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Fiction's Top Five Action Heroes.
Fiction can provide the violent fix we crave for without real harm
Implacable heroes of today's thriller writers
Top Fiction Action Heroes
Having mostly stayed clear of violence myself, like many, I have got my “action fix” from books and movies. In fact, when you see the photos and read the bios of the top authors in the crime/detective genre, you come to the conclusion that they, too, were the opposite of their swashbuckling heroes whom no man could beat in a fight and whom all women wanted to bed. These five authors I mean to discuss today, or rather their fictional super men, may well live their fantasies vicariously through the deeds of derring-do that capture us from the pages.
I have decided to list the five heroes starting from number 5 and finishing with number one, the bloke I consider to be the one who would outfight, outshoot and probably outfuck all the rest. With the exception of number one, the other hard men are called into action by the main characters of the books, some of whom are pretty useful themselves, but not quite to the implacable standard of their friends.
Number 5. This one is a cop and is featured in all the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman. He is Milo Sturgis, and he is the only hero with the distinction, or the disadvantage, of being gay. In fact he lives with a long suffering male doctor who we rarely meet but who often lends Sturgis his 928 Porsche (getting a bit dated that, JK, time to update to a Ferrari or at least a Carrera). Milo is not the main character in the series; this is Alex Delaware, a psychologist who helps the police in their investigations into a series of nasties who always end up dead or in the slammer. Milo looks like an unmade bed, has a prodigious appetite for the contents of Alex’ fridge, but has the strength of a grizzly, hands like baseball mitts, and can stare down a miscreant in two seconds flat. By the way, before gay hubbers get up in arms, I said “disadvantage,” because Milo takes a lot of flak from the testosterone-charged hetro cops he works with - yet is respected by them for his high “solve” rate. This series has been a great read, but, sadly, I feel the best is over: Kellerman certainly doesn’t need any more fame and money and he is now early 60’s and may wish to ease off.
Number 4. This the great fighting Irish/American, a DI and ex cop who backs working cop, Dave Robicheaux’ play in James Lee Burke’s prize winning novels about the seamy side of life in the New Orleans area of the US (all my top five are from American writers, let’s face it, British crime and detective writers are a big yawn - except those who moved across the pond). This is of course, Clete Purcell, whose shoulders split his shirt and whose gut hangs over his pants; who is usually drunk or in the process of getting so, will fight to the death for a friend, and is feared by all the gang-bangers, druggies, paedos and mafiosos on the Louisiana coastline. Robicheaux himself is no slouch with his fists and a gun, but he has to uphold the law whereas Clete takes a delight in “dusting ‘em or busting ‘em.” The books are superbly written by a local to the area, by far the best in the genre for literary passages and in describing life in New Orleans, especially in “The Tin Roof Blowdown,” a must read for anyone, and especially remarkable in that it was written by an author just hitting 70 years of age.
Number 3. This is far and away the most unlikely but one of the most deadly of the five. He arises from the pen of Harlan Coben, another fine writer, who features the fictional Myron Bolitar, ex major league basketball star, who had his knee busted and turned sports agent for the stars of sport. Somehow, all his clients end up becoming crime victims, and Bolitar’s other specialty is invoked, along with the help of our number three, Windsor Horne Lockwood 111 !! Windsor is a multi-millionaire business man who just happens to be one of the world’s leading exponents on martial arts - a sort of white man’s Bruce Lee. Bolitar, at 6 foot 6 inches and 280 pounds is a tough hombre himself, but when the really dangerous crooks come into play, so does Horne Lockwood - an effete, supercilious gastronome who turns into a whirling chain saw at a wink from Bolitar. You know when Lockwood rises spinning towards the ceiling, baddies are going to be flying in all directions with an assortment of grave fractures, or holes from Lockwood’s collection of exotic weapons.
Number two. I must admit to have been in somewhat of a quandary as whether to make this dark and deadly hero number one or number two. This Joe Pike, handsome and athletic sidekick of Elvis Cole, the DI in Robert Crais’ outstanding series. Pike, as we are reassured in each new publication, “has two crimson arrows tattooed on his deltoids and pointing towards the front.” A sight no self respecting varlet ever wants to see up close. Elvis and Joe, the latter also owns a gun company (surprise!), are partners in Cole’s detective agency. When the situation gets hot and heavy and Cole is close to be getting outfought or outgunned, the taciturn Pike arrives and, with a twitch of his lips, cools the baduns rapidly, usually by a well placed kick in the teeth or the goolies. Animal - and especially cat lovers - will appreciate another character in this series, the scarred and ill-tempered black warrior cat who will only permit Cole and Pike to touch him and growls at everyone else. This series is actually my favorite, after those which feature today’s number one action hero who is…
Lee Child is actually a British born writer who has made it big - very, very big - after moving to the United States. His action hero goes it alone in all respects of his life, except for frequent bouts in the sack with nubile partners along the way. He is, of course, Jack Reacher, as you all have guessed by now. Reacher and author Childs are the hottest things in the genre at present. I recently tried at the library to get hold of his latest book in the Reacher series, “61 Hours,” and was told I was number 331 on the list! I gave way for once and bought it half price from Tesco and am about two thirds of the way through it now (good, but not his best, although it will leave you with an astonishing twist at the end like no other!). Reacher is the el supremo of hard men and also top in his class for solve rate and intuition of what the evil dastards are about to do next. Jack Reacher is an ex army special forces MP, decorated many timed for bravery and thought well of, but was something of a maverick. This caused him to be demobbed and now he travels alone around the United States with no luggage or ties, buying clothes as he needs them and staying each night in cheap motels. Sounds like a great life, actually, no cooking, washing clothes or nosy neighbors. Of course, he runs into problems with the psychopaths met along the way that only he can sort out. He is never bested in the physical department: is 6 foot five with huge feet and hands used to kick and punch - with the occasional bone-breaking head-butt thrown in for good measure. He is also a source of philosophy, logic and reason, a sort of thinking man’s brute. I defy anyone who likes this genre to put down a Jack Reacher book.
So that’s the five. There are more I realize and you may fancy many I have not mentioned more than those I have. But all these, unlike crap like James Bond, are set in very entertaining and readable literature: so much so in my case that I have kept a small library of them to read and reread. Trouble is, the good authors can’t keep up with the demand, like all the above and also great crime and adventure writers like De Mille and Grisham who get so rich they hang up their quills and just enjoy life…who can blame them!?