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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


Keto Cookbooks and More Keto Cookbooks


Not that many years ago, Paleo was the buzzword in the food world. Books, podcasts, and the health and fitness internet were all-Paleo-all-the-time.

Today is the high point of Ketogenic eating as the latest popular food fad. Not only has Keto replaced Paleo, but in my estimation has penetrated further into the public consciousness. 

I’m seeing newly published Keto eating and cooking books appearing on a regular basis, at a greater rate than I remember Paleo hitting the world. In my job at a big commercial gym, Keto questions surpass all others.

I’ll leave debating the virtues of any specific “diet” to others, but considering the popularity of ketogenic eating with people of all types, here’s a brief look at a some recent titles.

Keto Quickstart: A Beginner’s Guide to a Whole-Foods Ketogenic Diet by Diane Sanfilippo. @dianesanfilippo, @VictoryBeltInc. 


Diane Sanfilippo isn’t someone transitioning from writing Paleo lifestyle guides and cookbooks to the Keto world merely to cash in. She’s built up credibility in the food world. I trust Keto Quickstart to be the credible “Beginner’s Guide to a Whole-Foods Ketogenic Diet” she says it is. More than 100 recipes in this book represent only the beginning of her offerings. Diane presents logical guidance for transitioning to keto, and critically, maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. There’s always room on my bookshelves for another book by Diane Sanfilippo.





Keto Instant Pot by Maria Emmerich., @mariaemmerich, @VictoryBeltInc 

Here’s a keto cookbook I can personally find use for. I don’t own an Instant Pot, but my crockpot is a kitchen treasure. Emmerich translates nearly all her 130 recipes from Keto Instant Pot to slow cookers, also. I’m in luck! 





Keto For Life by Mellissa Sevigny., @VictoryBeltInc


Author Sevigny addresses the glut of keto cookbooks right away in Keto For Life. I enjoyed her realistic attitude. She’s set herself apart from the pack by creating keto recipes happily not based upon bacon, ground meat, cheese and cauliflower! At the same time, a few lessons in becoming a better cook in the kitchen weaves throughout the pages, brimming with her more than 160 recipes. 





Keto Soups & Stews by Carolyn Ketchum., @VictoryBeltInc

For those who enjoy stews and soups, and are living the keto lifestyle, I believe Carolyn Ketchum has put together just the cookbook for you. Her more than 50 recipes in Keto Soups & Stews are all high-fat and low-carb, of course. I’m not a soup fan, so I’ll not be trying any of her recipes in my kitchen. You should give it a go.



Vegan Keto by Liz MacDowell.  @meatfreeketo, @VictoryBeltInc


Why not encourage vegans to become keto people? MacDowell presents 60 plant-based recipes fitting the bill within Vegan Keto. These are gluten-free, entirely vegan (no meat, dairy or eggs), yet high fat and keto-friendly. If this is an area you wish to explore, here’s a good beginning guide.





Real Food Keto by Jimmy and Christine Moore. @livinlowcarbman, @muzikgirl1972, @VictoryBeltInc

If you are unfamiliar with Jimmy Moore, you just haven’t been paying attention to the keto world. He’s a living legend in the ketogenic arena, with several books, podcasts and other ventures always ongoing. In Real Food Keto Jimmy teams up with his wife Christine, adding information about digestion, detoxification and vitamins and minerals to the traditional keto mix. The Moore’s consider this book to be the first combining of nutritional therapy with low-carb, high-fat ketogenic eating.


Keto Gatherings by Kristie Sullivan. @KetoKristie, @VictoryBeltInc


Kristie Sullivan and her family are in year six of eating in a keto fashion. She well understands the demands and struggles with family gatherings and holidays and the temptations of carbs and sweets and pastries. Keto Gatherings is her solution, a collection of family-proven recipes developed over the years for these events and celebrations.



Red War by Kyle Mills

Taking on Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp legacy was an absolute bear of an assignment for Kyle Mills. Most established mystery/thriller writers would consider this gambling. Mills has found solid footing with Red War, his fourth in the Mitch Rapp series. His plot premise is sufficiently original, see-saw politics and military moves fitting believably, carrying sufficient tension.

Mills' background suits him to pen Mitch Rapp’s adventures. His father was an FBI agent, and at one point Director of Interpol. Growing up, I wonder if he was immersed in fascinating dinner table conversation. Kyle Mils already had fifteen published novels to his name when he assumed the mantle from Vince Flynn in 2013.

Red War revolves around the desperate actions and strategies undertaken by the leader of Russia, a well-publicized strongman of a figure, suddenly fighting off debilitating sickness. He pulls his favorite crazy military leader out of retirement to oversee his plans. Turns out he’d rather effectively destroy the world than settle for peace without an opportunity to expand the Russian empire.

Needless to say, as the actions of the Russian government and military work to destabilize the world, who better than Mitch Rapp for CIA Director Irene Kennedy to deploy? Bringing together unlikely allies, including a Russian who attempted to assassinate him, Rapp and his team find themselves racing the clock to determine what’s really happening in Russia, and stop the madness. At any cost.

Of course there’s a good deal of action and fairly difficult-to-believe one-man combat adventures, but I find Mills brings the main characters alive nicely. Relationships aren’t all cozy and simple, allies aren’t always as they appear, and plenty of intelligence must be collected and sorted. I found myself thinking of Red War as a bowl of M&M candies. They’re great in small doses, enjoyable, and make sense sometimes. Red War became my go-to late-night, tired reading, and in that context, wonderful.

Lots of action, recurring characters, a storied lead character - Kyle Mills nails it with Red War.

@simonbooks, @KyleMillsAuthor, #RedWar



Revisiting the Cold War


Button Zone by Wilfred Greatorex

Chessplayer by William Pearson

These two excellent spy novels transported me back in time to what some would tag the “Golden Age” of spies and espionage. They each date from 1984, well before anyone contemplated the Berlin Wall coming down. This time period is the height of tense Cold War relations between the Soviet Union and the west, notably England and the United States.

Wilfred Greatorex was a scriptwriter and editor with a long career, beginning in the 1960s and ending in the ‘80s. Among his accomplishments are the TV series Secret Army and 1990. He also penned the screenplay for the classic 1969 movie The Battle of Britain. After his death in 2002, Greatorex was described by The Guardian as "one of the most prolific and assured of television script-writers and editors from the 1960s into the 1980s”.

William Pearson is more of an unknown to me. He loved the game of chess enough he wrote serious books on the topic. A few other of his novels appear to be mysteries, but Chess Player, nominated for an Edgar Award, seems to be his only take on the world of spies. Oh, how I wish he’d written more in the genre. As far as I can determine Pearson is still alive. He’s 97 years old. 

Chess Player centers around George Malkin, a senior intelligence officer rooted in the OSS, now in the upper echelons of the CIA. The most dangerous and critical assignment of his career is to determine the identity of a foreign intelligence agent, a mole in US Intelligence, code-named Chessplayer. Simultaneously, in Moscow, Chessplayer’s handler, Igor Demichev, struggles to convince his Soviet Intelligence mucky-mucks of the viability of his deeply planted agent. 

Author Pearson displays deep, penetrating knowledge of how the spy agencies of the era operated. He’s well versed in tradecraft, protocol, language, and the cultures of American and Russian intelligence. It's evident on each page, in his dialogue, in brush passes and dead drops and meetings. The pacing, mystery and characterization in Chess Player is superior. Tension ratchets up throughout the story. At several points I thought I’d figured out who Chessplayer was, but I wasn’t close. 

Button Zone features a mole, as well. This spy is a member of the inner circle around the U.S. president, known as the “button zone.” Russia has devised an ambitious plan to invade and conquer Europe, all of it, using Warsaw Pact maneuvers to disguise their intent. Where the premise of the book swings away from a traditional military “what if?” is the mole in the U.S. government. Placed long ago, this Russian sleeper agent will assassinate the leader of the U.S., and other government officials, before nuclear retaliation against the invasion can happen. 

The weight of this mission falls upon British Intelligence, as the Brits have figured out what’s happening, and are afraid to alert the CIA or any other American agency. Nobody knows who the traitors are. 

Elaborate spycraft threads throughout Button Zone. Safe houses, layers of spies, hundreds of Russian sleeper agents in the States, and rising tension accompanying the highest of stakes flows through each page. Who can trust anyone?

Both of these books are well written time capsules. Botton Zone dangles nuclear armageddon as the potential catastrophic finale. What could typify the 1980s Cold War more effectively? Chess Player is about relationships, within intelligence agencies and between them. Firearms, car chases, smart phones, satellites, drones, and massive computer banks play no role in either story. Each of these classic spy tales feature memorable characters, vivid events, and as much tradecraft as can be realistically packed into a single book.

These books are excellent, hold up well today, are worth searching out, and will be inexpensive when you locate copies.



The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

Disclaimer:  I’ve been reading and loving Burke’s novels for decades. I’m entirely biased about the enduring nature and terribly high quality of his work, so proceed knowing out the gate I loved The New Iberia Blues.

Dave Robicheaux is a sheriff's detective in the New Orleans area. He’s been on the job for years, enduring personal and professional loss, attempting to sort good from evil. At times the specter of his service in Vietnam haunts him. His close friend Clete Purcell, now a private detective, sometimes makes Robicheaux crazy with his reckless behavior. On the other hand, when a threat to his daughter Alafair looms, there’s nobody else he’d want by his side than Purcell. His life is complex, and much of it plays out in his head.

The New Iberia Blues is a complex tale about sad lives in New Orleans, mixed with the strange world of Hollywood and motion pictures. Ambition, greed, false fronts, and a series of bizarre murders (one a crucifixion) are part of a slow series of tragic events coming together. Dave Robicheaux treads the narrow line balancing between good and evil. He's always learning about people, he has few illusions, using his daughter Alifair as a compass, at times. 

The New Iberia Blues is compelling and exciting, though quite different from traditional detective stories. Burke is a master of pace, of slowly building tension, of using reflection in his characters to ask and answer questions I assume he wrestles with himself. Old and current New Orleans plays as big a role in this tale as individuals do. 

If James Lee Burke isn’t one of the finest living American novelists, find me the writer who is. The New Iberia Blues stands with the best of his work.


@SimonBooks, @JamesLeeBurke



Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

In this second Sherlock Holmes novel co-authored by Abdul Jabbar and Waterhouse, a teenage Holmes finds himself at odds with his older brother Mycroft. Holmes is discovering his immense curiosity about the world when Mycroft and Sherlock opens, leading others to think of him as distracted, aloof or uncomprehending. Elder brother Mycroft is his guardian, attempting to keep Holmes in school and desperately hoping he ends up somewhere useful in life. They spar with each other often, and keep secrets as a matter of course.


An unsolved batch of grisly murders in London sparks keen interest by Holmes, though he has no official role to play in the investigation. Mycroft, to his mind, wiser, takes his position at the War Office seriously and tends to ignore young Sherlock’s questions and interests in matters outside of school. He frankly has little interest in the murders.

Cyrus Douglas, close friend of Mycroft, begins to experience struggles in his business. Sherlock is called upon to assist, partly an effort on Mycroft's part to give his younger brother something constructive to do. Talents hidden even from Holmes himself come to the fore in this endeavor, naturally proving handy later on.

How all these threads tug on each other, resulting in each of these individuals playing a major investigative role in solving the murders, is an interesting journey. I enjoyed the detail and pace of two storylines inexorably coming together. Sherlock Holmes begins to grow up as pages turn. Mycroft has his ego taken down a peg and opens himself up to a stronger relationship with his younger brother. Cyrus proves himself to be a true friend and valuable citizen, even in the face of day-to-day 1872 London racism. 

Mycroft and Sherlock is a worthy story bringing the two Holmes brothers together. It’s time to stop comparisons with Arthur Conan Doyle. Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse stand on their own, carrying on the proud Sherlock Holmes tradition. 


@TitanBooks, @kaj33, #mycroftandsherlock