Over the course of the past few years there have been some interesting trends in fiction writing. I have encountered a number of books that seemed to take forever to get rolling; I found some VERY big bestsellers a little bit of a slog at the start, but hung with them because of the raves that seemed attached to them. In some cases it was worth the work…others, not so much.
I am a fan of those great books that waste no time, but grab you by the throat and take you off to the races. These are what I call real deal fiction, with authors who waste no time getting down to business. Here are three recent reads that fall firmly into that category.
Exit Strategy (A Nick Mason Novel) Steve Hamilton (G. P. Putnam)
I had known of Steve Hamilton’s books, but had never gotten around to reading one until the first book in the Nick Mason series dropped on my desk. Hamilton pulls together a story of desperation and of the desperate acts that go along with it. Nick Mason is freed from one box, in this case a prison cell and then locked into another; servitude to a vicious gangster with who holds sway over Mason and his family.
With Exit Strategy, Hamilton picks up the story of Chicago gangster Darius Cole as he executes his plot to free himself from prison by any means necessary, using the pawns that are within his grasp. Mason has become Cole’s Angel of Death, charged with taking out the witnesses who testified against Cole in his original trail, this time around it’s folks in the care and protection of the U.S. Marshall Service, witness protection program.
Mason isn’t always afforded the luxury of time to plan, so he flies by the seat of his pants. Mason is the ultimate anti-hero; a bad guy who you can’t help but root for as he sits firmly lodged between a rock and a hard place. While Mason goes about his unhealthy business, he is planning and plotting his long play, to find a way out from under Cole’s thumb.
Hamilton delivers the action at such a fast and furious pace that you will find yourself gulping for air just to keep up. His writing style is so cinematic that it’s easy to see way Nick Mason has been optioned for a stint on the big screen. Here’s hoping that Hollywood doesn’t screw things up like they did with the Jack Reacher series.
Since We Fell: A Novel – Dennis Lehane (ECCO)-
If you asked me for a list of my favorite authors, Dennis Lehane probably would not be among them. But in all honesty, I don’t know why. Lehane has made a nice career out of crafting not only great stories, but of creating some great character types. I can’t say that I could recall them by name, but he just has a knack for creating fictional people who you can recognize from your life or have crossed paths with along the way. Call them…relatable for lack a better term.
While some may be disappointed that Lehane’s latest, Since We Fell isn’t another entry in the Kenzie/Gennaro series, I think that Lehane is at his best when he’s off crafting stories about ordinary folks who get caught up in circumstances that are anything but ordinary. And that may be the magic of Dennis Lehane at his best; if you think about it, it is ordinary folks who end up in extraordinary situations, because that is what makes them extraordinary!
Lehane manages to weave you into the story of Rachel Childs, a former journalist who melts down on the air and then finds herself battling her personal demons, but living a relatively quiet life. That life begins to fray and unravel, leaving Childs to summon up the strength and courage to tackle her greatest fears.
This is Lehane at his best as he populates his stories with average, ordinary folks challenged with seemingly insurmountable challenges.
G-Man – A Bob Lee Swagger Novel – Stephen Hunter (Blue Rider Press)
It seems hard to believe that it’s been nearly 25 years since Stephen Hunter first introduced us to sniper Bob Lee Swagger with the book Point of Impact, a book chock full of double dealing, nefarious, government insiders and dirty dealers that it could be ripped from today’s headlines, or at the very least fake news. In the intervening time, Hunter has put Swagger into precarious situations and even introduced us to his small town Sheriff grandfather, Charles Swagger along the way.
Now in G-Man, Hunter deals out an almost Forrest Gumpian hand by dropping Charles into the mix of squaring off with infamous outlaws the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. Now decades after the fact, Bob Lee is the recipient of a mysterious box unearthed on his family homestead. The contents of the box include a well preserved .45, a rusty badge, a stray gun part, a puzzling diagram and a healthy dose of mystery that fans of Bob Lee Swagger know he won’t be able to resist solving.
Hunter masterfully draws out the master snipers struggles with age and ghosts from his families past. Hunter has to carefully walk the tight rope between historical events and the present as he plays out the two storylines that intertwine to create G-Man. There is a level of precision to the way Hunter doles out the facts with a level of accuracy that we’ve come to expect in his stories.