“The Tenth Circle” by Jon Land and The Athenian Mystery Series by Gary Corby

To get 2014 off to a good start, Grit-Lit is recommending one old, old, old friend. And a brand new series from Gary Corby. If one of your resolutions was to get your kid to read more, then the Corby series is perfect. All three books have been read and enjoyed by Grit-Lit readers from 14 – nearly 60. Even though they are supposedly young adult novels, this hard core grit guy couldn’t put them down.

But first an old friend.

The Tenth Circle

“The Tenth Circle” a Blain McCracken novel by Jon Land. (Open Road Media, $16.99, 340 pages, eBook. On the metaphorical shelves just after January 1.)  www.jonlandbooks.com. You may know Land from his Texas Ranger series featuring Caitlin Strong. But years and years ago, before Caitlin, Land created Blaine McCracken, a no nonsense, get the job done, James Bond-Reacher-Spenser type good guy backed up by a team that includes his pal, 7 foot American Indian, Johnny Wareagle.

When really tough men from Delta, Seals and Rangers look at a job, turn pale and walk quickly away shaking their heads, then and only then does Blaine McCracken’s phone ring.

Here’s a sample.

“I’m glad we all agree that the Iranian nuclear threat can no longer be tolerated,” Berman, the highest-ranking member of the Israeli military left alive who’d fought in the Six-Day War, told them. “We’ve been over all this before. The difference is we’re now certain our defenses cannot withstand an Iranian attack, leaving us with casualty estimates of up to a million dead and two million wounded, many of them gravely. Fifty simulations, all with results similar to the ones you have just witnessed.” He hesitated, eyes hardened through two generations of war boring into the defense minister’s. “I want your formal authorization.”

“For what?”

“To destroy the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.”

Israel’s defense minister started to smile, then simply shook her head. “We’ve been over this before, a hundred times. Our army can’t do it, our air force can’t do it, our commandos can’t do it, and the Americans are saying the very same thing from their end. You want my authorization to do the impossible? You’ve got it. Just don’t expect any backup, extraction, or political cover.”

Yitzak Berman returned his gaze to the wall-sized screen where animated versions of Tel Aviv and Haifa had turned dark. “The man I have in mind won’t need of any of that.”

“Did you say man?”

Then they called McCracken.

The Athenian Mystery Series by Gary Corby.

Corby is fascinated by ancient history, finding it more exciting and bizarre than any modern thriller. He’s combined the ancient world with his love of whodunits, to create an historical mystery series set in classical Greece. His Athenian Mystery series, starring Nicolaos, his girlfriend Diotima, and his irritating twelve year old brother Socrates is a smash hit in our home.

If the following sample doesn’t separate you from your Black Sapphire Master-Visa-Express card, please have your vitals checked.

“A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud. I stopped and stood there like a fool, astonished to see him lying where I was about to step. He lay facedown in the dirt, arms spread wide, with an arrow protruding out his back. He’d been shot through the heart.

“It was obvious he was dead, but I knelt down and touched him anyway, perhaps because I needed to assure myself that he was real. The body was warm to my touch. The blood that stained my fingertips, from where I had touched his wound, was slippery and wet but already beginning to dry in the heat, and the small cloud of dust his fall had raised made my nose itch as it settled.”

“It normally doesn’t rain corpses, so where had this one come from? I looked up…”
Corby encourages readers to take the books in order: “The Pericles Commission,” “The Ionia Sanction,” Sacred Games” and, coming in 2014, “THE MARATHON CONSPIRACY.” More information about his wonderful series can be found at www.garycorby.com.

“A Criminal Defense” by Steven Gore

After a successful career as an international private investigator, Steven Gore “retired” and began writing books. Something tens of thousands of grit-lit readers and a bunch of international crooks are very happy about.

Gore has 5 great books out with two impressive heroes: Graham Gage and Harlan Donnally. Here’s what Grit-Lit said about Graham Gage. “Gripping. Relentless. Authentic. Takes the high stakes political thriller to a new level. The year’s best.”

A Criminal Defense

The latest Donnally novel is, “A Criminal Defense” (St. Martin’s Press, $9.99, 352 pages, paperback.) www.stevengore.com. And here’s all you need to know about it—“What do you call a criminal defense attorney hanging by his neck? When he’s Mark Hamlin, every cop in San Francisco calls it justice.”

In “Power Blind,” Graham Gage takes on a deadly political: a presidential candidate, a federal judge and Charlie Palmer—a specialist in burying the crimes of the political and financial elite. When Palmer is murdered, his wife’s pleas for justice plunges Gage into a morass of murder, corporate cover-ups and money laundering that threaten our democracy.

Local New York Times bestselling, Veronica Rossi, writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction. At least that’s the big words the publisher uses to describe her work.  The series is targeted at young adults but I loved it which must mean I’ve achieved my last year’s resolution to remain young at heart. Her trilogy may have been aimed at people younger than me. But so was Harry Potter. Start with the first book, “Under The Never Sky,” progress to “Through The Never Night” and promise yourself and your reader the gift of “Into The Still Blue”—on sale January 28, 2014. All from Harper Collins this exciting series features interwoven narratives from heroic male and female lead characters. It is incredibly original and most closely compares in feel, but not content to “Hunger Games.” Film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros. And the series has been published in 25 foreign markets.

San Francisco Bay Area writer, Kirk Russell, has eight books featuring two outstanding male leads. The John Marquez novels are well researched eco-thrillers that delve into the underground world of abalone, bear gall bladder and paws, and sturgeon row smugglers. These illegally “harvested” animal products are worth big bucks and come surrounded by dangerous, careful crooks. “Shell Games,” “Night Game,” “DEADGAME,” “REDBACK,” and “Die-Off,” all deserve space on your reading list.

In his Ben Raveneau series, Russell’s delivers crime novels with depth. I think he explains it best, “A thing I love about crime fiction is that you can take something morally ambiguous and put in the background of a novel…You can never preach. No one ever wants to hear that, but you can write with things in the backdrop.” And maybe even more important is his belief, “The old adage is you write what you know, but maybe you write best what you care about.

Check out all three. “A Killing In China Basin,” “Counterfeit Road,” and “One Through The Heart.”

And now, another San Francisco Bay Area legend, John Lescroart. First, let’s get this part right it is pronounced “less-kwah.” His books are printed in 16 languages and more than 75 countries. With famous heroes and heroines like defense attorney Dismas Hardy, Wyatt Hunt and Gina Roake it isn’t hard to imagine why. There are fourteen books in the Dismas Hardy line. The latest is “The Ophelia Cut.”

Brittany McGuire, Hardy’s niece is raped by a recent ex. Within 24 hours, the ex is dead and the leading suspect is Brittany’s father and Dismas’ friend, Moses McGuire. Evidence piles up. Dismas focuses on planting doubt in the minds of the jury. A solution appears. Staggering in both implications and simplicity, it might save them all. But the cost might be too high.

If you are looking for real life, flesh and blood characters, complex ethical and moral issues, great story telling, superb plotting and the ultimate in suspense, check out Lescroart or any of our other great local authors.

“A Criminal Defense” by Steven Gore, “Strong Rain Falling” by Jon Land, and “Never Go Back” by Lee Child

Three of grit-lit’s favorite authors have outstanding new books ready and waiting for your e-reader or nightstand.

I like Steven Gore’s writing so much I’ve read all his books at least twice.

“A Criminal Defense” a Detective Harlan Donnally thriller by Steven Gore. (Harper Collins,

A Criminal Defense

$9.99, 340 pages, paperback.) www.stevengore.com.

Just three sentences demonstrate why Gore’s books have been on best seller lists around the world.

“I know who killed Mark Hamlin.”

“A recorded voice overrode the next words spoken by the man. ‘This is a call from a California state prison.’”

And that’s all it took for me to be hooked.

And just to prove those aren’t the only three great sentences in the book, here’s some more.”

“But it was only now, gazing at the criminal defense attorney hanging by his neck from the Fort Point lighthouse, that Donnally realized these thoughts were reverberations from the last case he’d cleared as a homicide detective a decade earlier. They’d echoed not only in his unease about the uncertainties and entanglements awaiting him in the shadow of the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, but in his musing about the mechanics of life and death…”

A detective who’s investigated sex and drug trafficking, political corruption and organized crime around the world. Gore is trained in forensic science and has been featured on 60 minutes. If you want to know what it is really like to be a private investigator, you need to read “A Criminal Defense” and his first Donnally book “Act Of Deceit”. Then pick up all three of his equally outstanding Graham Gage novels: “Final Target,” “Absolute Risk,” and “Power Blind.”

Invest fifty bucks or so in all five paperbacks. Read ‘em front to back a couple of times. Make notes. By the end you’ll know almost everything you need to know to be a private eye.

Except how to shoot. And how to avoid being shot at.

Strong Rain Falling

“Strong Rain Falling” a Caitlin Strong Novel by Jon Land (Forge, $25.99, 364 pages, hardback.) www.jonlandbooks.com

The thriller world needs more women. And Land’s Caitlin Strong is simply the best.

“Strong Rain” is an outstanding example of a bigger than life heroes and heroines, defiled, demented bad guys, twisted plots and entertainment that’s more addicting than Godiva chocolate laced crack.

“The boy walked out of the desert, the late-afternoon sun in his face, his skin burned red, parched lips marred by jagged cracks. His tattered clothes carried the thick, smoky scent of mesquite mixed with the acrid stench of burned wood, as if his journey had taken him through a brush fire burning to the southwest.

But it was the flecks of blood staining his face, shirt, and sweat soaked hair, tangled with wisps of tumbleweed, that caught John Rob Salise’s eye …”

Texas Ranger Caitlin and her lover, former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters take on the Mexican drug cartels. A bloody real world battle being fought in “Strong Rain” and the front page of your favorite daily newspaper.

Never Go Back

“Never Go Back” a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. $28.00. 397 pages. Hardback. Random House. www.leechild.com.

Seventeen mega-bestsellers. A major motion picture. Published in almost 100 countries with 70 million copies worldwide. And readers so loyal that my review copy always “disappears” somewhere between my mailbox and my desk.

Child can nail you with just one word. Don’t believe it? I’ll show you. This is the first line from “Never.”

“Eventually they put Reacher in a car and drove him to a motel a mile away, where the night clerk gave him a room, which had all the features Richer expected, because he had seen such rooms a thousand times before.”

One word, eventually, creates tension, excitement, mystery and captures your soul. Something it could take a lesser author three pages to do. You can’t read that sentence without screaming— “EVENTUALLY? What do you mean eventually? What happened before they put Reacher in a car?”

I gotta know. And I bet you do too.

“Ice Cold Kill” by Dana Haynes, “Seal Team Six” and “Hunt The Wolf” by Don Mann with Ralph Pezzullo, “Eye for An Eye” a Dewey Andreas Novel by Ben Coes, and “The Utopia Experiment” a Covert-One-Novel by Kyle Mills

This started out to be a tough-guy, military-guy or at least an honorable-CIA-spy-guy column but Dana Haynes lead character from “Ice Cold Kill”, Daria Gibron, kept popping up from out of nowhere and treating my arm like it was her own personal pipe cleaner. You know—bend it this way, bend it that way, bend-it-bend-it-bend-it-real-fast, rest, now break-it-in-half-and-twist-everything-into-an-ugly-circle—that kind of pipe cleaner.

She wanted in the column. Said there was no point in me having two arms if I was only going to write a column that covered half the real world. And promised that I could keep my write arm (pun intended) if “Ice Cold Kill” got the lead.

Here’s a quote. “Before he was aware of it, she slid behind him, pulled up his arm, and twisted painfully. His shoulder popped out of its socket and lights flashed before his eyes.”

Ice Cold Kill

You get the idea. Tight basic prose that doesn’t get in the way.

Daria Gibron is a woman with an uncertain future. Former Shin-Bet, exiled to the USA under FBI protection, she’s a thrill junkie who still freelances. She’s trigger-happy, focused, extremely dangerous and never, ever boring.

“Ice Cold Kill.” (Minotaur Books, $25.995, 343 pages, hardback.) www.dana-haynes.com

Now some tough guys.

“Seal Team Six” and “Hunt The Wolf” both Thomas

Seal Team Six Hunt the Wolf

Crocker thrillers by Don Mann with Ralph Pezzullo (Mulholland Books $25.99, hardbacks.) www.usfrogman.com.

These books were cracked open with lots of trepidation. Fears of 500 word Clancy weapon-orgasmagraphs (paragraphs of weapons copy filled with gynecological level details about our military’s latest and greatest weapons) that would make me long to reread Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In the original Russian.

I was as wrong as a donut at Weight Watchers.

Crocker’s a tough guy’s tough guy. He and his team protect the USA from, well, pretty darn much everybody.  In “Wolf” the team moves from Pakistan to the streets of Jordan taking on Islamic militants and al-Qaeda. Then—BANG! In “Scorpion” the team leaps on pirates off the east coast of Africa.

Don Mann has been associated with the Seals for 30 years as a platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader and more. (So I’d guess he knows what he’s writing about.)

To me both books read like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Fast and clean. There’s more military structure, more politics and lots of action. HOOAH!

Eye for An Eye

“Eye for An Eye” a Dewey Andreas Novel by Ben Coes (St. Martin’s Press., $25.99, 400 pages, hardback.) www.bencoes.com

This July you can pick up the latest Dewey Andreas novel, “Eye For An Eye.” But why wait. USA Today Bestseller “The Last Refuge” and “Coup D’etat,”—the  novel perennial New York Times #1 bestselling author Brad Thor described as ‘ Brilliantly executed … fantastic.”—and the first Dewey Andreas book, “Power Down” are all on the book shelves right now.

This quote was picked by pulling the top paragraph froma random page. “The heat inside the room was cranked up. Both men were sweating, but Bhutta, with his wrists shackled behind his back—and the muzzle of Dewey’s Colt M1911 aimed at his head – was sweating a little more.”

Top of the next page. “Yes, even Bhutta could see the toughness now, as he stared at the American. It was the same meanness and detachment that Bhutta knew had probably coursed in the blood of the men who so long ago had kicked the crop out of the British, a determination that, to the Iranian’s mind at least, was a s defeating as anything he’d ever experienced.”

Coes web site says it all in just five little words. “High concept meets high octane.”

But wait there’s more.

Check out “Targets of  Revenge,” the new Jordan Sandor thriller by Jeffrey S. Stephens.

Targets of Revenge

Sandor’s a CIA tough guy backed by a skilled team of agents who carry out secret operations around the globe. Absolutely excellent! $26. 441 pages. Hardback from Gallery Books. http://www.jeffreystephens.com/

And even more. “The Utopia Experiment” a Covert-One-Novel by Kyle Mills. $26.99. 422 pages. Hardback. From Grand Central Publishing. www.kylemills.com

The President has his own private super hero team: Covert-One. The last resort for global scale threats. Colonel Jon Smith heads the team reviewing a tremendous intelligence breakthrough—a  personal enhancement system that combines your iPhone and the upcoming google glasses while offering Dr. Phil like insights on peoples character and lets you shoot and hit bad guys you couldn’t normally see.

Too scary. Too likely to be real. Imagine what could happen when things go bad.

“Notorious Nineteen” a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich, “Through The Ever Night” by Veronica Rossi, “The Intercept” Dick Wolfe, and “Blood Money” James Grippando

At Grit-Lit, being a reviewer of books, we lust for the job of movie reviewer. Imagine driving to the theater, buying tickets, popcorn, chocolate covered raisins and a soda large enough to bath a golden retriever. Then settling into a comfortable chair where you “work” for 90 minutes or so. Write a column and put the whole thing, including mileage and parking, on your expense report.

Wowser, what a life!

But then as a writer, you want to cry for authors whose wonderful books have been turned into movies so bad you worry the author will stop writing—forever.

This could have happened in the new Jack Reacher film. Based on “On Shot”—an outstanding Reacher book and a Grit-Lit favorite—just the words “Starring Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher” might have sent perennial New York Times bestselling author, Lee Child, scurrying to hide in the Harry Potter Suite of an abandoned home in his native England. How in the world could five and a half feet of Tom Cruise convincingly portray six foot five inch, 250 pound Jack Reacher?

Unbelievably well is the answer.

And the box office proves it.

But pity poor Janet Evanovich. Katherine Heigl signed on to play Stephanie Plumb in “One For The Money” and we all said “OOOH! Perfect!” Then the theater lights dimmed, the curtains pulled back and … we all prayed that the movie wouldn’t kill the books.

Evanovich’s Stephanie Plumb books are filled with romance (though not sexually explicit) and hilarious, with just enough gritty action to have gathered and kept this reviewer’s attention for 19 novels.

Notorious Nineteen

“Notorious Nineteen” a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich (Bantam Books, $18.00, 312 pages, hard cover.) www.evanovich.com.

In “Nineteen” Stephanie is trying to get her always empty check book back in the black. She’s skip chasing Geoffrey Cubbin who’s accused of embezzling millions from Trenton New Jersey’s premier assisted-living facility. But he’s disappeared. Stephanie has to work with her current boyfriend and Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morrelli and with her former romantic partner, the mouth watering, mysterious, “Ranger.”

Classic Evanovich, unsullied by Hollywood.

“Through The Ever Night” by Veronica Rossi (Harper Collins, $17.99, 352 pages, trade

Through the Ever Night

paperback.) www.veronicarossi.com.

Continuing in the theme of romance laced Grit-Lit, we move to another great series. Rossi’s first book, “Under The Never Sky” was a huge hit. “Night” the second book in the trilogy continues the fascinating mixture of fantasy, sci-fi and “dystopian elements.”

(And now a brief pause for a sponsored message: Dystopian means “a, usually fictional society that is undesirable or frightening. Thank you to our new sponsor the Merriam Webster online dictionary.)

A very cool, thankfully vampire free, dystopian story of survival in a perilous world of the future. Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies and powerful temptations, the story’s heroes, Aria and Perry, continue their struggle to help the people they care about survive a world in turmoil and dangerous storms that erupt with little warning from the sky.

The Interecept

“The Intercept” Dick Wolfe (William Morrow, $26.99, 400 pages, hard cover.) www.harpercollins.com.

Moving away from grit-romance to Jeremy Fisk, rule breaker and officer in the NYPD’s international intelligence gathering agency. A group that is kind of NYC’s version of the CIA. Fisk’s partner, Krina Gersten, is a fourth generation cop with the brains and guts required to keep Fisk from going too far over the line.

“Intercept” is the first novel by award-winning writer, director, producer Dick Wolfe, the guy behind television’s Law & Order. His proven storytelling and character developmental skills are all over “Intercept.”

An international terrorist incident occurs just days before the fourth of July. Fisk and Gersten swing into action, convinced, correctly that worse things are planned for NYC.

Blood Money

“Blood Money” James Grippando (Harper, $26.99, 352 pages, hard cover.) www.facebook.com/jgrippando.

Grit-Lit Favorite Jack Swyteck returns in the most sensational murder trial since O.J.  A sexy, night club party girl, Sydney Bennett, is accused of murdering her two-year-old. Judged guilty by a nation of TV jurors, the trial is complicated when a Sydney Bennett look alike is nearly killed by a mob protesting against Sydney.

As always, Grippando tells a swervy, curvy tale with surprises and tension on every page.

Here’s hoping this one turns into a movie made by the same folks who made Jack Reacher.

“Hardcase,” by Dan Simmons and “Lullaby” a Robert B. Parker Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins

Everyone month, because of the clout of this fine family publication, I receive a ton of books. I pore over this endless smorgasbord because I love you dear reader, and want to be able to recommend enthralling grit-lit, not because I am a reading addict; I do this only for you… After reviewing thousands of books I am constantly amazed that books don’t get better every year.

Computers get better every year. iPhones get better every year. Spouses get better every year. Yes, I meant that. If you think younger spouses are better spouses in the words of the Three Stooges, “Youse need to get your head examined.”

But new authors? Sometimes worse, not better. Even establish perennial New York Times bestselling authors can’t be counted on to get better every year. Like Android phones they fall into the MORE trap. More WORDS. More COMPLEX . More WIERD.

In the grit-lit world, we subscribe to the Apple dictum that MORE is not necessarily better. Unless you can use it and enjoy it.

Last month a regular grit-lit reader, Steven Gore, www.stevengore.com, author of two excellent, hit thriller series—one featuring Harlan Donnally and the other Graham Gage— introduced me to Dan Simmons.


“Hardcase,” by Dan Simmons. (St. Martin’s Minotaur $6.99, 291 pages, paper back. www.minotaurbooks.com.  Like a $5 cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard and lettuce can be better than the latest $25 burger with gourmet bacon, artisanal blue, Black Trumpet mushrooms and organic lettuce with beurre blanc on a minimalist, barely toasted English muffin like roll,  Simmon’s terse prose and tight plotting can be better than the latest 600 page tome.

If you like what writing critics refer to as minimalist prose —meaning not a lot of description about the flowers in the lobby or the color of the bad guy’s socks—Simmons grit-lit thrillers are for you.

“Kurtz kicked the door in, ripping the chain lock out of the wood, and kept moving, shoving Eddie Falco deeper into the room. Eddie was several inches taller and at least thirty pounds heavier than Kurtz, but Kurtz had momentum on his side.”

Enough words for a picture. But notice what is missing. No description of the wood grain in the door, or Kurtz sadistic smile or the fear in Falco’s eyes. Details that detract from the action.

The story line is engaging without being so complex that you can’t remember what is going on if you put the book down between your inbound and outbound commutes.

Here’s the plot, without spoiling the ending. In 48 hours, Kurtz has two minor league killers and a legendary Danish hit man on his tail , plus a gorgeous woman in his bed and … ah, heck. Do you really need to know anything more?

Simmons has been described as “A Hardcore Full-Tilt Rocket Ride” by the Rocky Mountain News. Dean Koontz— who knows just a little about telling a story— says, “Dan Simmons is brilliant.”

Another author who never fell into the MORE trap was the legendary Robert Parker. Ace Atkins has picked up Parker’s Spenser series and Grit-Lit reports an Ace Atkin’s Spenser is so good you’ll think Parker is still swilling coffee and punching the keys on his old Underwood manual typewriter.


“Lullaby” a Robert B. Parker Spenser Novel by Ace Atkins. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons $26.95, 310 pages, hard cover.) www.aceatkins.com.

Fourteen-year-old Mattie Sullivan gets Spenser to help her find out who murdered her mother. Spenser and Hawk look into it. No one’s keen on Spenser dredging up the past. But that’s what he does.

If you want a book where the plot twists don’t leave you more frustrated than Santa surrounded by a thousand chimney free homes give Atkins and Simmons a look.

“Wish List: A Donovan Creed Novel” by John Locke, “Raylan” by Elmore Leonard, and “All I Did Was Shoot My Man” by Walter Mosley

For years, self-published authors have been treated with disdain. The industry referred to them as “vanity authors” and said they weren’t real, published authors for one simple reason. They weren’t any good.

Perhaps that was true—then—but with the explosion of e-readers, it isn’t true anymore. Innovative, aggressive authors can now take their work directly to market without help from fancy big-city publishing firms.

Meet John Locke, New York Times bestselling author, and the only self-published author to sell more than 1 MILLION Kindle books. As of December 24th he was the 8th bestselling author on Kindle having sold more than 1,720,000 books. And that’s only his Kindle sales. His titles are also available on the other big e-book platforms.

Every eBook he’s written has become a best seller. Without, until now, an actual, printed on paper book.

Wish List

“Wish List: A Donovan Creed Novel” by John Locke. (John Locke Books $4.99, 215 pages, paperback.) www.donovancreed.com.

Locke’s goal is simple, to entertain a reader and make them forget their troubles for a little while at a bargain price. (Note the $4.99 cover price!)

If the low price scares you, Grit-Lit is here to tell you the books are great. While they don’t fit a specific mold, if you were to combine Robert Parker’s Spenser novels with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you’d have something kinda, sorta like Locke’s Donovan Creed books. Light hearted books with a dangerous hero, Donovan Creed a former CIA assassin with a weakness for very easy women. The action is fast, the dialogue is smart and sexy. The stories are filled with quirky characters and clever surprises.

Raylan: A Novel

“Raylan” by Elmore Leonard. (William Morrow $26.99, 263 pages, hard cover.) www.elmoreleonard.com

The latest TV show to go viral in the Grit-Lit household is “Justified.” Set in rural Kentucky “Justified” is based on an Elmore Leonard short story by. Now, in a rare twist, a short story begat a hit TV series which begat a novel, “Raylan.”

Raylan Givens is a Stetson wearing, fast drawing US Marshall who always shoots to kill. A former miner who escaped to Miami, only to be sent back to Kentucky by a Marshall service hoping to cure or at least bury his trigger happy ways, Raylan juggles dozens of cases from stolen body parts to violent, high dollar marijuana growing operations.

Leonard is famous for prose that often omits “proper usage.” His style puts more emphasis on accelerating the pace than it does on complete sentences and pronouns. His dialog accurately reflects real life conversations. Meaning conversations that aren’t linear, may not be logical and (like many conversation in real life) might relate more to a previous discussion or a forthcoming one than the sentences that came directly before.

Many readers find an adjustment is required. It took this reviewer awhile to get into the flow.

Fascinating characters, complex stories and a writing style that you’ll either love or maybe barely tolerate.

All I Did Was Shoot My Man"

“All I Did Was Shoot My Man” by Walter Mosley. (Riverhead Books, $29.95, 304 pages, hard back.) www.waltermosley.com

Mosley’s written 34 books. His latest series featuring Leonid McGill is ever more engaging than his outstanding Easy Rawlins books.

Zella comes home to find her man in bed with her friend. She doesn’t remember shooting him, but she doesn’t deny it either. Believing Zella is innocent, Leonid investigates. But the more he works the more complicated his life becomes. His son moves in with an ex-prostitute girlfriend. His wife drinks too much. And his youngest son is trying to get him to give up his own law bending ways.

Mosley’s characters are diverse, colorful and engaging. More than just shoot ‘em ups, Mosley’s work delves deeper into bigger stories with more emotional impact. “All” is an excellent thriller, but it is also the story of one man’s attempt to stay connected to his family.

“Betrayal” by Robert Fitzpatrick and Jon Land, “Dark Revelations” by Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski, and “Hard Target” by Howard Gordon

Fans of the lone-tough-guy/gal genre have lots of heroes and heroines to choose from: Jack Reacher, Spenser, Doc Ford, Caitlin Strong … the list of fictional characters to love and admire is truly astonishing.


But have you ever wondered what a real world “grit-lit” hero’s life is like? Get thee to your favorite source of books – library, book store or the ethereal cloud—and check out “Betrayal” by Robert Fitzpatrick and Jon Land. (Tor/Forge. $27.95 hardcover. $14.99 trade paperback. 320 pages. ) www.jonlandbooks.com

From the first line, “You want a bullet in the head?” Betrayal explodes off the page.

The true story of FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick, “Betrayal” was co-written with bestselling novelist Jon Land. (Land’s touch is apparent throughout the book. Author of more than 30 grit-lit novels including the best selling Caitlin Strong series, Land’s style makes “Betrayal” a can’t put down bestseller).  Fitzpatrick pulled himself out of the slums to become a stellar FBI agent pursuing incredibly powerful gang lords like Whitey Bulger. Bulger was wanted throughout the USA. And at considerable risk to himself, Fitzpatrick brought him to justice.

“Betrayal” is a real-life, grit-lit story with a surprising twist. Fitzpatrick was not just worried about being killed by monsters on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. The worst danger he face was from other members of the FBI.

J Edgar’s organization was plagued by the same bureaucracy, politics and backstabbing you experience everyday in your job. But, unless you’re a cop, in the military or made some unusual life choices, your coworkers don’t carry guns. These “good guys” do! And they know killers and crooks who owe them favors. Guys who wouldn’t blink at popping a cap in Fitzpatrick.

A thrilling look at the life of a law enforcement hero.

Dark Revelations

“Dark Revelations” by Anthony E. Zuiker with Duane Swierczynski. (Dutton $26.95, 352 pages, hard cover.) www.level26.com

A new grit-lit discovery you will love. “Dark” is the third book in the Steven Dark trilogy by Anthony Zuiker. You might know Zuiker. He created CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. And brings the same story telling fire power to “Dark.”

From page 1.

It is well-known among law enforcement personnel that murderers can be categorized as belonging to one of twenty-five levels of evil, from the naïve opportunists starting out at Level 1 to the organized, premeditated torture-murderers who inhabit Level 25.

What almost no one knows is that a new category of killer has emerged. And only one man is capable of stopping them.

His targets:

Level 26 killers.

His methods:

Whatever it takes.

His name:

Steve Dark.

Readers’ meet you new grit-lit hero, Steve Dark.

Hard Target

“Hard Target” by Howard Gordon. (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 274 pages, hard back.) www.howardmgordon.com.

Wow! Another grit-lit worthy tough guy character I’ve never read! YIPPEE.

Unlikely hero, Gideon Davis is settling into a quiet life as an academic when he discovers a potential terrorist attack on the good ol’ US of A. But the FBI doesn’t believe him because the source of his intell is an unreliable meth-head member of a white supremacist group. (TIP TO THE FBI—there are no reliable meth heads.)

With the help of his brother, Tillman, Gideon exposes a plan to kill not just the President and the VP, but also a whole bunch of prominent US leaders.

Given the state of leadership in the USA right now, you could reasonably be cheering for the bad guys. (Come on Washington agree on some reasonable actions so we can get our collective rears in gear. We’re American’s that’s what we do. Stop all this back sniping tom foolery it just makes us voters want to wretch—and now we return to your regularly scheduled column). “Target” roars to an exciting conclusion that will leave you waiting, impatiently, for Gordon’s next thriller.

“Power Blind” by Steven Gore, “Cannibal Reign” by Thomas Koloniar, “Rizzoli & Isles Last To Die” by Tess Gerritsen, “The Survivor” by Gregg Hurwitz, and “freak” by Jennifer Hillier

It’s August, time for the end of summer thrillers, and the perfect time to answer a frequent reader question—“How do you write a column?”

Every month I sort through a big, brightly colored, lopsided, pile of books looking for ones you will enjoy. If, after 50 pages or so, an author’s labors don’t grab me its bye-bye-bookie. By the time the deadline arrives, I’ve read ten or fifteen books I’m hoping you will enjoy.

Then I start writing pithy, memorable, punchy copy that captures the feeling of a book in just a few words.

Power Blind

If I was a big city publishing icon, here’s a few of the blurbs I’d have put on the cover of Steven Gore’s latest Graham Gage paperback thriller, “Power Blind.” (Harper Collins, $9.99, 512 pages.) www.stevengore.com.

“THE summer thriller.”

“The kind of book your momma warned you not to read before bed.”

“Intensely compelling. Grippingly authentic. Thrilling to the end.”

“Captivatingly complex and relentlessly entertaining.”

A former international private eye, Gore’s thrillers draw on his real life experience digging into murders, fraud, money laundering, organized crime, political corruption, drugs, sex, and arms trafficking in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Gore has been featured on 60 Minutes and been honored for excellence in his field.

In “Blind” Gage finds himself engulfed in murder, money laundering and corruption masking a political money laundering operation that threatens to topple the USA.

Here’s what I say. “Gripping. Relentless. Authentic. The Year’s Best.”

Still sitting on the fence about spending $9.99 on the best night’s entertainment you’ve ever had? Reread the blurbs.

Cannibal Reign

“Cannibal Reign,” by Thomas Koloniar. (Harper Collins $7.99, 502 pages, paperback.) www.harpercollins.

Koloniar has turned a tired concept (meteor hits earth destroying life as we know it) into one of the best first novels I’ve read in a very long time.

“Cannibal” is life after a catastrophic asteroid strike. Who lives? Who dies? And what must the remaining humans do live?

“Rizzoli & Isles Last To Die” by Tess Gerritsen (Ballantine Books, $27, 338 pages, hard cover.) www.tessgerritsen.com

In a book forum Tess Gerritsen posed the question, “Why don’t they just review my book?” Ever since, I’ve wanted to review one of her immensely popular Rizzoli & Isles novels.

Reader’s who’ve watched the “Rizzoli & Isles” TV show will find the book slightly different than the show. In “Last” the long time crime fighting team is on the outs, separated by Isles’ testimony in a court trial that sent a cop to jail.

In “Last” twelve year old Teddy Clock’s family is massacred. Two years later, his foster family is slaughtered, leaving him, again, the only survivor. To protect him, Rizzoli moves Teddy to a special school for “victims of evil” that can provide the protection he needs where she discovers two other children with pasts shockingly similar to Teddy’s and a predator out to kill them all.

The Survivor

“The Survivor” by Gregg Hurwitz. (St. Martin’s Press. $25.99, 384 pages, hard cover.) www.gregghurwitz.net

Nate Overbay, dying former soldier, goes to an eleventh floor bank, climbs out onto a ledge, ready for suicide.  In the bank behind him, robbers begin shooting bank employees and customers. Having nothing to lose, Nate crawls back in and begins knocking off the robbers.

And that’s where the story begins. Then the come the Russian mobsters, the media exposure and the tension of slowly dying with ALS. A disease he can’t seem to tell his ex-wife and daughter about.


“freak” by Jennifer Hillier. (Gallery Books. $24.99, 384 pages, hard cover.) www.jenniferhillier.org.

The first sentence of this book hooked me. “There was something *&^%$# up about a job where cocaine was overlooked, but cigarettes would get you fired.”

Abby Maddox is a prison celebrity. Her fame derived from being the lover of a serial killer and for slashing a police officer’s throat. Now the bodies of young women are turning up. Each has been carved with a cryptic message that alludes to Abby.

Warning. Graphic sex. Great writing. And after a gang buster opening there’s a slow spot in the first 10-50 or so pages. But the investment of time is well worth it.

“The Bourne Imperative,” by Eric Van Lustbader, “Chasing Midnight,” by Randy Wayne White, and “Spycatcher” by Matthew Dunn

June is spy month at Grit-Lit with the latest Jason Bourne, a new Doc Ford and the paperback release of “Spycatcher.”

The Bourne Imperative

“The Bourne Imperative,” by Eric Van Lustbader. (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 435 pages, hard back.) www.ericvanlustbader.com

In my experience, books are almost always better than the movie versions with the Bourne and Bond films the only possible exceptions. No matter how good the acting and special effects, nothing is more powerful than an engaged reader’s imagination. Certainly the Ian Fleming Bond books were better than any of the movies not done by one of the real Bonds (Sean Connery, Daniel Craig) and the Bourne books are every bit the equal of the Matt Damon films.

Taking up where Bourne’s creator, the immortal Robert Ludlum left off, Lustbader has authored six Bourne novels that grip you in ways that no mere movie can compete with.

“…He had met her in a packed, smoke-blurred bar in Dahr El Ahmar—or maybe now he would admit to himself that she had met him, that every gesture, ever word out of her mouth, had been by design. Events seemed so clear now that he was on the precipice of either escape or death. She had played him instead of the other way around—he, the consummate professional. How had she so easily slipped inside his defenses? But he knew, he knew: the exterminating angel was irresistible.”

Classic Bourne, every bit as good as if Ludlum had written it himself.

Chasing Midnight

“Chasing Midnight,” by Randy Wayne White. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons $25.95, 315 pages, hard back.) http://www.docford.com or www.rwwhite.com.

First, a quote from Randy Wayne White, “I learned long ago, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, an author loses credibility if he’s caught in a factual error. Because of this, I do extensive research before starting a new Doc For novel, and Chasing Midnight required more research than most.”

One of the great things about the Doc Ford series is that you can learn a lot of great things without the pain of having to read dusty, boring text books or wondering if what you just read in Wikipedia is true or some author’s paranoid, post traumatic LSD flashback.

“I was beneath fifteen feet of water, at night, observing a dinosaurian fish, when something exploded and knocked out the islands underwater lights.”

“The fish, a Gulf sturgeon, was armor plated, three feet long, hunkered close to the bottom as it fed. Its close relative, the beluga sturgeon, is the gold standard of the caviar lovers, and a sacred cow to the global, billion-dollar caviar trade.”

In “Chasing” caviar and environment extremists are scrambled up with billionaire international criminals, a notorious Russian black marketer and whacko-violent-greenies in a story that requires Doc Ford coming to the rescue.

Set in the exotic Florida Keys, along the way you’ll learn about the caviar industry, boating, diving, weapons and women.


“Spycatcher” by Matthew Dunn. (Harper $9.99, 521 pages, paperback.) www.harpercollins.com.

“Spycatcher” was recently released as a paperback and the second excellent book in the series, “Sentinel,” will hit your favorite book seller’s shelves in August.

Both easily qualify to be included in the most valuable spot in your carryon luggage. You know the one. That last remaining empty space. Where you could stuff enough underwear and sox to wear clean every day or you could rough it a few days and cram in another couple of books. “Spycatcher” belongs in that space. My condolences to the person next to you on the plane.

Author Dunn was a British MI6 spy. Worked all over the world. So he knows his stuff. His hero, Will Cochrane doesn’t playing by the rules. He just gets jobs that must be done, done. A unique insight into a world most of us will never see outside the covers of a book.

Or perhaps someday in a movie that will be as good as the best of Bond and Bourne.