Jack’s Books Blog: Under The Covers, Between The Covers

I had one of those days Saturday that we all have. Not feeling well, definitely not going anywhere. Needing to rest and sip fluids. Fortunately, it was a college football Saturday—my “medicine” was binging Michigan-Penn State, Oklahoma-Baylor, Purdue-Ohio State, Iowa State-Texas Tech, A&M-Ole Miss…well, you get the idea. And tearing through a WW2 naval history (which I finished) and starting a mystery with one of my favorite writers, Dick Francis. Now you know what happens when I am “taking it easy”.

Here’s what I’ve been into these last few weeks:

“Three Philosophies of Life” by Peter Kreeft (1989) A Catholic convert who teaches philosophy and divinity at Boston College, Kreeft has writen prolifically about faith. I felt like I was back in college, taking lots of notes while reading this one. His premise here is that the three most profound books on philosophy ever written are “Ecclesiastes”, “Job” and “Song of Songs”: life is vanity, life is suffering, life is love.

A Lonely Resurrection” by Barry Eisler (2004) From his John Rain series, about a half-Japanese, half-American hired assassin (with a code of ethics). If Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher were Japan-based, they would be John Rain.

“Good Behavior” by Donald Westlake (1985) Dortmunder is a thief of modest successes and nagging impulses to do the right thing, so when he falls (literally) in with nuns, of course he’s going to help them. The Dortmunder series is an American classic of mystery writing. If you like Robert Parker’s “Spenser” or Lawrence Block’s “Bernie Rhodenbarr”, you will like these.

“The Traitor” by Stephen Coonts (2006) Most novelists who created an iconic character like Jake Grafton would stop right there, but the more recent development of the Tommy Carmellini series has been terrific. In this installment, Grafton is posted to Paris ahead of a presidential visit, and brings over crook-turned-spy Carmellini to foil a terrorist plot that entangles the French government itself.

“The Border Lords” by T.Jefferson Parker (2011) Parker’s Charlie Hood character is one of my all-time favorite protagonists, and this is a page-ripper about a undercover ATF cop who goes way, way, way too undercover. Parker is a master at landscapes—the literal ones along the Mexican border, and the human ones. He haunts you.

“The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism and Globalization Are Destroying America” by Victor Davis Hanson (2021) Like Peter Kreeft mentioned above, reading Hanson is kind of like taking his course. Notes, looking things up and putting the book down to ponder a provocative point. This, his newest book, takes current events right up to and through the 2020 election.

“Storm Over the Gilberts: War in the Central Pacific” by Edwin P. Hoyt (1978) Mr. Hoyt was a top-tier historian of WW2. Having grown up in a media family, and with a background as a journalist, his writing is very straight and plain.  The Gilbert Islands were an early and controversial part of the US “island-hopping” strategy against Imperial Japan. Hoyt lays out how they were chosen, how plans were laid and how the fighting proceeded. Fascinating and insane detail: during the chaotic Marine landing, Japanese forces went out into the surf, jumped into abandoned/stranded tanks, and fired on our troops from behind.

“Break-In” by Dick Francis (1985) While Francis almost always set his mysteries in or around British horse-racing, he seldom repeated a character. Jockey Kit Fielding is his main man in this one, and the following year’s “Bolt”. Here, Kit comes to the aid of his twin sister and her husband, who are the targets of a dangerous campaign of media defamation and ruin. Francis loves the “sport of kings”, and you won’t help but fall in love with it too, while enjoying a light but tasty plot.

As always, please share with me what you read and love, and let me know if you try any of the above.

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