“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.

“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!

“Ruby Tuesday” by Mike Harrison

“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.” Continue reading

“Last Call” by James Grippando, “Shrink Yourself by Roger Gould, “The 47th Samurai” by Stephen Hunter, “Midnight Rambler” by James Swain

Four books today. Three of the world’s great tough guys and one that will be tough for even the toughest tough guys to handle.

“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!

Also of course, no pictures. Continue reading

“Blonde Faith” by Walter Mosley

“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. Continue reading

“Now & Then” by Robert Parker

'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)

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’.

“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… Continue reading