“No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach” by Anthony Bourdain

Why are travel books so immensely boring? How can a writer in good consciousness take one of the most exciting things that a human being can do and turn it into an expensive substitute for Ambien?

My suspicion is that all travel authors start out writing text books and then get promoted. Who else could turn in 3000 words on the “big historical buildings that form the town’s central plaza?” Look I did it in 9 words and all ready you’re thinking about turning the page. HOLY GRAVY BATMAN THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING BETTER!

And there is. I found it in South Africa. But don’t worry; you can get it here, too.

First here’s the all important legal disclaimer:

If you are one of those people who wants to read all the gory details about old churches and old buildings. Or who must know how the locals lived before the Ice Age. Or who can’t exist without a guided bus tour (complete with all you can eat “local” buffet lunch and two daily shopping stops) more power to you. There are thousands of travel books you’ll love.

For the rest of us, there’s Anthony Bourdain.

Sure he’s a famous chef with a popular TV show. But he also an adventurer who writes great travel books.

Around the World on an Empty Stomach

His newest book, “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach” is available locally in hard back for $34.95 MSRP.

Glorious full color pictures of locals cooking, eating, drinking and having fun. The obligatory shots of Tony and his crew having fun, enjoying life and contemplating the immense variety of experiences our world has to offer.

No MBA University writing here. Just short, emotive prose that tells you about a place without making you grab for a Red Bull.

And he tells it like he feels it is.

“Sweden: a nice place where nothing bad happens. And nothing especially good, either.”

“Being a cook is like being in the mafia: once in, never out. Which as it turns out, is a beautiful thing.”

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“The Fraternity of the Stone” by David Morell

“The Fraternity of the Stone,” ($15. 480 pages. Soft cover.) The brothers from “Rose” join forces to learn why old men are mysteriously disappearing. At first, the disappearances seem to have no connection to each other, but it’s soon evident that the sins of the fathers are being visited upon the sons.

The third book in this trilogy, “The League Of Night and Fog,” will be re-released next spring.

Other Morrell books Grit-Lit recommends included: “Desperate Measures,” “The Fifth Profession,” “Assumed Identity,” and “Extreme Denial.”

Do yourself a favor. Spend your summer with David Morrell. With 29 outstanding books, you can’t go wrong.

“Strong Enough To Die” by Jon Land

Strong enough to Die

“Strong Enough To Die” by Jon Land. (Forge $24.95, 352 pages. Hard cover.) www.tor-forge.com

Land’s books are so good, his last book “The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending” is on its way to being a blockbuster. Movie guys from “Terminator” snapped up the rights.
Now don’t get all mad when you discover that technically “Strong Enough” is not a tough guy book. That’s only because on special occasions, Land’s hero can look mighty good in a dress. His new star, Caitlin Strong, is the first female Texas Ranger. So, she’s tough. Plenty tough.
“You ever shot anybody before today?” he asked her.
“Kill anybody?”
“Yup. Not that I’m proud of it.”
“You proud of what you did today?”
“Figured.” Dylan sighed, leaning back with arms crossed. “Why?”
“’Cause I was too late to save your mom.”

“Strong Enough” is a wonderful complex story that touches on several real life issues: torture recovery centers, border control, high tech computer weapons … In “Strong Enough To Die” Land has create a complex and wildly enjoyable thriller.

“The Brotherhood of the Rose” by David Morrell

The Brotherhood of the Rose: A Novel (Mortalis) (Paperback)

If anyone could be called the KING OF MODERN THRILLERS, it would be David Morrell. Morrell’s claim to fame is often summed up in the words “He Wrote Rambo.” This is an incredible disservice to a man who has written many of the absolute best thrillers of all time.

“The Brotherhood of the Rose,” (Random House, $15. 448 pages. Soft cover). Morrell’s first big international thriller.

Two boys in an orphanage are befriended by an elderly man, who unknown to them belongs to the CIA.

He makes the boys love him as a substitute father, and then trains them to be his personal intelligence operatives.

The story is filled with all kinds of authentic CIA history and trade craft.

“The Shimmer” by David Morrell

The shimmers

In his just released novel, “The Shimmer,” (Vanguard Press $25.95 326 pages. Hard cover.) www.davidmorrell.net, the lead character is a private pilot. In order to get things right, Morrell earned his license and says, “Becoming a pilot is a highlight of my life.”
The central theme in “Shimmer” is that a vital life skill is learning to see what is really there. Not what you believe is there. And not what you see at first glance. But what is really there after careful, thorough inspection.
In “Shimmer” Morrell introduces us to a unique natural phenomena that has defied scientific explanation for more than 100 hears. In west Texas, outside the small town of Marfa, magical lights occasionally appear. They bob, weave, float, waver, blink, glow, appear and vanish. Some people can see them all the time. Some people can see them some of the time and some people never see them. Some people are transported by the lights and others think they are no big deal.

Morrell uses these lights and there varied affects on viewers to tell a totally engrossing tale involving a vanished wife, a massacre and a deadly government secret dating back to the First World War. More cannot be said without giving away the tremendous story and exciting ending.
Two of Morrell’s best books are being re-released by Random House. Both are exceptionally worthwhile,

“Gone Tomorrow” by Lee Child

gone tomorow

“Gone Tomorrow” Lee Child. (Delacorte Press $27, 421 pages. Hard cover.) www.LeeChild.com.
“Gone Tomorrow” is Reacher at his finest. For those of you who don’t know, Reacher is the classic lone wolf.

He travels light. Sleeps where he can. And when he needs a weapon he usually just steals it from a crook.
In “Gone” Reacher sees a New York subway suicide. And he knows that something is not right. BAM! He’s in the middle of a mess that both the feds and Al-Queda want to keep secret.

Reacher winds up being hunted by both sides. Which, typical Reacher, is exactly what he wants.

“Midnight Rambler” by James Swain

“Midnight Rambler” by James Swain (Ballantine Books, $24.95, 350 pages, www.jimswaim.com)

“Midnight Rambler” by James Swain

Yet another excellent Florida tough guy. Why are so many of the tough guy books based in Florida? My writer friends tell me the answer is simple: great weather, lots of bikinis, good golf, relatively affordable cost of living, lots of bikinis, hot enough most of the year to justify a bourbon or two at almost any hour of the day or night. Apparently Hemingway was ahead of his time.

Just off the top of my head, here’s a partial list of Florida tough guys: Travis McGee, Doc Ford, Thorn, Swytek, and now, Jack Carpenter.

“Midnight Rambler” is an excellent departure from Swain’s popular Tony Valentine series. Swain’s new hero, Jack Carpenter is an infamous cop. He busted a notorious serial killer and along the way managed to wind up without his badge or family. Now marginally employed as an “abduction specialist” Carpenter finds lots kids and returns them to their families. Good read.

So here’s my question. All these tough guys hang around Florida. Eating and drinking. Everyone of ‘em seems to have a cold beer in his hand just about every other minute. And if they are living in Florida, you know every other meal has got to feature DEEP FAT FRIEND SOMETHING.

“Shrink Yourself” by Roger Gould

“Shrink Yourself" by Roger Gould

“Shrink Yourself: break free from emotional eating forever!” by Roger Gould, M. D. (Wiley, $24.95, 273 pages, www.shrinkyourself.com)

Dr. Gould says that aside from a few genetic or chemically imbalanced freaks (my words not his) most folks overeat because they use food to manage their emotions. For men the comfort foods are the “B’s, P’s or D’s”, beer, burgers, beef, booze, pizza, donuts… For women the “let’s get back to an even emotional keel foods” are the “C’s”: chocolate, chocolate, more chocolate and then some carbs.

Don’t believe it? Here’s the test:

  1. Does your hunger come on really fast?
  2. Do you often feel an almost desperate need to eat right now?
  3. Did you taste what you ate or just shovel it in?
  4. Would any food do? Or did you crave a certain kind of food?
  5. Did you feel guilty after you ate? (DARN FEELINGS!)
  6. Did you eat when upset or feeling empty?
  7. Did you stuff in the food quickly?

If you answered yes to any of the above, some of your eating is emotionally driven. The more you answered yes to, the more of an issue you have. If you answered yes to all 7 and cried into your bag of Oreo’s while you were completing the quiz well, you know what you gotta do. Buy the book. Read it learn how to manage your feelings without drugs, food, alcohol or divorce. Might sound impossible but it seems a lot more likely than counting on “will power” or frozen TV dinners that come in the mail and cost twice what they should.

“The 47th Samurai” by Stephen Hunter

“The 47th Samurai” by Stephen Hunter

“The 47th Samurai” by Stephen Hunter (Simon & Schuster, $26, 368 pages, www.simonsays.com)

Bob Lee Swagger will never need Nutri Systems. This is one cold-blooded, action oriented tough guy. Even his all metal hip doesn’t keep him from taking on the bad guys.

One of the great things about Hunter’s “Swagger Series” is that he seldom does the expected. Usually the hero stays in his normal neighborhood – Boston, South Florida, Philly – gets a new case, vanquishes evil and gets the girl or girls. Hunter almost never does that. After a best seller featuring Bob Lee, one of his next books is all about Bob Lee’s father. And instead of being in the good ol’ US of A it’s in Cuba.

“47th Samurai” takes place mostly, in –SURPRIZE – Japan. The way Hunter weaves WW II, samurai’s and modern day America into a tough guy novel is pure art. So beautiful that it makes me feel all weepy inside. I think maybe I’m gonna cry.

Now, where did I put that pint of Double Rainbow Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream?

“Last Call” by James Grippando

“Last Call” by James Grippando

“Last Call” by James Grippando (Harper Collins, $24.95, 326 pages, www.jamesgrippando.com).

Six of Grippando’s more than 14 books feature semi-tough guy Miami attorney Jack Swyteck and his jazz loving really tough friend Theo Knight.

Dude, this is a Grit-Lit FAV (oops sorry – slipped into my old writer guy trying to be cool dude vocabulary) and Grit-Lit is not alone; Grippando’s books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Only one of which I can read. DARN. If I could read another language, I could read ’em twice.

The series is set in Miami and deals with gangs, poverty and race. Not very much sex. Too Bad!