“The Affair” by Lee Child, “Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick, “The Ares Decision” by Kyle Mills, and “The Saint of Florenville” by Alfred J. Garrotto,

It’s tough people month at Grit-Lit. Jack Reacher, Court Gentry, Covert One’s Jon Smith, newcomers Alex and Tom—from the gripping new post apocalyptic novel, “Ashes”. There’s even a tough priest, Father Jensen and a tough nun, Mother Marie-Therese.

“The Affair” (Delacorte Press. $20, 416 pages, hard cover.) www.leechild.com

In “Affair” you learn how elite military policeman Jack Reacher, became the walkabout loner we all know and love.

Its 1997, Reacher’s orders are clear. Go undercover, monitor problems at a Carter Crossing, Mississippi military base. Figure out if there’s a cover-up going on.  Keep your distance. Watch the cops, find out what’s going on then disappear.

But this is Reacher. He can’t just show up, figure out something bad is going on and vacate. Can he?

“Affair” is another outstanding example of why Lee Child is constantly on the New York Times bestseller list.

“Ballistic”. (Berkeley $15, 480 pages, trade paper. www.markgreaneybooks.com

I love tough guy books. So sue me. Some folks are addicted to video games. Others to drugs. My poison of choice is tough guy or gal novels. And as your professional reviewer, I view it as my personal responsibility to read ‘em all. Hammer, McGee, Spenser, Doc Ford, Jack Reacher and now, Court Gentry—The Grey Man.

Former CIA assassin Court Gentry was safe, living in the Amazon rain forest. But a vengeful Russian crime lord tracks him down and he’s on the run. Looking for help, Court seeks Eddie Gamboa. Once Eddie saved Court’s life. But Court’s friend has been murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. And Court is himself in a war he never wanted.

“Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick (Egmont, $17.99, 480 pages, hard cover). www.harpercollins.com.

Not sure “Ashes” is grit-lit. With its zombie liked “Changed” and the futuristic story—an electromagnetic pulse destroys everything electronic and kills billions—it could be sci-fi. More importantly, it is a fascinating story that grabs hold of your limbic system like crack cocaine and pulls you effortlessly through 480 pages.

Alex survives the electromagnetic storm. Desperate to avoid the “Changed,” who kill everything in their path, she finds Tom, a young army vet, and an orphaned child, Ellie. They become a family struggling to survive in a world without stores, cars, or good-gosh-almighty-iPhones, iPads or Google.

“The Ares Decision” by Kyle Mills (Hatchette Book Group $27.99, 432 pages, hard cover).

Tough guys with guns I understand, but a tough guy scientist? Microbiologist Colonel Jon Smith is tough and smart. Backed up by an even tougher guy, Brit Peter Howell, the President sends Smith to investigate an American special forces team that was annihilated by Ugandan farmers.

Video of the attack shows women and children possessing supernatural speed and strength, consumed with a rage that makes them immune to pain, fear, and all but the most devastating injuries.

A plot driven, military thriller with intriguing characters. “Ares” punches all the bases.

“The Saint of Florenville” by Alfred J. Garrotto. (Amazon $14.99.99, 334 pages, hard cover. http://saintofflorenville.wordpress.com/).

Hard to imagine a story about a nun and a priest would make it to grit-lit. Especially as a love story. But “Saint” takes a gristly turn for the worst when a young Catholic nun, Mother Marie-Thérèse and her friend, an American priest, Father Thomas Jensen, are kidnapped, sexually abuses and drugged in adjoining cells. The abuse seemingly goes on forever.

Kidnap, torture, murder. And a love story that springs from the worst situation since Silence Of The Lambs.

“Saint” is a new genre for grit-lit, a Roman Catholic International travel thriller. Garrotto brings an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing priests and nuns from his extensive experience as a lay minister. Garrotto’s tenth book and sixth novel explore the odyssey that is human life in interesting, unique and in “Saint” very gritty ways.

“The Queen of Patpong” and “Judgment and Wrath” by William Morrow

There big fall event for fans of mysteries, detective novels and gritty thrillers Bouchercon By The Bay is coming to San Francisco this October. With daily panels, speakers and interviews there are literally dozens of opportunities to learn more about your favorite authors and characters.

At Bouchercon you can meet superstars like Lee Child (creator of Jack Reacher), Joe Finder (the best selling Nick Heller novels including Vanished), David Hewson (the Nic Costa’s series and more), and talk with charming newcomers like Matt Hilton (see review below),

The event opens with movie night, Wed October 13, and closes with the Anthony Awards brunch on Sunday morning the 17th. My bet for the hot ticket? Lee Child’s Reacher Creature party Friday night.

www.bcon2010.com

Registration $195

Day Pass $75

If you’ve ever wonder what it is like to be a writer, Bouchercon is a great place to find out.  On his website and in his newsletter, Timothy Hallinan, author of the Poke Rafferty thrillers, gives readers an inside look at the kind of things you will hear.

Here’s my favorite example.

“Novelists almost never write the book they set out to write.  With all the energy they possess, they tell their characters what to do, aiming for those big plot reversals or that unforgettable climax that seemed so sure fire when the idea for the book first came to them.

And guess what?  Something better comes along.  A character says, “I want to go over there,” and 50 pages later the writer finds him/herself off the map.  Control freaks will try to force the geography, but those of us who have been there before usually take our hands off the wheel and let the characters drive.  The richest territory is sometimes the farthest off the map.

As I accumulate years, I realize that I should be writing my life more like I write my books.  Sure, there are goals and to-do lists, but I’m learning that sticking out my chin and marching forward is the surest way to invite an uppercut.  I’m coming to think that the best strategy is to develop what skills I can, decide on my goals, and improvise.”

This approach to fiction works beautifully in his newest book, “The Queen of Patpong” (William Morrow $24.99 312 pages, www.timothyhallinan.com).

A few quick hits.

  • Learn will more about Thailand and Thai people than you could from any tour book. And have fun doing it.

 

  • Gritty, sad, but with an overlay of hope and love.
  • All the excitement of touring Patpong. None of the risk.

In “Queen,” Hallinan enchantingly captures the life of a Bangkok bar girl. You get everything from seedy sex and dismal poverty to the innocent and sometimes cynical search for love. His writing shows us that striving for love, hope and family isn’t limited by blood, culture, wealth, religion or anything else. Its universal … From the poorest Bangkok bar girl to the richest most desirable people in the world, all we really want is love, family and acceptance.

Queen is “Enlightening, Educational and Hugely Entertaining.”

“Judgment and Wrath” by Matt Hilton (William Morrow, $24.99, 340pages, www.matthiltonbooks.com).

OK. Enough about the seedy international sex. Let’s move on to Grit-Lit’s favorite theme –lone tough guys who fight the good fight and win against long odds. Hilton’s Joe Hunter is one of our new favorites. Former military man turned problem solver, Hunter has moved to Florida searching for a new, quieter life.

And while he may want to fade into the warm sun, you can hear Grit-Lit fans in the background screaming, “No! No! No Joe! You’re too good. We need you. We want you. Fight some more!”

Thankfully Hunter does, taking on Dantalion a cruelly complex contract killer. A villain that Ian Fleming would have been proud to have penned.

Hilton and Hallinan have worked hard to create exciting, entertaining stores. Spending your hard earned cash on them would be a vote of respect. A vote they’ve earned.

“Hell’s Bay” by James W. Hall

Hell's Bay

“Hell’s Bay” by James W. Hall (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $24.95, 3068 pages, www.minotaurbooks.com)

Hall’s lead character, Thorn, is one of the better of the lone guy, tuff guy series characters Thorn lives the simple life. A virtual monastic bachelor, Thorn avoids people like you would if you knew they were trying to sell you a lifetime supply of Tupperware. He spends most of his time tying and selling fly fishing flies.

Then about 15 pages into every book Thorn decides, against his better judgment, to have an actual conversation with a living breathing human being. These conversations often start out well with the promise of love, sex, romance or at least catching a REALLY BIG FISH.

But never fear within moments things go astray and Thorn ends up battling for all that is right and good.

A real men’s book for real yoga doin’, FIT food cookin’, chick-lit readin’ MEN.

“Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child

“Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child

“Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, $27.00, 407 pages, www.leechild.com)

Grit-lit’s favorite tough guy is back! And as usual, he has nothing to lose.

Reacher is stuck in that place so familiar to many of us; he’s stuck between hope and despair. Unlike many of us aging boomers, Reacher’s problem is not all in his head. Its physical, he’s stuck in the middle of nowhere between two small towns: Hope and Despair.

“Lose” is typical Reacher. Reacher can’t get a ride, so he walks. He wants a simple cup of coffee. He gets accosted by violent locals, arrested for vagrancy and ordered by the local cops to move on. Something clearly stinks and Reacher decides to find out what.

Reacher’s the ultimate hard man. No job, no address, no baggage. And “Nothing To Lose” is the ultimate hard guy book.

“Plum Lovin’!” by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin' (A Between-the-Numbers Novel)

“Plum Lovin’!” by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, $6.99, 275 pages, www.evanovich.com)

Heroine, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter. She has a para-normal bounty hunter type friend, Diesel, and a steady boy friend who’s a cop. Plus a dysfunctional family that is funnier than this column. And believe me it hurts me to say that!

Here’s an example:

“Men are like shoes. Some fit better than others. And sometimes you go out shopping and there’s nothing you like. And then as luck would have it, the next week you find two that are perfect, but you don’t have the money to buy both. I was currently in just such a position… not with shoes, but with men. And this morning it got worse.”

And a little more:

“My name is Stephanie Plum. I’m average height and average weight and have an average vocabulary for someone living in Jersey. I have shoulder-length brown hair that is curly or wavy, depending on the humidity. My eyes are blue. My heritage is Hungarian and Italian. My family is dysfunctional in a normal sort of way. There are a bunch of things I’d like to do with my life, but right now I’m happy to put one foot in front of the other and button my jeans without having a roll of fat hang over the waistband.”

You get the idea. “Plum” is classic chick-lit. Perfect for a woman but men like it, too.

And finally, real men love to read about tuff guys.

“Real Men Do Yoga” by John Capouya

It’s March. Our New Year’s resolutions lie, littered around our recliner like Corona’s on Cinco de Mayo.

And as real guys, we are ashamed. Of course, no one will ever know this because, WE ARE MEN! And no one should ever know what we are thinking. And even fewer people should have any idea at all what we are feeling.

“Real Men Do Yoga” by John Capouya

But Grit-Lit knows what REAL MEN do.

“Real Men Do Yoga” by John Capouya (Health Communications, Inc. $12.95, 195 pages, www.hcibooks.com).

And every real man with eyes wants to look like the guy on the cover of this book. Heck, Superman wishes he was as muscular, cut and flexible as the dude on the front cover. That guy would be Eddie George, NFL running back and Heisman trophy winner. To quote George, “Yoga’s helped me to avoid injuries and made me stronger, particularly in the upper body. It gives me a competitive edge.”

Not good enough for you Oh Great Manly Man?

Kevin Garnett, NBA Superstar: “I practice my breathing and focusing before every game.” More. “Yoga helps me calm down and helps me center my energy so I’m balanced instead of going out there and just spreading my energy all over the court. I’m zeroed in on the game and have my mind set on what I need to do.”

But wait, there’s more!

“Real Men” features more than twenty pro athletes, all of whom are enthusiastic yoga practitioners: Shannon Sharpe, Dan Marino, Barry Zito, hockey goalie Sean Burke and plus pro golfers and tennis players.

“Real Men Do Yoga” is one of the few yoga books specifically directed at men. There’s little if any “OOOHHMMING”. It’s a non-new-agey book that will convince you that there is a lot more to yoga than just a bunch of folks all tied up in pretzel poses.

Yoga can make you a better athlete and a healthier person: conquer back pain, build muscle, and increase flexibility. It can even improve your sexual performance. And I’ve been told it has fewer side effects than Viagra.

Whether real men do yoga because of all the great benefits or because yoga classes are full of really flexible, friendly women is something between you and your yogi.

You know what else REAL MEN DO? Real men who made resolutions to lose weight and get fit? First they sign up for Yoga. Then they swear off McDuck’s calorie bombs and learn to GASP – here comes the dirty 4 letter word – COOK! For themselves!

“Fast & Fit” by Ellen Haas

“Fast & Fit” by Ellen Haas

“Fast & Fit” by Ellen Haas (Hatherleigh, $16.95, 240 pages, www.hatherleighpress.com)

Here’s what the cover says: “150 Recipes by famous chefs like: Alice Waters, Charlie Trotter and Eric Ripert. Each ready in 30 minutes or less. And most with less than 5 ingredients.”

Sounded too good to be true. Heck it takes almost an hour to drive to your favorite pizza place, order a pie, quaff a couple beers, rabbit down a salad and slam a pizza. Plus it costs about 30 bucks plus gas at 500 or so dollars a gallon.

If you can fix good, tasty, healthy food in less than a ½ an hour that leaves almost enough time for a yoga class.

Recipes focus on fresh, in-season ingredients. Many can be made in less than 15 minutes. All reflect the government’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines and the new Food Pyramid.

In a dedicated effort to assure my reader’s that this is a quality publication I forwent my usual Saturday night repast and cooked from the book: “Garlicky Kale” (what’s a kale anyway – I heard it tastes like chicken), “Grilled Chipotle Pork Tenderloin” and a very addicting snack: “Happy Trail Mix.”

In under an hour I made all the above, plus breakfast Muesli. All were delicious. All had 5 ingredients or less. My only disappointment was that quite a few of the recipes weren’t by famous chefs and several had more than 5 ingredients.

But the proof is in the tasting. If your New Year’s resolutions are out rusting next to your barbells, splurge on “Fit & Fast.” Your mouth, your wallet and your waist will all feel better.

Besides yoga and healthy cooking, what else do real men do? Why they buy frivolous books for their wives and then read them themselves.

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White (G P Putnam’s Sons. $24.95, 337 pages, www.docford.com).

A young woman, Shay, and her bridesmaids held a wild, wild bachelorette party on St. Arc in the Windward Islands. A sleazy blackmailer secretly videotaped the event and was threatening to ruin the lives of everyone involved.

Shay asks her godfather, Doc Ford, for help. A marine biologist by training, Doc is a quiet, peaceful, and deadly violent man who, in addition to marine biology, works as a covert agent for the United States government.

And that’s when things get interesting. Once Doc gets involved you know the bad guys will end up being forced to take just the right medicine.

As always, Doc Ford is a great read. A perfect book for an airline flight either on your way to or returning from your own lost weekend.

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White, “The Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow, “Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child

Way back at the beginning of time only men had bachelor parties.

At their worst the parties lasted through the wee morning hours and involved indiscriminate amounts of alcohol and other forms of “adult” and “male” entertainment.  Many a man woke up with a hurtin’ head and a bad case of embarrassment.

Then the 21st century came along and the parties grew from one night stands to multi-day, multi-thousand dollar “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” events involving even larger amounts of “fun.” Now some men wake up days, weeks even months after their “Lost Vegas Weekend” to find out that their embarrassing moments have followed them well beyond the wee hours of the morning.

Rumor has it that due to the combined benefits of emancipation, women’s liberation, and our amazing progress towards equal-work-for-equal-pay, women now have their own multi-day, how-many-ways-can-I-play bachelorette parties. Parties that can come back to haunt them for days, weeks and even months in the future.

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White

“Black Widow” by Randy Wayne White (G P Putnam’s Sons. $24.95, 337 pages, www.docford.com).

A young woman, Shay, and her bridesmaids held a wild, wild bachelorette party on St. Arc in the Windward Islands. A sleazy blackmailer secretly videotaped the event and was threatening to ruin the lives of everyone involved.

Shay asks her godfather, Doc Ford, for help. A marine biologist by training, Doc is a quiet, peaceful, and deadly violent man who, in addition to marine biology, works as a covert agent for the United States government.

And that’s when things get interesting. Once Doc gets involved you know the bad guys will end up being forced to take just the right medicine.

As always, Doc Ford is a great read.  A perfect book for an airline flight either on your way to or returning from your own lost weekend.

“The Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow (Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95, 307 pages, www.aaknopf.com)

“The Dawn Patrol” by Don Winslow

Boone Daniels is an extremely talented, extremely reluctant private investigator.  He works just enough to keep himself in fish tacos.  His motto is “anything tastes better in a tortilla.”  And no matter what the situation, his first priority is surfing. Everyone knows to look for Boone in the water whenever the waves are “epic macking crunchy.”

But financial realities often force Boone into the violent world of criminal investigations.  Along with the Dawn Patrol (his early morning surf bum friends): Hang Twelve, Dave the Love God, Johnny Bansai, High Tide and Sunny Day, Boone helps a gorgeous, bossy lawyer investigated an insurance scam, which turns out to be a wildly entertaining ride.

Author Winslow has written lots of popular books.  In general, he doesn’t write continuing series character books.

Let’s hope he breaks that tradition and that we see more of Boone Daniels soon.

“Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child

“Nothing To Lose” by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, $27.00, 407 pages, www.leechild.com)

Grit-lit’s favorite tough guy is back!  And as usual, he has nothing to lose.

Reacher is stuck in that place so familiar to many of us; he’s stuck between hope and despair. Unlike many of us aging boomers, Reacher’s problem is not all in his head.  Its physical, he’s stuck in the middle of nowhere between two small towns: Hope and Despair.

“Lose” is typical Reacher. Reacher can’t get a ride, so he walks.  He wants a simple cup of coffee.  He gets accosted by violent locals, arrested for vagrancy and ordered by the local cops to move on.  Something clearly stinks and Reacher decides to find out what.

Reacher’s the ultimate hard man.  No job, no address, no baggage.  And “Nothing To Lose” is the ultimate hard guy book.

8 Steps to a PAIN-FREE BACK!” by Esther Gokhale,

But wait, you say, “I’m like a lot of American’s my back hurts too much to exercise!”

8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back

“8 Steps to a PAIN-FREE BACK!” by Esther Gokhale, L. Ac. (Pendo Press, $24.95, 244 pages, www.pendopress.com)

According to “8 Steps” Americans are ten times more likely to have back pain than people from traditional societies around the world. 85% of the population will suffer from back pain” This is a great, picture filled book, extremely well written and full of proven ways to eliminate back pain without surgery, time-consuming exercises or purchasing anything “as seen on TV.”

Once you’ve conquered your back pain you can ride your bike down to your local polling place and vote for a leader who understands priorities.