The worst thing a doctor can do when you are sick is to call you in the late afternoon and say, “I’ve got good news and bad news.” Get the picture; back in early December my osteomyelitis, a blood infection of sorts, kicked back up. On top of that, about a month ago I had back surgery to remove a cyst off my spinal cord, one we removed this time last year that wiggled back inside my spine twice as big.
So here comes another slammer. “The good news is that your infection indicators are going down … the bad news is that you have mononucleosis.” Are you kidding me, the so-called “kissing disease” that teenagers get? I swear I haven’t kissed a girl since before my hair turned white.
Please, there is no way!
But, sure enough, I’ve got all the markers. Some days I take two naps and the only cure is to rest, which is pretty awful because you can’t meet up with your chums and “rest” with them. You see, “mono” is pretty contagious and I worry all the time about sharing my medical miseries with somebody else. But for me to sit still is a trial, believe you me.
Thankfully, the same Lord who allowed “staph” and “strep” and MRSA to plague His children gave us the ability to search for the good inside the dark clouds and among my first line of defense is the fact I adore to read. There’s a great new book out about Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber who never fired a shot, which I wolfed down in two days.
Dr. Ben Carson has a new one, “America the Beautiful.” I like Max Lucado stuff and I read vociferously on the computer. I read all sorts of stuff but – when I am feeling a little puny, the way I escape is by reading thrillers and mysteries and novels by premier storytellers. I believe a lot of people can write but, brother, I want the storytellers who can absolutely draw you in so tight that pain, exhaustion, fatigue and fever don’t stand a chance.
Try reading “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, or the newest one by John Grisham and you’ll see how a story-teller can fight your trouble with the skill of a sorcerer. I’d much rather read than watch TV; not only can I remember what I read one hour later but there are no commercials. As a writer I can say that I have learned from every book I have ever read. It only stands to reason; anyone who reads great stories will be a better storyteller.
Now, here are the best two books in America today. One of my favorite writers for years is a guy named Steven Hunter. He is a gun nut, sensational at setting the scene, pacing the action and delivering twists and turns like you were on a bobsled. His newest, “The Third Bullet,” involves my all-time hero, crusty Marine sniper Bobby Lee Swagger, but the setting is what takes your breath – this is the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.
There are millions of people who still believe President Kennedy died from a conspiracy. No one can explain … the third bullet. There is enough fact woven into Hunter’s new book to keep you up late at night and enough fact, coupled with all the loopholes left by The Warren Commission, that you’ll agree with me Hunter’s “The Third Bullet” is one of the best reads of a lifetime.
I glowed over Steven Hunter’s latest masterpiece through several other “best sellers” on the New York Times’ list that in no way compare and then I found this year’s pearl. Author Roger Hobbs, just two years after graduating from Reed College, has written a debut novel that reads like he’s been writing for 50 years. “Ghost Man,” just published by Alfred Knopf, could be the greatest book of 2013 – it is absolutely phenomenal.
A “ghostman” is a very important part of a bank robbing team. The “wheelman” is the driver, the “buttonman” is the enforcer, the “bagman” gets the loot, etc. But the “ghostman” makes everything disappear afterwards. This book, flush with research and the talent obvious, will probably make you want to send every kid you ever had to Reed College, a tiny school with 1,500 students in Portland, where the students actually run a nuclear reactor, among other things.
Hobbs’ first novel is as explosive as a split atom and he draws you into the always-invisible word of a “ghostman” with the cunning and thirst most writers only develop until many years and many more manuscripts have gone past. Hobbs is a glorious storyteller – not just a writer – and the way he ties his knots at the end is exquisite.
As I start to feel better, I know it is because I’ve taken advantage of my down time. Reading good books is a privilege and, when I think of today’s masses who don’t understand or who cannot see the marvels that books hold, I wonder how they will ever get by when they come down with the croup or dysentery or some other bad spell where they have to “rest” in order to feel better.