Wonderful Reads From Boyd, Hunter & Dietrich

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This is the entire Grit-Lit column as it appears in newspapers throughout the United States in February 2010

Yesterday I was in Vegas. Where I discovered you can buy a great hardback for less than the price of a couple of drinks. Listen, I’m talking about a drink. Not some metro-sexual-handmade-fruit-squished-with-an-exotic-hardwood-mortar-and-crystal-pestal-chocolate-flavored-dessert-in-a-glass-martini. I’m talking about a plain old man’s drink– bourbon and soda “big and dark, thank you.” Two cost $26. Plus tip. I should have spent that dough on any one of these books. It would have been money better spent.

Noah Boyd's The Brick Layer

“The Brick Layer” by Noah Boyd. (William Morrow, $24.99, 390 pages. Hard cover.)

Boyd’s an ex-FBI agent with more than 20 years experience. He knows bad guys and good ones, too.

“Brick Layer” is his first novel. Hero Steve Vail, an ex-FBI agent fired for insubordination, is working as a bricklayer when he is lured back to work a deadly, unsolvable case.

Good story. Fast paced. Here’s an example.

“Ronson swung and caught him full on the jaw, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. The mason countered with a straight right to the middle of the robber’s face, snapping his head back violently and buckling his knees. The bricklayer grabbed him, turned, and launched him through the adjoining window, shattering it as well.”

“Outside, one of the reporters yelled to his cameraman, “Did you get it? Both of them?”

“Oh, yeah. Every beautiful bounce.”

Great action. Great writing. Great story.

And now, an old buddy I’d be glad to share a $13 drink with.

Stephen Hunter

“I, Sniper” by Stephen Hunter. (Simon & Schuster, $26, 432 pages. Hard cover.)

Hunter has been a favorite of Grit-Lit for years. His “Bob Lee Swagger Novels” are, what does my kid say, “The bomb?” Or is it “Dope”? Aw heck, nothing worse than a middle-aged dude trying to sound cool.

Bob Lee Swagger is Hunter’s best work. He’s tried to keep the stories fresh by following the family tree – Bob’s daddy when he’s young, Bob’s daddy when he’s older, Bob when he’s young … And they are all good, but the Bob Lee Swagger’s are the best. This graphic description of the bad guy at work is just one reason why.

I, Sniper

“He spared her and America the disturbing phenomenon of a head shot. Instead, he fired from about 340 yards out and sent a 168-grain Sierra hollow point boat tail MatchKing on a slight downward angle at 2,300 feet per second to pierce her between her fourth and fifth ribs on the left-hand side, just outside the armpit; the missile flew unerringly through viscera without the slightest deviation and had only lost a few dozen pounds of energy when it hit her in the absolute center of the heart, exactly where all four chambers came together in a nexus of muscle. That organ was pulped in a fraction of a second. Death was instantaneous, a kind of mercy, one supposes, as Ms. Flanders quite literally could not have noticed her own extinction.”

If you don’t like the violence, whatcha reading this column for?

William Dietrich

“The Dakota Cipher” by William Dietrich. (Harper Collins, $9.99, 438 pages. Soft cover.)

When this book came out in hard cover, EVERYONE wanted me to review it. My response? “Review a silly historical story about a gambling, conniving playboy? All ready been done. It’s called Maverick and it don’t get no better than that.”

And no you silly young pup, I don’t mean that co-pilot from the “Right Stuff.”

Oops! Wrong, Again! 

Dakota Cipher

Hero, Ethan Gage, is sort of the pre-Maverick Maverick. Mentored by Ben Franklin and somehow coerced into simultaneously working for Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson, Gage’s seems to make decisions by follow the cutest thing in a skirt. This leads to messes that are hard to imagine and even more difficult to describe.

“Dakota” is sort of like Indiana Jones blended with Maverick and set in the 19th century.

Go get a nice be cold glass of water and use the money you saved on adult beverages to buy a few books. The drinks will last moments on your lips but the books will live on in your mind, forever.

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