So much summer trash lit. So little of note.
I've been reading as fast as I can, catching up on all of the beach books I can find, looking for the Great Work of Summer, 2012. I still haven't found it. There's plenty worth reading, some decent drivel and distractions. But overall, I can’t say anything had my head spinning.
So here’s the first installment of my rundown, the good, the fair and the total waste cases.
Against All Enemies, Tom Clancy, Berkeley Books, 799 (gasp) pages, paperback $9.99.
Tom Clancy doesn’t need to write anymore. He’s 65, firmly ensconsed in the top slice of the 1 Percent, owns part of the Baltimore Orioles, makes a killing off franchising his name for cheap and worthless spin-off books ... he can chill. And maybe he should.
Against All Enemies has his name on the top, although there’s a tiny “with Peter Telep” down below. That should have been a warning. The first 100 pages should have been another one. But I soldiered on to the very end, and trust me: It was a struggle.
Say what you want about Clancy’s politics; the guy can tell a story. His characters are interesting, the action crisp, the plots intricate and engrossing ... and this one’s a piece of shit. It’s actually boring, deadly dull. And that’s a thriller no-no.
Nice idea: The Taliban and the Mexican drug gangs have formed an alliance and are using tunnels to sneak terrorists into the US. Could be full of fascinating people. But it’s not. The hero is a loser, the drug lords and terrorists are weak parodies of themselves -- and it goes on and on and nothing happens. Don’t bother.
Robert Ludlum’s The Borune Imperative by Eric Van Lustbader, Hatchette, 435 pages, $27.99.
Another cheap attempt to profit off a talented (in this case, dead) author, but Van Lustbader’s no slouch himself, and some of his earlier efforts at this have been at least entertaining, so I thought I’d see what he could do with his laterst effort at reviving one of the great thriller characters in history. Shouldn’t have bothered.
There’s an assassin with amnesia (sound familiar?), a Russian spy gone rogue, a terrorist mastermind, a global conspiracy and ... what? People going in and out of freezing water while they get shot. This series is getting seriously slow.
The Affair, Lee Child, 405 pages, Delacourte Press $28.
This one’s just coming out in paper, and it’s worth the wait. It’s a bargain at $9.99, a bit of a stretch at full price.
Jack Reacher is one of the best action characters of our time, up there with Spenser and Travis McGee, (and that’s serious). Child came up with a spectacular mix, a former military cop who wanders the world like Kwai Chang Caine, doing good work, sometimes relucatantly, with superior fighting skills that make him a true badass.
The Affair is sort of a prequel, and takes us back to Reacher’s army days. It’s absolutely formulaic, completely predictable, just like all the other Reacher books. There’s a murder that puts Reacher in danger, a gang of thugs who get their butts kicked, a beautiful woman in law enforcement with whom Reacher has what we all know will be a short-lived affair ... and plenty of sharp dialogue the keeps the pages turning.
With all the pablum out there, it was a pleasure to sit down and read the work of a master who is still in his prime. At a certain point, like Ian Fleming in the glory days of Bond, Reacher can get away with formula -- because it’s such a good formula. It still works, still delivers. He’s just a great writer, and if we sort of know what’s going to happen when half a dozen of the local losers try to attack Reacher in the streets, it’s still fun to see it unfolding.
Don’t expect anything new or dramatic here (except what Reacher fans will realize is the absolutely critical tale of where he got his portable toothbrush), but The Affair won’t let you down.
Stolen Prey, John Sandford, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 402 pages, $27.95.
Put this one up there with The Affair. If you love Lucas Davenport and his world of twisted murder shit in and around the Twin Cities, then Stolen Prey works fine. Again, Mexican drug gangs, which seem to be the Most Evil Fuckers In The World this summer, and in Stolen Prey, they’re particularly horrible, doing a stomach-turning murder that takes place in a nice upper-middle class town. The dead family appears to have no ties to any type of criminal activity -- but ah, there is much more here. Again, nothing radically new (except a suprising ending involving Davenport’s adopted daughter, Letty, who apparently has some of the step-old-man in her). But Sandford, like Child, is a master, and you can enjoy this with the guilt of a lazy afternoon of Bud Light and bourbon. Nothing wrong with that.