Regular visitors to this blog (both of them) know that I do indeed read techno-thrillers, adventure and crime novels and espionage tales without excessive attention paid to their literary merits. And regular readers of such fiction know that some of the most effectively-written entries in those fields are those in which the writing draws as little attention to itself as possible. It's transparent to the action and plot movement. It also does not tax the brain if it is read while on the exercise bike.
But I draw the line at Tom Clancy. His first, The Hunt for Red October was a fun read, packed with enough technical detail to come close to actually building one of the submarines it features. But as soon as Clancy moved away from the man's man world of the military into espionage and other arenas that required non-expository dialogue and characters with ovaries, he proved that as a writer, he's an excellent insurance agency executive. Christopher Buckley offered a sharp and definitive takedown of Clancy the novelist in reviewing 1994's Debt of Honor and in Buckley's own Wry Martinis book. Buckley actually over-wrote his review; all he had to do was quote this line from Debt and you learn all you ever need to know about reading Clancy: "Yamata had seen breasts before, even large Caucasian breasts." And I really do not want to know what search queries will now bring up this blog entry.
The upcoming Clancy book, Dead or Alive, is his first new novel in seven years. It lists a co-author, Grant Blackwood, who plays the same role for thriller writer Clive Cussler in the latter's Fargo Adventure series.
And, following the example of the bookstore algorithm that brought it to my e-mail inbox, I can happily suggest it, but only to people who have previously exchanged small colored pieces of paper for larger collections of plain white paper, adorned with black ink, sewn and glued between two pieces of pressed cardboard. It is, after all, safer than a stepladder and just as handy for reaching items on the top shelf.