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Jack’s Books: Catching Up on February and March

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01: Former vice president Joe Biden speaks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on November 1, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Biden addressed the consequences of U.S. disengagement from world leadership at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Like an idiot, I forgot to keep updating this blog, even as all the available evidence says more people are reading, currently.

As am I. As you can see:

“Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power By Progressive Elites” by Peter Schweitzer (2020) From the cringeworthy Biden quotes about China to more recent revelations about senators profiting from stock transactions at the COVID-19 onset, it’s timely to read about the foreign and financial entanglements of our leading pols. Hope Schweitzer keeps ’em coming and keeps the heat on both parties.

“Winter Hawk” by Craig Thomas (1987) A terrific piece of Cold War espionage, involving the space-arms race between America and Russia. I highly recommend Thomas’ books in order, as some characters and plot segments carry over.

“Reflex” by Dick Francis (1981) Most of the Francis mysteries are set in the world of horse-racing. This is a good one: the death of an unloved track photographer sets a jockey onto the trail of murder, blackmail and more.

“The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution” by Barbara Tuchman (1988) A two-time Pulitzer-winning historian, Barbara Tuchman’s a must read on any subject.

“Washington’s End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle” by Jonathan Horn (2020) Picking up where most biographies leave off, Horn reveals the final few year of Washington’s life, after the presidency. From the way the country struggled in his absence to the struggles he had with health, friends, family and farm. It makes George truly a 3-D real human being.

“The Jerusalem Assassin” by Joel Rosenberg (2020) This author writes thriller fiction so closely tied to real life events, that it usually either predicts them, or illuminates them. Here, an American president’s audacious Middle East peace plan draws many deadly enemies.

“The Case of the Lame Canary” by Erle Stanley Gardner (1937) It always bears repeating: the Perry Mason character on TV is very different from the way Gardner wrote him in dozens of novels over several decades. They’re both smart and daring, but the book version of Mason (like the book version of James Bond in the Fleming novels) is much more a man of physical action and daring. Some cool sleuthing in this one.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852) It was one of the best selling books in 19th century America. Lincoln famously told Mrs. Stowe: “so you’re the lady who’s book started the war?” This is a classic because it heroically tries to portray the slavery experience from every angle, and was probably the most effective evangelization against slavery that has ever seen print.

“Black Lotus” by Laura Joh Rowland (2001) Detective fiction set in 16th century Japan. A great series of novels. Here, a killer cult plots Japan’s destruction.

“The Double Image” by Helen MacInnes (1965) Her specialty is ordinary, reluctant people drawn into espionage or intrigue. An American scholar traveling in Paris gets caught up in the intrigue and entrapment of a wanted Nazi fugitive. Really fun read.

“Acceptable Risk” by Robin Cook (1994) Medical/research intrigue. He’s written a ton of them.

“Eucharistic Miracles” by Joan Carroll Cruz (1987) A collection of miraculous events surrounding the Holy Eucharist in churches all over the world. Each is a sketchy chapter, but some of them inspire you to try to find out more elsewhere.

“The Motive” by John Lescroart (2006) His beloved characters, lawyer Dismas Hardy and SF cop Abe Glitzky, get older but no less mellow in each Lescroart tale. Things start here with an arson case that complicates a double murder and family inheritance dispute.

“Portrait of a Spy” by Daniel Silva (2011) Read every Silva novel, and the more time you spend with Gabriel, Chiara and the rest of Israeli intelligence, the better you’ll feel about having them on our side.

“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997) A lot of people rave about this little volume of philosophy and morality. I’m not one of them.

“Without Remorse” by Tom Clancy (1993) Not a Jack Ryan novel, but one that sets up John Clark, who’s part of the Ryan world of characters and plots. Set during the Vietnam War, there and here. Excellent.

“Hail, Hail The Gang’s All Here” by Ed McBain (1971) You’ve heard me say it: you’ll never go wrong with an “87th precinct” novel of McBain’s.

“Tiger Woods” by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian (2018) A carefully researched, fascinating and disturbing portrait.

“Death in Holy Orders” by P.D. James (2001) Dagliesh returns to a theological school where he spent a youthful summer to look into one murder, and more follow. James is the mystery-writing equal of better known Brits like Christie, Alligham, et. al.

“The Big Red One” by Samuel Fuller (1980) NovelĀ  version of the movie starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and others, tracking a sergeant who served in WWI and WWII as he leads his men from North Africa through Normandy and V-E day. One of the best-told stories of war from the fighting-man’s perspective. Equally searing, sad and funny.


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