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My Book Reading

The Border - Don Winslow

Metropolis - Philip Kerr

The Paris Diversion - Chris Pavone

The Network - Jason Elliott

Our Man Down In Havana - Christopher Hull

Mission To Paris - Alan Furst

A Dangerous Man - Robert Crais

Resurrections - Jeffrey Meyers

Spy Games - Adam Brookes

Podcast Favorites

   In this episode of the entertraining Books of the Year podcast, Simon Mayo and Matt Williams ask Lee Child about his legendary coffee consumption, at my request. 

@booksoftheyear, @simonmayo

I'll listen to Layne Norton discuss and argue passionately about nutrition any day. Mark Bell does a great job moderating an engaging conversation between Norton and Shawn Baker about health, fitness, food and nutrition. Science wins! @marksmellybell, @BioLane

Shane Whaley and David Craggs talk spy and espionage fiction, writing, politics and books with the outspoken, brilliant writer, Charles Cumming.

@Spybrary, @CharlesCumming

Malcolm Gladwell digs deep into the one song Elvis Presley couldn't consistently sing, "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" This episode is a gripping, utterly fascinating discussion of how Elvis recorded, sang live, and interpreted his life through music. @Gladwell


The Border by Don Winslow

Don Winslow’s The Border had me in it’s grip from opening the front cover to the ending. I wasn’t prepared for total immersion in the story. Neither was I ready for how invested I became in DEA head honcho Art Keller’s crusade, and the history of the U.S. relationship with the cartels and the Mexican drug trade.  

Winslow pulls off the rare feat of visualizing and writing a powerful novel set in the present, based upon history. He’s aligned his plot-lines with current events in such a way nothing is taken from The Border as an expansive story, yet I found reminders everywhere of the dangerous political world of today.

“Follow the money” is an old adage, commonly touted in political and criminal investigations alike. Nowhere is it of greater import than in the complex relationship between drug lords, law enforcement, prisons, governments and the general population of these two countries and cultures. Lost in much of the chatter about the drug problem in America and how and where drugs enter the U.S., is the simple truth Americans are the paying customers of the drug cartels. 

In The Border, raw truths about American and Mexican society and governments alike are exposed. Good and evil are lived with and examined. Right and wrong is shown to share a flexible, narrow border. 

 Don Winslow has performed a great service to the world, much less the American people, courageously living and writing The Border. Enjoy this book because it’s thrilling and exciting. Read it to educate yourself about the real world you live in. Live with truth and make intelligent decisions based upon them.

@WmMorrowBooks, @DonWinslow


Giants Coming to the Arnold Classic Strongman

This year’s Arnold Strongman Classic is shaping up as a battle between three of the biggest, strongest men ever walk the stage in Columbus. Hafthor Bjornsson won last year’s title, and returns to defend his crown. Massive stumbling blocks will be Brian Shaw, three-time champion, and new contender Maertins Licis. 

see what I mean about giants? Bjornsson two years ago at the Arnold

Ten competitors make up the field, but all eyes will be on these three. Hafthor’s victory last year came after six years of trying, coming as close as second place in 2017.

Shaw has regaining the title in his sights, after coming in second to Bjornsson last year. 

Brian Shaw two years ago at the Arnold

Licis is a bit of a dark horse at the Arnold. He’s only competed in Columbus once, an eighth place finish in 2017. He’s on a competitive roll, winning the Arnold Pro Strongman Europe last yer and Arnold Strongman USA this winter.

Also competing are Rauno Heinla, Mikhail Shivlyakov, Jean-Francois Caron, Mateus Kieliszkowski, Madjar Belsak, Jerry Pritchertt and Oleksii Noikov. Quite an international field will be striving to win the title this year. 

The 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic is dedicated to Dr. Terry Todd, the event founder who was a weightlifting champion and founder and director of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas. Dr. Todd has been onstage each event, every year, and will be sorely missed.

Events at the 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic include: ROGUE Elephant Bar Deadlift (rounds system, with the beginning weight set at 751 pounds/340 kilos); Husafel Stone Carry (409 pounds/189 kilos for distance); Conan’s Wheel of Pain (details to be announced); Austrian Oak (430 pounds/195 kilos overhead press for reps); and the Odd Haugen Stone to Shoulder (natural stone to shoulder for reps, 410 pounds/186 kilos).

The 2019 Arnold Strongman Classic will be held March 1-2, 2019 during the 2019 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, with the final event held at 7 p.m., March 2 as part of the Arnold Classic, Arnold Classic Men’s Physique & Bikini International Finals at the Battelle Grand Ballroom.

@ArnoldSports, #arnoldclassic, #arnoldstrongmanclassic


Berlin: Uprising by Paul Grant

Post-war Berlin is the epicenter of Paul Grant’s third entry in his fine trilogy, Berlin: Uprising. Change is happening in Germany, even after the relentless upsets of World War II and the Russian “liberation” and occupation of Berlin and much of the country. Berlin: Uprising stands on it’s own, but getting your hands on the self-published Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap and Berlin: Reaping the Whirlwind will pay dividends. 

Two timelines play out in Uprising. In 1953 the first rumblings of what would play out as the Worker’s Uprising are taking place. Ulrich Schultz, his girlfriend Ursula, and assorted friends and co-workers attempt to find their footing in an evolving society. Protests seem like a good idea, change appears to be on the horizon, until the government takes the kind of action an authoritarian state of the era finds appropriate. Add to the mix West German spies and the East German Security Service, and a noir atmosphere invades the story (and their lives).

1940 finds Klaus Schultz, Ulrich’s father, working to survive a Russian work camp in Siberia. Sadistic overlords make survival, much less escape, a daunting proposition. Memories of his family and life outside the clutches of the Russians motivates him. 

Author Grant exhibits detailed command of Berlin and Germany’s landscape in the era. Not just factual details, but atmosphere, environment and nuance. I fell under the spell of 1940s and early ‘50s Europe, dreading the Russians as the Germans did. The Klaus family came alive for me, as did many of their experiences. Much of the  suffering experienced by the German people at the hands of the Russians is apparent to the reader, though often it’s not clearly spelled out. 

Paul Grant’s writing is effective. His characterizations and brilliant descriptions bring the people, culture and backdrop of post-war Berlin effectively alive. I found Berlin: Uprising the best of his three books so far. It's a taut, driving story, featuring ratcheting tension from beginning to end.





Arnold Classic Prep

So you want to attend this year’s Arnold Sports Festival? First things first: if you haven’t arranged lodging in Columbus, Ohio for the first week of March, you’re behind schedule. Get on this directly, as hundreds of hotels are sold out already. Prepare to do some searching, as the Arnold brings a couple hundred thousand people to town. Diligent work will find you a nice room, and the highways around Columbus make commuting easy. 



Head to the Arnold website ( and dazzle yourself with the array of strength-training and fitness-related events and activities. These are the finest strength athletes in the world, this isn’t just another fitness expo. From World’s Strongest Man to the best bodybuilders in the world, from powerlifters to Olympic lifters, they’re all competing and available to watch. Up close and personal. I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you this is as good as it gets!


Do your best to pin down a few things you badly want to see and attend, and set up a schedule for yourself. From long experience I’m telling you it takes longer to get around than you are prepared for. Notably if you are moving in and out of the Arnold Classic Expo, the dense crowds will slow you down quite a bit. Plan ahead of time where you most want to go, what you dearly want to see.

Be prepared to stand on your feet the entire time you are at the Arnold Sports Festival. You may get lucky and snag a chair somewhere, but it’s unlikely. This means good socks and comfortable walking shoes are paramount. The Arnold Classic Expo isn’t the time to show off your stylish new footwear. Bring at least one pair of broken-in shoes you can wear for a long day.

A comfortable backpack is a good idea. Many vendors in the Expo are handing out samples of their products, and a large number of supplement and fitness product companies are selling items (almost always at a discount). You'll want something sturdy to carry goodies around in.

No matter how cold it is outside, do your best not to wear a heavy jacket into the Convention Center. You will regret it shortly - the tens of thousands of athletic bodies inside the greater Arnold Sports Festival means it’s warm in there. Shorts are commonplace. Have good pockets - you won’t want to be strolling around trying to look at your cell phone, it’s just too crowded in there. I remember when fanny packs were standard attire at the Arnold - those were the good days. If you still own one, strap it on for these three days. You won’t regret it.


Please refrain from wearing a tank-top. No matter how much of a big guy you are in your local gym, walking into the Hyatt Convention Center will provide a jarring reminder that at best you’re a big fish in a small pond. Trust me, you’ll be embarrassed and soon wearing a free t-shirt you picked up at a booth. 

Walk in with cash. Lines at the ATM machines in the lobby can run to dozens, if not hundreds, of people at a time, especially in the morning. Prepare ahead of time to spend money. Many booths take credit cards, of course, but cash is king at the Arnold Classic Expo. 


If you're fortunatel, you'll spot Arnold himself at some point. He's everywhere during all the days of the show, is liable to turn up anywhere. Arnold often visits booths on the Expo show floor; you'll know when he's nearby!

Eat breakfast before heading into the Arnold. Get something into your stomach, you’ll thank me later. Freebies and samples abound inside the Expo, but trying to live on protein bar pieces and drinks of this and that are going to rot you at some point. There is so much to do and see, so many places to get to, it’s easy to forget to buy a meal from one or the vendors in the lobby. Lines there are always long, so again, plan ahead.

Study the Arnold Sports Festival website. If you’ve not attended before, you may literally not believe all that is offered. Believe me, it’s real. Prepare to have your mind blown.


Have fun. Enjoy yourself. This massive audience is like-minded, shares your passion, and will prove to be polite and accommodating. Meet everyone you can; this is when the athletes are accessible and prepared to chat and sign autographs. The Arnold Sports Festival is one of the best-run and operated events in the world.