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My Book Reading

Red War - Kyle Mills

Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Mycroft and Sherlock by Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse

Holy Ghost - John Sandford

Past Tense - Lee Child

In A House of Lies by Ian Rankin

The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler

Daughter of War by Brad Taylor

Sherlock Holmes Is Like edited by Christopher Redmond

Beside the Syrian Sea by James Wolff

The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

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


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.



Berlin Is The Setting

I've been on a bit of a Berlin kick of late. Last night I finished Paul Grant's excellent Berlin: Uprising, the third entry in his trilogy with the Schultz family. This volume leads into the 1953 Worker's Uprising. Pacing and tension ratchet up throughout, and as always with Paul Grant, as a reader I feel Berlin and it's people come alive for me.

Post-war Dresden is the setting for Detective Max Heller in Frank Goldammer's A Thousand Devils. Heller never joined the Nazi party but after the war, few people believe him. Germany is coming to grips with itself, and who did what is at the forefront of many decisions. Try being an honest policeman in this environment. A Thousand Devils is Goldammer's second novel; I just got my hands on his debut, The Air Raid Killer. This is also set in Dresden, prior to the destruction brought on by the Allied air raids. I highly recommend these authors. Grant self-published his first two books: Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap and Berlin: Reaping the Whirlwind. Berlin: Uprising will be published January 11, by Matador Publishing. The paperback will be available via Amazon and also digitally for the Kindle.

@amazonpub, @matadorbooks


Bedside Table Reading

Here's what I've got going this week...


Sherlock Holmes and George Smiley - how different are they?

Here's a reminder to spend a couple of bucks on a worthwhile, independently published book. Sherlock Holmes Is Like features 60 essays from passionate, knowledgeable writers detailing who, in their estimation, Sherlock Holmes can be compared to, and why. Sure, probably only real Baker Street fans want to wade through all this. However, I'm telling you Clarissa Aykroyd's entry, "Tinker Tailor Sherlockian Spy," is a wonderful piece.

I won't wear out the old adage that her essay is worth the price of the book (though so far it's all I've read in it!). But, Akroyd's side-by-side discussion of George Smiley and Sherlock Holmes, of course always in the context of LeCarre and Doyle's writing, is more than well done. It's sublime and interesting, so much so that I re-read it the night after my first go-round. I bought my copy direct from the publisher at, as I enjoy putting my money right into the small business' hands, so I suggest you do the same. Amazon carries the $14.95 paperback as well. 


#sherlockholmes, #sherlockholmesislike, @wildwoodpress, @stoneandthestar


Upcoming Arnold Classic Bodybuilding: Giant Killer vs the Monsters

This year's Arnold Classic Bodybuilding contest on March 2, 2019 promises to be a tight battle. I wouldn't be surprised to see some shuffling of competitors during the first call-outs, and even some additional looks at what promises to be a field with interesting depth. Thirteen competitors have been invited and committed to the show, taking place in Columbus, Ohio during the Arnold Sports Festival, as always.

William Bonac, last year's winner, returns for the rematch against a strong field including two previous winners. Alongside him on stage will be Brandon Curry and Roelly Winklar, each winners of Arnold Classic shows in Australia and South America. These are seasoned, experienced professionals who know how to be at their best when it counts. Adding heat to the contest, and headaches for the judges, will be 2017 winner Cedrick McMillan and the ageless Victor Martinez, who took the Arnold Classic crown in 2007. Never discount the ability of Victor Martinez to be in top form, and with his impressive proportions, unseat one of the big guys.

Rounding out the rest of the bodybuilding field are Rafael Brandao, Charles Dixon, Steve Kuclo, Josh Lenartowicz, Luke Sandoe, Mikhail Volinkin and Akim Williams. Don't discount any of these guys, either. Dixon, Kucko and Sandoe could be dark horse contendors.