“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, “Plum Lovin’!” by Janet Evanovich, “Hell’s Bay” by James W. Hall

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 (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.

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.

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.

“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.

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker (J. P. Putnam’s Sons, $25. 95, 292 pages, www.robertbparker.net)

But it’s still possible to have great adventures.

Clement Salvadori has traveled all over the world on a motorcycle. Country after country he’s met and enjoyed encounters with locals.

I tend to believe that adventure travelers are either: big budget movie stars traveling with a slew of mechanics, cameramen and credit cards or “MacGyver Types” who can repair a destroyed $20,000 BMW motorcycle with duct tape and a Swiss Army knife.

Salvadori proves I am wrong. He’s not mechanically gifted. He’s not rich. When things go all cockeyed he has to rely on his optimistic outlook and help from the people who happen along.

A quote: “The way I want to go from New York to Los Angeles will cost me more and take me longer than the red-eye express but that’s my choice … I’ll eat grits and drink a quart of coffee in Omar, West Virginia. Find a place to camp … maybe throw line in the water. Hunker down in a cheap motel …while the rain thunders down like the 40 days and nights all over again.”

“I get cold; I get wet; I’ll be hungry; I’ll be tired. And you can bet I’ll be happy. But one trip ends, and before long another begins. Occasionally I’ll wonder why I’m doing this. Then I’ll wake up in a tent with a view of all that makes this country beautiful, and then I’ll know why.”

101 Road Tales (The Faces of Motorcycling) by Clement Salvadori

101 Road Tales (The Faces of Motorcycling) by Clement Salvadori

“101 Road Tales” by Clement Salvadori (Whitehorse Press, $24.95, 383 pages, www.whitehorsepress.com)

These next guys stole my book. For years I’ve wanted to ride a motorcycle across the country, eating at all the strange, quirky restaurants that dot America.

Alston Brown and his camera crew road from Louisiana to Minnesota stopping and eating and at as many hole-in-the-wall restaurants as humanly possible. Complete with maps, photos and recipes, “Feasting” is a great look at what food was like before McDonald’s.

And you can’t tell me that this wasn’t a death defying adventure. They ate “Koolickles” (huge kosher dills marinated in cherry Kool-Aid), chitlins and mounds of homemade pork cracklins (your cardiologist knows cracklins as deep fried pork skin).

Even Daniel Boone would say “I’d rather kill a bear with only my knife than risk my life eating like you’all jes’ did.”

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker, 101 Road Tales by Clement Salvadori

In the 1800 a man’s life was filled with adrenaline adventures. Daniel Boone killed a bear–with his knife.  Men traveled west shooting buffalos, fighting injuns, discovering gold, conquering the unknown.

Nowadays unless you’re an astronaut, stress is what gets your adrenaline pumping: that flashing red light in your rearview mirror, flop sweat during an IRS audit, or my personal favorite the “pink slip”.

If the stress of daily life has gotten you down, “Resolution” by Robert Parker will make you feel better.  At least nobody is shooting at you.

“Resolution” is a good old-fashioned western.  Complete with bargirls, showdowns and conniving bad guys.  It’s the story of how Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole bring harmony to the Old West town of Resolution.

Here is an example: “I cocked both barrels.  The sound of them cocking was very loud in the room.  Virgil Cole always used to say, You gotta kill someone, do it quick.  Don’t look like you got pushed into it.  Look like you couldn’t wait to do it. It was as if I could hear his voice as I looked at the men in front of me: Sometimes you got to kill one person early, to save killing four or five later.”

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker

“Resolution” by Robert B. Parker (J.  P.  Putnam’s Sons, $25. 95, 292 pages, www.robertbparker.net)

But it’s still possible to have great adventures.

Clement Salvadori has traveled all over the world on a motorcycle. Country after country he’s met and enjoyed encounters with locals.

I tend to believe that adventure travelers are either: big budget movie stars traveling with a slew of mechanics, cameramen and credit cards or “MacGyver Types” who can repair a destroyed $20,000 BMW motorcycle with duct tape and a Swiss Army knife.

Salvadori proves I am wrong.  He’s not mechanically gifted.  He’s not rich.  When things go all cockeyed he has to rely on his optimistic outlook and help from the people who happen along. Continue reading

“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.”

Continue reading