“The Sentry” by Robert Crais and “In Dangerous Waters” by Jack Russ

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What happened to all the tough guys?

There used to be dozens: Travis McGee, Spenser, that Maltese Falcon guy, four count ‘em four Cartwright’s – Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe. Plus James Bond.

Dozens were played by “The Duke”.

Plus all of Clint’s best characters.

Today it seems like most of the tough guys are in the movies. In modern thriller/detective tough guy books, we’ve been reduced to two real tough guys: Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Robert Crais’ Joe Pike. The other top tough guy is a gal, Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong.

At the big writer’s conferences, experts say that lead characters –BOTH VILLIANS AND HEROES – need to have flaws. Flaws that make them interesting. Flaws that make them vulnerable. Flaws that make it easier for the common person to relate to them. These same experts say that the heroes and the villains need to be complex with a yin and yang balance of bad and good. That the great compelling bad guys should be like Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.”

I guess Lecter’s complexity and compassion helps the victim feel better when Hannibal’s savoring a teaspoonful of their pre-frontal cortex.

What is the world coming to? Are these experts nuts? Crazy? Or have they just spent too much time admiring their reviews?

Somewhere high in the sky above us, Ben Cartwright and the Duke are rolling their eyes, spitting up their lunch, reaching for their Kindles and thinking “Thank God for Joe Pike and Jack Reacher” as they settle in by a roaring fire, sipping shots of 18 year old bourbon and enjoying the latest Robert Crais novel.

The Sentry

“The Sentry” by Robert Crais (G P Putnam’s Sons Press, $26.95, 306 pages, www.robertcrais.com).

To set the scene for the following quote–Pike’s just discovered two guys kicking and punching the peanut butter out of a man who is curled up on the floor in a fetal ball. The kicker says to Pike.

“You want this &^%$? Get outta here.”

Pike didn’t get out. He stepped inside and closed the door.

Pike saw a flick of surprise in the kicker’s eyes, and the puncher hesitated again. They had expected him to run, one man against two, but Pike did not run.

The victim – the man on the floor – still curled into a ball, mumbled—“I’m okay. Jesus—“

-even as the kicker puffed himself up larger. He raised his fists and stomped toward Pike, a street brawler high on his own violence, trying to frighten Pike away …

… Pike dropped low and accelerated, as smoothly as water flows over rocks. He trapped the man’s arm, rolled it backward, and brought the man down hard, snapping the radius bone and dislocating the ulna. He hit the man one time in the Adam’s apple with the edge of his hand, the water now swirling off rocks as he rose to face the puncher, only the puncher had seen enough…

I liked this book so much I’m going to read it twice.

In Dangerous Waters

“In Dangerous Waters” by Jack Russ (Alamo Hills Press, $15.95, 283 pages, www.www.jackruss.com).

This debut novel from California author Jack Russ is the perfect gift for anyone who ever wondered what it was like to serve in the Navy during the Korean War. “Dangerous” is tightly written, captivating description of a newly minted naval officer’s life at sea.

Having never experienced nearly freezing to deck on the bridge of a naval vessel, I’ll let some folks who have enjoyed the pleasure describe “Dangerous”.

Captain John F. O’Connell, USN (Ret.) “… a classic story of a new naval officer at sea with all its complications and machinery, operational events and personalities.” And Captain L. I. Moore, USN (Ret.) “…As a former destroyer captain and young officer on a destroyer escort at the time, the story brings back vivid memories that tells it like it was.”

Author, Captain Jack Russ, U.S. Navy (Ret.) knows what he writes about. During his thirty-year Navy career he served aboard a destroyer escort, flew off aircraft careers and was a truly tough guy.

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