type of guy that would want to do this poor paying job that boasts a motto of "Speed, surprise and violence of action." These are the good guys in a world with a lot of bad guys and they would just as soon be unemployed but the bad guys won't let them. And even though they might have love affairs with their weapons, they are earnest about trying not to use them. That said, they never fire warning shots. And they keep a hell of a lot of weapons on hand. These guys are heroes, and although they are part of the FBI, they keep their distance. After all, it is the FBI that makes the judgment call that sends them into action, so when there is a screw up, as there was in Waco, the blame tends to go directly to HRT.

Web London as the epitome of the HRT guy is a strong, loyal friend especially to his team members and their families. He, naturally, has issues dealing with his own issues. Yet, in this instance, he is unusually motivated to continue his therapy since he's the one that really wants to know what happened. As much as Baldacci paints HRT as real American heroes, by delving into this psychological side of the story he also points out the character deficiencies that cause these men to go through the most grueling training and then to subject themselves to the greatest danger. It also fills out this multi-layered plot.


Baldacci acknowledges a number of people for his novel including Chris Whitcomb, a former HRT sniper who was at Ruby Ridge and Waco. [3]

Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho in 1992

Ruby Ridge was the site of an eleven-day siege near Naples, Idaho, U.S., beginning on August 21, 1992, when Randy Weaver, members of his immediate family, and family friend Kevin Harris resisted agents of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the Hostage Rescue Team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following a Marshals Service reconnoiter of the Weaver property pursuant to a bench warrant for Weaver after his failure to appear on firearms charges, an initial encounter between six US marshals and the Weavers resulted in a shootout and the deaths of Deputy US Marshal William Francis Degan, age 42, the Weavers' son Samuel (Sammy), age 14, and Weaver's family dog (Striker). In the subsequent siege of the Weaver residence, led by the FBI, Weaver's 43-year-old wife Vicki was killed by FBI sniper fire. All casualties occurred on the first two days of the operation. The siege and stand-off were ultimately resolved by civilian negotiators, with the surrender and arrest of Kevin Harris on August 30, and the surrender of Randy Weaver and the surviving Weaver children the next day.

Waco siege conflict

The Waco siege was the siege of a compound belonging to the Branch Davidians, carried out by American federal and Texas state law enforcement, as well as the U.S. military, between February 28 and April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians were led by David Koresh and were headquartered at Mount Carmel Center ranch in the community of Axtell, Texas, 13 miles east-northeast of Waco. Suspecting the group of stockpiling illegal weapons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) obtained a search warrant for the compound and arrest warrants for Koresh and a select few of the group's members.

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  1. "Last Man Standing by David Baldacci". . Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  2. "Last Man Standing by David Baldacci". . Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  3. Christopher Whitcomb, Cold Zero: inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (2001) ISBN   0-552-14788-5