Here’s this week’s question…
“How do you occupy your time when driving from Florida to Arizona?”
For one thing, you can’t watch Netflix or anything like that.
At least not during the time you’re behind the wheel.
For the Stocktons, it was an easy question to answer.
You listen to a book.
It had better be a good one. One that captures your attention.
One you can’t put down, er, or turn off.
We were captivated by such a book.
It was called, “Sleeping Dogs”. It was written in 1992, and it was one of the early suspense-filled fiction works of Thomas Perry, an award-winning author of 27 novels (his 28th is out in December).
Four of them deal with a character known as Butcher Boy.
They are murder thrillers that just won’t quit.
The first was titled, “The Butcher’s Boy” and it was his first book ever published, back in 1982. He waited 10 years before the re-emergence of this fearsome dude. Then came “The Informant”, released in 2011, and the book coming out in December, “Eddie’s Boy”, represents the fourth Butcher Boy entry.
Imagine, a 38-year span, where this fascinating figure, and the story of his background, appears only on four occasions.
What got us hooked on Thomas Perry was his previous offering, “A Small Town”, which came out earlier this year.
It is one of the finest of this genre Jamie and I have ever read, and that’s saying plenty.
Nowhere here am I going into what these books are about.
You’ll have to look that up.
But, I am constantly curious as to the latest arrivals, particularly of the authors I relish to read.
I have to admit, I won’t simply pick up any mystery, suspense, or spy novel that comes along.
I have my standards.
For one, the story has to be somewhat plausible.
It should be written clearly and concisely.
It shouldn’t be overly long. Think of Hemingway on both counts.
If I find a book to be well over 400 pages it better be brilliant, because I always think a book could have been edited better if it’s that long.
If I get responses saying my column should be edited better, I’ll come to regret bringing up the subject in the first place.
Finally, and I never really know until it’s too late, the ending has to build so that when it’s finished, I reflect on the entire work for several minutes, before I move on to other things.
The worst kind of ending is one where there are wild, out-of-control, scenes of violence that make me think the author didn’t know how to end the book.
Others may have different ideas on what they prefer in their reading.
This is simply one man’s view.
I have often talked about my love for reading, even above viewing because it allows my imagination to take over.
It all started back when I was broadcasting Red Sox games in the mid 70’s.
Mike Lupica, one of the foremost sports columnists of all time, and a mystery author as well, urged me to read books by Robert B. Parker.
Parker’s main character was a private detective named Spenser.
You might recall a television series, Spenser for Hire, starring Robert Urich.
The stories emanated in Boston where Spenser, and his sidekick, Hawk, took on cases which involved crime, including murder.
Parker’s books, and there were 40 of them, never disappointed.
What especially appealed to me was the thorough description of what kind of Spenser would prepare for himself.
It wasn’t just a cold-cut sandwich, it was Westphalian ham, and Muenster cheese, piled on German rye, slathered with Grey Poupon mustard.
And washed down with a bottle of cold Warsteiner beer.
You get the idea.
Robert B. Parker
I actually found Parker at a mystery book store signing in New York.
I discovered he was an ardent, and extremely knowledgeable baseball fan, going back to the old Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Braves.
We hit it off, and became friends, often having lunch in Boston.
Another of my favorites is Michael Connolly.
Michael Connolly and me.
He of the Bosch mystery novels. Connolly’s novels are all good, and all well-written. To me, that’s a non-negotiable.
A book that is not written well gets erased in a hurry.
A former statistician-friend of mine who lives in Tampa, introduced me to Connolly who also lives there, and I have invited him to the broadcast booth several times when I’ve covered the Tampa Bay Bucs.
On those occasions, I have managed to mention the title of his latest best-seller, using It as part of my description of the action on the field.
Actually, it has been easy to accomplish.
For example, In 2011, he wrote a book titled, The Drop.
Plugging that one was a piece of cake.
How about “The Fifth Witness”?
I said on the air, “…the red challenge flag has been thrown, so that last pass will be reviewed. The referee, really “The Fifth Witness” will determine whether the challenge is upheld.”
Okay, it’s a stretch, but Michael Connolly loved it.
If you’re wondering how much I’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know those who write the suspense/detective/spy novels I adore, you’ll understand that, for me, meeting and talking with them, is similar to sports fans doing the same with their heroes.
My reading list does go beyond fiction. But, for the most part, I can’t wait for the escape in reading my next thriller.
So, here are my many of my favorite authors, apart from Michael Connolly, Thomas Perry, and the late, great Bob Parker:
John Grisham, Lee Child, Erik Larson, Robert Olen Butler, Anthony Horowitz, Dan Fesperman and Cara Black.
There have been others who filled the bill and there will be more.
In fact, there is one, who wrote a classic, in our opinion. One that was one of the most lengthy, over 600 pages, you couldn’t put down.
It was called, “I Am Pilgrim”, by a former journalist and screenwriter, Terry Hayes. It was Hayes” first book. An international spy thriller that never let up from the first page through the last.
It was published in 2013. I read it in 2017.
I couldn’t wait for his next one. It would be titled, “The Year of the Locust”, and it was slated to be released in 2018.
But I don’t believe this book has ever come out.
I’ve been looking it up four a couple of years, and after countless delays, it now says it is either set to be published in 2021, or, it is out of stock.
In any event, this has become the most elusive, phantom, and desired book I’ve ever known.
I will still be on the lookout. Like Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, who was on the search for the one-armed man who killed his wife.
To this reporter, there is nothing better than to discover that one of your favorite authors has a new novel coming out.
The anticipation is exciting.
So, the next time you happen to drive through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas in one day, listen to a well-written, thrilling suspense novel.
It will add to your enjoyment of the ride.
And make it seem so much quicker.