I like to read. In fact, I’ll read just about anything that enhances my life in some way. As I’ve grown older, I don’t always finish what I start, but that’s because there are so many good books – fiction and non-fiction – available now.
I’ve loved male thrillers since I was a teenager. Ludlum, mostly then. John Sandford, James Lee Burke, and C.J. Box mostly now.
John Sanford’s, Virgil Flowers novels, are some of my favorites. They are easy to read, funny, and I like a bit of vicarious violence now and again. I can also finish them in a sitting or two; which is a tremendous plus.
Virgil Flowers is an interesting guy. He’s young-ish, smart, funny, and likes to fish when he needs to work out whodunnit, and why. Sandford’s books take place in Minnesota which is near and dear to my Wisconsinite heart, so that’s a plus as well.
Sanford describes Virgil, or more pointedly has a female character describe him, as a good looking, blond, surfer-esque dude, prone to wearing indie band t-shirts, cowboy boots, and jeans. He does not look like the cop he is, much less, like the uber-cop he turns out to be. He’s “sociable”. We know this because Sandford tells us so, well that and the fact that Virgil has been married three times in somewhat rapid succession – and one assumes, divorced three times nearly as quickly.
Now, though, he’s sworn off marriage.
Which brings me around to my point. Sex in male thrillers is a far different thing than it is in romance or in adventure literature. It doesn’t seem to mean much, not that it always has to, but once in a while a meaningful connection could be had.
I like Virgil Flowers.
I like the t-shirts and the boots and the fact that he rarely knows where his gun is. I like his ease with women. I don’t like that the depth of his romantic interludes reads like a high school jock getting off between quarters of a football game while patting himself on the back for his performance. He usually has sex in each novel – often several times in a row – but they are short, quick scenes where prowess is never in question, and neither is his heart. Not really. There’s no real opening up of himself. This I don’t get. That said, I’ll read every one of John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers novels with a smile, living in perpetual hope that at some point he’ll share his heart.
I’ve read most of the 19 “Reacher” novels, by Lee Child – even though he sold Tom Cruise the rights to portray his 6’-5” hero. Same thing. No divorces, but no real connection to anyone Reacher sleeps with either.
Ludlum had some romantic connections in his books. Sometimes even action spurring love. The new thrillers, though, those with a common serial lead, rarely do.
So that’s why I read them intermittently, after long stints of romantic fiction. I like the wit. I enjoy the smattering of violence and the plot twists. James Lee Burke, in particular, is a fantastic writer, as are all the others I’ve mentioned.
Still, I miss the romance. The closeness. Even the illusion that a strong male with sharp wits and an ascerbic tongue, chasing over-the-top bad guys, could manage to give his heart along the way.
How about you? Does romance play a pivotal role in your pleasure reading? Are there some male thriller writers who do romance well? Does giving your heart, even for the span of one novel, ruin the male thriller? I don’t think it does, so I’m actively reading in the hope that someone will fill the romance gap in this wonderfully fast-paced genre.
Happy Reading! May 2015 be filled with great reads and wonderful writing.