Charlie Bravo is the second instalment of Melissa Nelson Lowe's saga about her father's legendary exploits in both the skydiving industry and the international drug trade.
Picking up where the action-thriller Sugar Alpha left off, Charlie Bravo is an intense legal drama that follows famed skydiving industry innovator and drug smuggler Roger Nelson as he navigates increasingly complex relationships with his business partners, legal counsel, shadowy government figures, the IRS, the DEA, his friends, teammates and, of course, his family.
Having recently retired from the comparatively-benign marijuana trade, Roger finds himself exposed and at risk due to the missteps of some former associates, who had moved on to the more lucrative (and far riskier) task of smuggling cocaine. In an effort to avoid the consequences of his past exploits, he decides to play ball with the DEA and walk the razor-thin line between cooperating with the federal government and remaining loyal to those who have remained loyal to him.
As once-unbreakable bonds of friendship and trust are tested and retested, so is Roger's resilience. While perpetually fighting to preserve his honor and dignity, he finds himself on an unlikely mission to secure his freedom, the future of his skydiving business, and ultimately, his life.
One might assume that, because these books were written by Roger’s daughter, Melissa, the narrative paints a rosy or even heroic picture of him. Such an assumption, while not unreasonable, would be incorrect. Instead, while liberties are certainly taken, this account of Roger’s life is both candid and well-researched, drawing from newspaper clippings, police documents, court records, legal transcripts, Roger’s own journals, and interviews with those who knew him best.
The younger generation of skydivers may be unaware of the impact that Roger Nelson had on our sport. Along with his brother, Carl, he had perhaps more influence than anyone on skydiving’s transition from fringe to mainstream; from military-surplus bulk to the state-of-the-art gear with which we are all familiar today.
If you haven’t already read Sugar Alpha, you’ll want to start there. If you have, then Charlie Bravo is the conclusion to the story that you’ve been anticipating. Regardless, whether you’re a jumper who’s been around for awhile and can’t imagine the sport without Roger, or you’re newer and have never heard his name, you owe it to yourself to give these books a read.
You can find Charlie Bravo on Amazon here
Review by Ben Yonker, Cinematographer and Skydiver