“Now & Then” by Robert Parker, “Blonde Faith” by Walter Mosley, “Ruby Tuesday” by Mike Harrison

For your intrepid Grit-Lit columnist, the best column of the year is the one where they pay me to be in Mexico, on the beach, drinking a beer, on vacation and someone else writes the column. What’s that boss? Oh yeah, that’s right. The “substitute” writer took one look at the column and said “writing like that would be career suicide!” Guess he was some kind of “Comedian” huh?!

Other than the holy grail of getting paid to drink beer on the beach while someone else does my work, my favorite columns are the tough guy columns. (And just to keep you folks from running directly to your email and filling my inbox with PC outrage – which by the way I WON’T EVEN READ – in the tough guy world, heroes can be men or women. Check out Marlene in the Butch Karp novels or almost any of the women in a Burke novel if you don’t believe me.) Books where the hero alone or with friends takes on evil and — despite hot lead and hotter women — crushes ‘em while protecting the good guys. Of course, mostly everyone except the mandatory dead body or two lives happily ever after.

This month is a tough guy column. YEAH! YIPPPEE! WOWWEE ZOWWEE!

Reader’s looking for namby pamby stories about mystery solving tea drinkers and their “Crime Solving Tonto Cats” please move quickly to the next column and no one will get hurt.

This one column makes all the incredible stress of a writing life worthwhile. From hangnails to hangovers — it all by itself — cures all writing ills. By the time it’s finished I’ll feel better than Santa Claus on December 26th. Tired. Exhausted. But the “good kind of exhaustion” that comes from bringing incredible pleasure to millions. And having a stash of about 2000 dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies – gifts from children around the world — hidden in the stable freezer where Mrs. Claus will never find them. And thank the gods, reindeer are allergic to chocolate! Ample reward for a job well done.

'Now and Then' by

“Now & Then” by Robert Parker (G P Putnam’s Sons, $25.95, 296 pages, www.penguin.com).

Spenser’s been on TV. They’ve made some pretty good and some down right lousy TV movies about the antics of Spenser, Susan and Hawk. With more than 34 best selling Spenser novels, Parker has proven that he’s the king of dialogue driven detective novels.

An example.

“That’s tempting,” I said.

“The Coke?” Epstein said. “Bureau is really pissy about having the SAC drunk during business hours.”

I ordered a scotch and soda. Epstein turned his glass slowly on the bar in from of him.

“Sure,” Epstein said, “Rub my nose in it.”

And a little later…

Then he signaled the bartender and when she came pushed the Coke toward her.

“Take this away,” he said. “Bring me an Absolute martini on the rocks with a twist.”

“Better?” I said.

“You have no idea,” he said.

“I might,” I said

Spenser is funny, violent and backed by bunch of extremely tough guys all, at least for right now, working for “good.” “Now & Then” continues Parker’s remarkable writing streak.

“Ruby Tuesday” by Mike Harrison (ECW Press, $24.95, 263 pages, www.ecwpress.com)

Ruby Tuesday

Harrison’s Eddie Dancer is as close to Spenser as a writer could come without starting a lawsuit. Eddie’s a younger, motorcycle riding Spenser type complete with tough guy sidekick (Danny Many-Guns), steady girlfriend, ER nurse Cindy Palmer, and excellent dialogue.

To wit –

“I need a five-letter word meaning ‘to turn inside out,’” I told her.

She never missed a beat.

“My life.”
“One too many letters.”
And one too many words, but she wasn’t in the mood to stand corrected a second time.

And a bit later

…pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Y’mind?’
“Yup.”
She paused again, the unlit cigarette clamped between full lips.
“You’re kidding?” she said, out the side of her mouth.
“Nope.”
She snatched the cigarette back and crushed it into the carton.
“Jesus H. Christ. Nobody told me you were goody two-shoes.”
She didn’t seem to expect an answer so I just gave her my goody two-shoes smile.

Can’t get enough Spenser? Think Spenser is old and past his prime? BLASPHEMER! Hire Eddie Dancer for protection before Spenser and Hawk come looking for you! Hurry time’s a wastin’.

“Blonde Faith” by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown and Company, $25.99, 308 pages, www.HatchetteBookGroupUSA.com)

This is the 10th Easy Rawlins “thriller” by Mosley.

First, an aside – when did detective books become thrillers? – And why? Do they pay more for thrillers? Do you get bigger movie contracts? Hey publishers, GOOD GRIEF this is a detective book. You can paint an outhouse pink and call it a “Vintage Victorian” but ain’t anyone going to believe you. Your loyal readers have been buying your books off the shelves in mystery and detectives. They aren’t looking for Mosley or Vachss or Spenser or Eddie Dancer or anyone else in “Thrillers.” Exactly where in the bookstore/library is the “Thrillers Shelf”?

After a calming moment of introspective yoga and two legally prescribed pills, we now attempt to complete the column you readers so clearly deserve.

Mosley’s writing makes you think.

“My daughter looked at me, feeling for the first time what it must be like to be in my mind. It was a curse I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.”

Or:

“Jackson tells me that you are the most dangerous man he knows.”

“More dangerous than Mouse?”…

… “He said that Monsieur Mouse was … how do you call it? The most deadly, oui, yes, the most deadly man he knows.”

“He’s right about Mouse,” I said releasing the surprisingly strong handshake. “But I don’t see how I could be more dangerous than that.”

“Raymond (Mouse) just take your life,” Jackson said with a deadly grin on his dark face. “Easy take your soul.”

Easy Rawlins covers growing up and being a black man in LA. Mosley touches tough issues in an enlightening and entertaining way. Worth every penny of the cover price.

And now the good news. The pile of books labeled “read and good enough to review” is still full of outstanding tough guy “thrillers” – RETCH – ready and waiting to fill next month’s exciting bullet, corpse and damsel-in-distress filled column.

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