The Ides of March, and Almost a Dozen Books To Recommend

I’ve said it before: if you resolve to read more, you have to bring your book with you everywhere you go (except to church). You just never know when people will make you wait, or you will find yourself in grateful possession of some unexpected free moments. We parents are always sitting in parking lot somewhere killing time picking up the kids. Open the windows, cut the ignition, and get into a good read.

“The Mind Murders” by Jan van der Wetering (1981) This series of detective novels are too unique to categorize. I could put it this way: if Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” detectives worked in Amsterdam, you’d have the detective duo of Grijpstra and deGier.

“God Emperor of Dune” by Frank Herbert (1981) If you read Herbert’s epic sci-fi series in order, you have to take your time, refer back to keep all the characters and history straight, and remember: this is the “Star Wars” trilogy on steroids. In this one, Lord Leto is now some kind of  omnipotent giant earthworm/man hybrid. And that’s just for starters.

“The Millionaires” by Brad Meltzer (2002) The Caruso brothers work for a private bank, hate their jobs and decide to run a little scam. It winds up involving them in a massive, deadly conspiracy. No one, I mean no one, is who they seem to be. A lot of the time, the brothers have to pretend they know what’s going on, when really they don’t. Meltzer is a genius at creating anti-hero heroes.

“The Hand of Fu Manchu” by Sax Rohmer (1916) The Fu Manchu series is one of my absolute favorites. They compare, favorably, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” series, except with a consistent villain in every story: the diabolical, unkillable, would-be world-dominating Fu. These books remind us that China’s worried the West for a long, long time.

“Master of the Moor” by Ruth Rendell (1982) One of the late writer’s very best novels, and not part of her Inspector Wexford series.  Someone is killing young women on a rugged, remote moor, near a small village. One man is an obvious suspect, and you will  not believe where the story goes.

“Ladies of Liberty: Women Who Shaped Our Nation” by Cokie Roberts (2008) A genius work by the longtime ABC and NPR reporter. No matter how much you know, or have read, about the Founding Fathers, you will learn and appreciate the birth of our nation all the more as Cokie brings to life the women in their lives. They read as real, and remarkable, people. You will love this book.

“Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story” by Ron Franscell (2019) Ron’s a true-crime master, and in his hands, this story of a decades long coverup reads like a novel. Alice and Gerald are bad people who get together and bring out the worst in each other. As Ron said on our show one morning, this reads like “Shakespeare in an RV park”.

“The Jefferson Key” by Steve Berry (2011) Two things I always love about Berry’s Cotton Malone novels: Malone is a really great, believable protagonist. And every book brims with historical and travelogue detail. In this one, an actual secret code developed for Thomas Jefferson is the key to ending the nation’s last, surviving ring of privateers (yes—privateers).

“Sam Houston and the American Southwest” by Randolph Campbell (1993) You learn your Texas history in school, and Houston figures prominently. This short volume is a nice refresher about a true American original who changed this history of two great nations.

“Thai Horse” by William Diehl (1987) Diehl is one of the best thriller writers you’ve never heard of, but he wrote “Sharkey’s Machine” (the movie starred Burt Reynolds) and “Primal Fear” (starring Richard Gere). Even more amazing, he didn’t start writing until his 50s, having already been a award-winning journalist and photographer. “Thai Horse” is as good as the best stuff from legends like Ludlum or Forsyth.

108 Stitches: Loose Threads, Ripping Yarns and the Darndest Characters From My Time in the Game” by Ron Darling (2019) As the title indicates, this is a snack platter of quick, fascinating anecdotes about baseball players we all remember, or have forgotten. Darling’s as great a storyteller as he was a pitcher for the Mets, Expos and A’s. He will be be on the show with me March 29.




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