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My Book Reading

Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis

   (in progress)

The Night Trade - Barry Eisler (revew published)

The Woman in the Window - A.J. Finn - (review published; just get your hands on this and read it!)

The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews - (review published)

Into the Black Nowhere - Meg Gardiner - (review just published; superb)

Agent in Place - Mark Greaney (Gray Man thriller, review up)

The Saboteur - Paul Kix (review up)

The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer (review published)

Operator Down - Brad Taylor (done, great book)

Robicheaux - James Lee Burke (in progress - outstanding, of course)

Podcast Favorites

Joe Rogan Experience #1058 Dec. 28 2017 . Nina Teicholz


The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando by Paul Kix

Until I read about Robert de la Rochefoucauld, premier French resistance fighter and spy, I’d always imagined a big, organized effort on the part of the French populace during the German occupation of WWII. Turns out I was very wrong. Only a small percentage of people actively fought this most dangerous of secret wars, and La Rochefoucauld, virtually known country-wide as part of the aristocracy, relentlessly fought against the Germans. He trained in England with Churchill’s Secret Operations Executive, learning all aspects of spycraft, returned to France and went to war. His story is mind-boggling.

Kix put in a staggering amount of research to unravel La Rochefoucauld’s story. Many records were destroyed by the Germans in the latter stages of the war, but on top of that, the last thing the Resistance were doing was putting information down on paper and saving it! If caught, that alone would have been a death sentence. Author Kix conducted dozens of interviews, learned French so he could read the published books and thousands of pages of military documents, all in all single-handedly recreating an important lost period of military history.

The Saboteur reads like a handful of James Bond novels mashed together into one unbelievable screenplay.  This relentlessly brave man was twice captured by the Nazis, sentenced to execution each time, and escaped each time. He blew up train stations, factories, and other military sites. La Rochefoucauld’s valor undergoing months of torture is like something from a novel. His thirst for revenge carried him throughout the entire war.

Of great interest to me was learning so much about the role of the Resistance to the war effort, and the truly tangled politics of the time. Charles de Gaulle, leader of France in exile, worked to cover up the efforts of the Resistance, apparently worried they were receiving acclaim he wanted for himself. What a position to put a valiant patriot such as Robert de la Rochefoucauld into. It’s a miracle he survived the war, maintained his composure and passion, helping the Allied effort immensely. 

The Saboteur is a great read about a thrilling episode in history, propelled by the too-brave-to-believe efforts of a single man. 

After you read and absorb The Saboteur, listen to Vince Houghton's great interview with Paul Kix on the Spycast podcast.

@paulkix, @HarperBooks, #TheSaboteur, @Intelhistorian



The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

Nola Brown dies jumping from a plane dropping out of the sky. Why the plane crashed, nobody seems to know. Or was that even Nola, and is she really dead?

“Zig” is a coroner at Dover Air Force Base, with lengthy experience working on the bodies of veterans. He knew Nola slightly when she was a teenage friend of his daughter, and he knows the body at Dover with the name Nola Brown attached to it isn’t her. 

His investigation convinces him Nola isn’t dead at all, but where does he go with his suspicion, who does he talk to? Nola’s past is jammed with extreme situations, problems, and unsolved mysteries.

In The Escape Artist, author Meltzer cleverly brings Nola Brown’s life into focus, matching Zig’s amateur detective work with masterful flashbacks. As I learned more about her, and about Zig’s connection, and what Nola’s job for the government really was, I was drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery. 

When the Harry Houdini and world-of-magic connections kick in, and outside agents appear in the middle of events, events speed up and it’s clear everyone isn’t who they appear to be. Escape Artist has a nice dose of historical additives throughout, a sharp touch adding depth to all aspects of the plot and storyline. 

The Escape Artist is a fun, gripping adventure with a good dose of mystery. Nola Brown’s character is getting attention, as it should, and I found Zig to have surprising depth and understanding. Meltzer’s creative plotting and cast and smooth writing combine for a hell of a good story.


@BradMeltzer, #TheEscapeArtist, @GrandCentralPub



Agent in Place by Mark Greaney (the latest Gray Man novel)

In Agent in Place, Court Gentry, rogue CIA asset now known as The Gray Man, finds himself fighting in Syria in a complex game of “who’s good and who’s bad?” His cover as a member of the most vicious mercenary outfit in the country, working against the Syrian rebels he’s covertly allied with, puts Gentry in some of the tightest, most threatening situations he’s been in. 

Author Greaney effectively uses his writing skills, honed working alongside Tom Clancy years ago, now advanced far beyond that in the course of the half dozen previous Gray Man thrillers, to create a complex adventure in Agent in Place. Settings and locales come alive on the page. Even Greaney’s descriptions of how people dress, the smells and feelings Gentry experiences, bring the story forward in an immersive manner. 

When Court Gentry is filthy and tired, it feels real and makes sense within the storyline. His hunger at times is palpable, as is his anger and pride. The supporting cast in Agent In Place is extensive. A couple of the mercs Gentry finds himself working with are quite interesting and fully realized, adding depth to the story. Another area Greaney excels in is how he utilizes weapons in the book.  Not that his detailed descriptions impress me; rather, it’s the context and how they affect Gentry. 

My only (slight) reservation about Gentry is he's dangerously close to being one of those infallible, super-human, super-warrior characters, and I don't want Greaney to take him there. The scene where Court Gentry is about to be executed (this isn't a spoiler, nobody reading the series thinks the hero is going to die), is far-fetched to me. Going into it I assumed he would survive, and I don't buy how he did so. Maybe this is a small thing, but I enjoy Greaney's work and Gentry the character and don't want to see him devolve into a cartoon.

I enjoy the descriptive power displayed in this book, it's a fast-paced story that doesn't feel rushed or geared to explosions and big noise and an indestructible, infallible protagonist. 

Agent In Place is exciting, complex and satisfying, the best of Greaney’s Gray Man novels so far. Court Gentry is a well-drawn character, of interest from page one, whether you’ve read all the Gray Man novels preceding this, or if this is your first time sharing the rough road he travels.


@BerkleyPub, @MarkGreaneyBook, #AgentInPlace, #TheGrayMan



Got My (Reading) Work Cut Out For Me

Four exciting new additions to my "gotta read so I can write about 'em" stack have arrived. Skyjack looks like a book that might grab me on page one! This is my first book by @KJHoweAuthor. Looking forward to itl Order for April 10 publication. @QuercusUSA 

Lisa Scottoline is one of the great thriller writers using the courtroon as a battlefield. After Anna will be gripping, as there's no reason to think Scottoline has lost a step. I think this will prove to be terrifyingly engrossing. Available April 10. @LisaScottoline, @StMartinsPress

Philip Kerr is one of the fine writers in the world. There should be no argument. Greeks Bearing Gifts is the thirteenth of Kerr's popular Bernie Gunther novels, taking place in post-WWII Germany. I'm in; this guy is writes superb stories! On sale April 3. @PutnamBooks

Brad Meltzer's Escape Artist is eagerly awaited; I'm anxious to dig into his latest thriller. Lisa Scottoline memorably says this about the book: "...part Lisbeth Salander, part Homeland's Carrie Mathison."  Wow. Cannot wait. Out March 6. @bradmeltzer, @GrandCentralPub


Greaney's Agent in Place top-notch (so far)

48 chapters into Mark Greaney's latest Gray Man thriller, Agent in Place, I'm wondering how late I'll be staying up reading tonight. Court Gentry grudgingly sneaks into Syria, whereupon his mission immediately tangles and frays, veerng to dangerous and nearly out of his control. 

Author Greaney avoids heavy-handed political stances in this exciting thriller, even as super-clandestine agent Court Gentry finds himself in the sights of nearly every radical militant group in the world, at the same time! Exciting always, detailed in the best Clancy-way, I find myself enjoying Gentry's adventures in the world of super-black-OPs. Even with action in every chapter I'm still reading slowly and savoring names and places and Greaney's knack for pushing the plot along.

@MarkGreaneyBook, @BerkleyPub, #thegrayman, #agentinplace