Astrophysics for People in a Hurry was written by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I think the best place to start is with a brief bio of Dr. Tyson.

NEIL de GRASSE TYSON was borne October 5, 1968 in New York City. When he was nine years old, his interest in astronomy was sparked by a trip to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Tyson followed that passion and received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1980 and a master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983. He began writing a question-and-answer column for the University of Texas’s popular astronomy magazine StarDate, and material from that column later appeared in his books Merlin’s Tour of the Universe (1989) and Just Visiting This Planet (1998).

Tyson then earned a master’s (1989) and a doctorate in astrophysics (1991) from Columbia University, New York City. He was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University from 1991 to 1994, when he joined the Hayden Planetarium as a staff scientist. His research dealt with problems relating to galactic structure and evolution. He became acting director of the Hayden Planetarium in 1995 and director in 1996. From 1995 to 2005 he wrote monthly essays for Natural History magazine, some of which were collected in Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), and in 2000 he wrote an autobiography, The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist. His later books include Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017).

You can see from his biography Dr. Tyson is a “heavy hitter” and knows his subject in and out.  His newest book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” treats his readers with respect relative to their time.  During the summer of 2017, it was on the New York Times best seller list at number one for four (4) consecutive months and has never been unlisted from that list since its publication. The book is small and contains only two hundred and nine (209) pages, but please do not let this short book fool you.  It is extremely well written and “loaded” with facts relevant to the subject matter. Very concise and to the point.   I would like now to give you some idea as to the content by coping several passages from the book.  Short passages that will indicate what you will be dealing with as a reader.

  • In the beginning, nearly fourteen billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the knows universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.
  • As the universe aged through 10^-55 seconds, it continued to expand, diluting all concentrations of energy, and what remained of the unified forces split into the “electroweak” and the “strong nuclear” forces.
  • As the cosmos continued to expand and cool, growing larger that the size of our solar system, the temperature dropped rapidly below a trillion degrees Kelvin.
  • After cooling, one electron for every proton has been “frozen” into existence. As the cosmos continues to cool-dropping below a hundred million degrees-protons fuse with other protons as well as with neutrons, forming atomic nuclei and hatching a universe in which ninety percent of these nuclei are hydrogen and ten percent are helium, along with trace amounts of deuterium (heavy hydrogen), tritium (even heavier than hydrogen), and lithium.
  • For the first billion years, the universe continued to expand and cool as matter gravitated into the massive concentrations we call galaxies. Nearly a hundred billion of them formed, each containing hundreds of billions of stars that undergo thermonuclear fusion in their cores.

Dr. Tyson also discusses, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Invisible Light, the Exoplanet Earth and many other fascinating subjects that can be absorbed in “quick time”.  It is a GREAT read and one I can definitely recommend to you.

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The subtitle to this book is “a bullfighter’s guide” and when you read it you will definitely understand.  The book is written by three individuals with extensive business experience who obviously have attended many meetings with the same results; i.e. bored to tears, confused, no direction given or agreed to, and simply a waste of time.

Brian Fugere is currently in corporate-speak rehab and has been jargon-free since their book was written.   He is a principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP where he was the former chief of all marketing efforts.

Chelsea Hardaway is the president of Hardaway Productions.  This company helps clients cut through the clutter of communication.

Jon Warshawsky is a managing partner of Deloitte Services, LP and helped start that firm’s e-learning practice.

I love the manner in which the book starts: “Let’s face it, business today is drowning in bullshit. We try to impress (or confuse) investors with inflated letters to shareholders. We punish customers with intrusive, hype-filled, self-aggrandizing product literature. We send elephantine progress reports to employees that shed less than two watts of light on the big issues or hard truths.”

If you think you smell something at work, there’s probably good reason–“bull” has become the official language of business. Every day, we get bombarded by an endless stream of filtered, antiseptic, jargon-filled corporate-speak, all of which makes it harder to get heard, harder to be authentic, and definitely harder to have fun.

We have become immune to empty, generic messages and as a result, no one really listens anymore. Endless charts and graphs, Power Point presentations with one hundred and four slides, Excel spreadsheets, mandated company templates to “simplify” reading, etc.  You’ve been there—do NOT tell me you have not.

The authors identify four ways in which businesspeople organize their objectives through ineffective over-standardizations or misguided practices, sharing practical advice on how to remain true to a business ideal, promote healthy change, and communicate authentically. The four ways are as follows:

PART ONE:  The Obscurity Trap

PART TWO: The Anonymity Trap

PART THREE:  The Hard-Sell Trap

PART FOUR:  The Tedium Trap

If you are honest with yourself, you must admit you have heard the following words (and many others) and/or phrases used when discussing specific topics:

  • Best of breed
  • Center of excellence
  • Frictionless
  • Out of pocket
  • Paradigm shift
  • Results-driven
  • Best practice
  • Empowerment
  • Bring to the table
  • Face time
  • Brain dump
  • Drink from a fire hydrant
  • Heavy lifting
  • Mind share
  • Outside the box (I’m so tired of this one I could cry every time I hear it.)
  • Push the envelope
  • Sea change
  • Unpack
  • Win-win
  • Bandwidth
  • Core competency
  • Come-to-Jesus-moment

I submit, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there could be many definitions to each of the phrases above depending upon who is listening. Do you really know what bandwidth is? In our context here, it means, “time” as in “I do not have the bandwidth to complete any value-added action items.”

Another pet-peeve of mine—all of the many, many acronyms and abbreviations used in today’s business world, many of which no one knows or remembers. We sprinkle our documents with abbreviations and eighty (80) pages later expect an audience to remember what the presenter is trying to say when he or she doesn’t remember either.

This book cuts through the clutter and makes a desperate effort to solve the problems and clean up our corporate language by suggesting several very direct approaches.  One great section addresses the need to clean up e-mail and get to the point with concise language that actually and adequately covers the subject with zero jargon and real English.

I think you are going to enjoy this book and I’m sure, if you are in the business world, you need this book.  Have at it.

HILLBILLY ELEGY

November 9, 2017


Hillbilly Elegy is without a doubt one of the best-written, most important books I have ever read.  A remarkably insightful account of J.D. Vance growing up in a significantly dysfunctional family but only realizing that fact as he became older and compared his family with others.  As you read this book, you realize it is a “major miracle” he escaped the continuing system of mental and physical abuse prevalent with poor, white, Eastern Kentucky “hillbilly” families.  When moving to Ohio, the abuse continued.  Even though financial conditions improved, conditions remained ingrained relative to family behavior.

 I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.” That’s how J. D. Vance begins one of the saddest and most fascinating books, “Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Published by Harper, this book has been on the NYT best seller list since its first publication and has rarely dipped below number ten on anyone’s list. Vance was born in Kentucky and raised by his grandparents, as a self-described “hillbilly,” in Middletown, Ohio, home of the once-mighty Armco Steel. His family struggled with poverty and domestic violence, of which he and his sister were victims. His mother was addicted to drugs—first to painkillers, then to heroin. Many of his neighbors were jobless and on welfare. Vance escaped their fate by joining the Marines after high school and serving in Iraq. Afterward, he attended Ohio State and Yale Law School, where he was mentored by Amy Chua, a law professor and tiger mom. He now lives in San Francisco, and works at Mithril Capital Management the investment firm helmed by Peter Thiel. It seems safe to say that Vance, who is now in his early thirties, has seen a wider swath of America than most people.  The life he has lived during his adolescent years is absolutely foreign to the life this writer has lived.  This makes the descriptive information in his book valuable and gives a glimpse into another way of life.

“Hillbilly Elegy” is a regional memoir about Vance’s Scots-Irish family, one of many who have lived and worked in Appalachia for generations. For perhaps a century, Vance explains, the region was on an upward trajectory. Family men worked as sharecroppers, then as coal miners, then as steelworkers; families inched their way toward prosperity, often moving north in pursuit of work.  Vance’s family moved about a hundred miles, from Kentucky to Ohio; like many families, they are “hillbilly transplants.” In mid-century Middletown, where Armco Steel built schools and parks along the Great Miami River, Vance’s grandparents were able to live a middle-class life, driving back to the hollers of Kentucky every weekend to visit relatives and friends. Many families, on a regular basis, sent money back to their relatives in Appalachian Kentucky for aid and support consequently “keeping their boat afloat”.

Middletown’s industrial jobs began to disappear in the seventies and eighties. Today, its main street is full of shuttered storefronts, and is a haven for drug dealers at night. Vance reports that, in 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than from natural causes in Butler County, where Middletown is located. Families are disintegrating: neighbors listen as kitchen-table squabbles escalate and come to blows, and single mothers raise the majority of children (Vance himself had fifteen “stepdads” while growing up). Although many people identify as religious, church attendance is at historic lows. High-school graduation rates are sinking, and few students go on to college. Columbus, Ohio, one of the fastest-growing cities in America, is just ninety minutes’ drive from Middletown, but the distance feels unbridgeable. Vance uses the psychological term “learned helplessness” to describe the resignation of his peers, many of whom have given up on the idea of upward mobility in a region that they see as permanently left behind. Writing in a higher register, he says that there is something “almost spiritual about the cynicism” in his home town.

Mr. Vance mentions Martin Seligman as being one psychologist that aids his efforts in understanding the “mechanics” of his family life. Commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also a recognized authority on interventions that prevent depression, and build strengths and well-being.

Learned helplessness, in psychology, a mental state in which an organism forced to bear aversive stimuli, or stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are “escapable,” presumably because it has learned that it cannot.  This describes the culture that Mr. Vance grew up in and the culture he desperately had tried to escape—helplessness.

Vance makes the proper decision when he enlists in the Marine Corps for four (4) years.  This action took place after high school graduation.  Just graduating from high school is remarkable.  The Marine Corps instilled in Vance a spirit in which just about anything is possible including enrolling and completing study at Ohio State University and then going on to Yale Law School.  He escapes his environment but has difficulty in escaping his lack of understanding of how the world works.  There are several chapters in his book that give a vivid description of those social necessities he lacks. “You can take the boy out of Kentucky but you can’t take Kentucky out of the boy”.  This is one of my favorite quotes from the book and Vance lives that quote but works diligently to make course corrections as he progresses through Yale and beyond.

In my opinion, this is a “must-read” book. As a matter of fact, it should be read more than once to fully understand the details presented.  READ THIS BOOK.

OVER MY HEAD

June 17, 2017


Over My Head is an extremely rare look into the workings of an injured brain from a doctor’s perspective.  It is a true story of a young doctor’s battle to overcome a debilitating head injury and build a new life.  The book is an inspiring story of how a medical doctor comes to terms with the loss of her identity and the courageous steps (and hilarious missteps) she takes while learning to rebuild her life. The author, a 45-year-old emergency-room doctor and clinical professor of medicine, describes the aftermath of a brain injury eleven years ago which stripped her of her beloved profession. For years she was deprived of her intellectual companionship and the ability to handle the simplest undertakings like shopping for groceries or sorting the mail. Her progression from confusion, dysfunction, and alienation to a full, happy life is told with restraint, great style, and considerable humor.

I’m not going to spoil the story for you but eleven (11) years ago, Dr. Claudia L. Osborn was riding her bike with a roommate, Dr. Marcia E. Baker.  It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Detroit with just about perfect weather.  Due to a fairly narrow road, they were riding in tandem with Marcia in front and leading the way.  A car made a right turn onto the road they were riding and swung much too wide to avoid hitting the ladies.  Marcia saw the car first and managed to navigate to the shoulder of the road where she “dumped” her bike.  Claudia was not that lucky.  The car hit her head on. She traveled over the hood, over the cab, over the trunk and landed on her head.  She was taken to the emergency room but the damage had already been done.

The beginning of her post trauma period is consumed with behaviors we so often see in this population; denial, depression, and frustration.   I am sure the medical profession has patients coming in after such an injury with unrealistic plans to return to exactly the same life they had beforehand?  Their all- consuming drive is to go back to who they were, to the life they lived before the injury, when in reality all around can see that will not happen.  However, everyone around is afraid of what will happen if they ever give voice to these concerns.  So there emerges an unspoken conspiracy to not put voice to the facts that serve to block the full return to a former life, in fear that these comments might be as traumatic as the actual injury was.

One symptom above all seemed to override nearly everything in Dr. Osborn’s recovery and this was a profound short-term memory deficit.  What many consider a simple errand, buying two or three things at the store turns into nightmare after nightmare for her.  In those instances when she would get to the correct store, she might find the first thing she had set out to purchase, then end up not remembering the other two things she needed.

Claudia might actually remember to get all the things into her basket to realize at the checkout counter she had not brought her money, or not being able to find her car after getting all of those things done correctly and having to wait until the parking lot cleared out to find her car.

Although from Michigan, Claudia ended up enrolling in a treatment program at the Head Trauma Program of New York University’s Rusk Institute, which included physiatry and allied rehabilitative specialists.     This book clearly demonstrates the roles that others play in working her acceptance of the new person who emerged after the head injury as well as helping to deal with her severe depression.

Those important in Claudia’s life serve as tremendous examples about what to do and not to do in supporting and helping an affected person.  Her mother is very supportive from the beginning but demonstrates many of the expectations that it will be ok in time and life will return to the way it was before.  Claudia also has an amazingly understanding life partner who seemed to know just the right times to back away and give Claudia the time and distance to discover who she was.  Accepting these evolving expectations from their relationship allowed them to come through the event and long recovery still together.  So often this is not the story.   As soon as it becomes evident that the injured party will not return to whom they were before the injury, the physically undamaged person leaves the relationship.    This story is a powerful message to those life partners and family of head injured patients everywhere about life after such an injury.

I can definitely recommend this book to anyone who has personally had a head injury or to anyone who has had a family member with a serious head injury.  For that individual, a “new normal” must be sought and accepted.

THINKING FAST AND SLOW

June 13, 2017


Thinking Fast and Slow is a remarkably well-written book by Dr. Daniel Kahneman. Then again why would it not be?  Dr. Kahneman is a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Dr. Kahneman takes the reader on a tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.   System One (1) is fast, intuitive, and emotional.  System Two (2) is considerably slower, more deliberative, and more logical.   He engages the reader in a very lively conversation about how we think and reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we tap into the benefits of slow thinking.  One great thing about the book is how he offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both the corporate world and our personal lives.  He provides different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.  He uses multiple examples in each chapter that demonstrate principles of System One and System Two.  This greatly improves the readability of the book and makes understanding much more possible.

Human irrationality is Kahneman’s great theme. There are essentially three phases to his career.  First, he and he coworker Amos Tversky devised a series of ingenious experiments revealing twenty plus “cognitive biases” — unconscious errors of reasoning that distort our judgment of the world. Typical of these is the “anchoring effect”: our tendency to be influenced by irrelevant numbers that we happen to be exposed to.  (In one experiment, for instance, experienced German judges were inclined to give a shoplifter a longer sentence if they just rolled a pair of dice loaded to give a high number.) In the second phase, Kahneman and Tversky showed that people making decisions under uncertain conditions do not behave in the way that economic models have traditionally assumed; they do not “maximize utility.” Both researchers then developed an alternative account of decision making, one more faithful to human psychology, which they called “prospect theory.” (It was for this achievement that Kahneman was awarded the Nobel.) In the third phase of his career, mainly after the death of Tversky, Kahneman delved into “hedonic psychology”: the science of happiness, its nature and its causes. His findings in this area have proven disquieting.   One finding because one of the key experiments involved a deliberately prolonged colonoscopy.  (Very interesting chapter.)

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” spans all three of these phases. It is an astonishingly rich book: lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value. It is consistently entertaining and frequently touching, especially when Kahneman is recounting his collaboration with Tversky. (“The pleasure we found in working together made us exceptionally patient; it is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.”).  So, impressive is its vision of flawed human reason that the New York Times columnist David Brooks recently declared that Kahneman and Tversky’s work “will be remembered hundreds of years from now,” and that it is “a crucial pivot point in the way we see ourselves.” They are, Brooks said, “like the Lewis and Clark of the mind.”

One of the marvelous things about the book is how he captures multiple references.  Page after page of references are used in formulating the text.  To his credit—he has definitely done his homework and years of research into the subject matter propels this text as one of the most foremost in the field of decision making.

This book was the winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.  It also was selected by the New York Times Review as one of the ten (10) best books of 2011.

DANIEL KAHNEMAN:

Daniel Kahneman is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs Emeritus at the Woodrow Wilson School, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton University, and a fellow of the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his pioneering work integrating insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty. Much of this work was carried out collaboratively with Amos Tversky.

In addition to the Nobel prize, Kahneman has been the recipient of many other awards, among them the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1982) and the Grawemeyer Prize (2002), both jointly with Amos Tversky, the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (1995), the Hilgard Award for Career Contributions to General Psychology (1995), and the Lifetime Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (2007).

Professor Kahneman was born in Tel Aviv but spent his childhood years in Paris, France, before returning to Palestine in 1946. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology (with a minor in mathematics) from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and in 1954 he was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces, serving principally in its psychology branch.  In 1958, he came to the United States and earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1961.

During the past several years, the primary focus of Professor Kahneman’s research has been the study of various aspects of experienced utility (that is, the utility of outcomes as people actually live them).

CONCLUSIONS: 

This is one book I can definitely recommend to you but one caution—it is a lengthy book and at times tedious.  His examples are very detailed but contain subject matter that we all can relate to.  The decision-making process for matters confronting everyone on an everyday are brought to life with pros and cons being the focus.  You can certainly tell he relies upon probability theory in explaining the choices chosen by individuals and how those choices may be proper or improper.  THIS IS ONE TO READ.

WHO IS MITCH RAPP

June 7, 2017


I have had the great opportunity to travel to several countries over my not-too-short-lifetime.  Most of that travel has been for business purposes but even though you are engaged for long periods of time you do pick up various indications relative to culture, even pop culture.  In my opinion, we here in the United States and the western world have by far the very best heroes.   Literature and certainly the entertainment professions are replete with men and women selected to “save us all”.  I’m not too sure if this is good or bad.  Maybe we are looking for that “white knight” to ride in and solve all of our problems then ride off leaving us happy and forever content.  I personally feel that white knight may be found by looking in a mirror.

At any rate, the list below is just a partial list of “heroes” we look for to write all wrongs, deliver us from alien invaders, purge our country from evil—you get the picture.

  • James Bond
  • Jason Bourne
  • John Wick
  • Neo and Morpheus
  • Katniss Everdeen
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Philip Marlowe
  • Ripley
  • Wonder Woman
  • Captain America
  • Iron Man
  • Han Solo
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Rocky Balboa
  • Harry Potter
  • The Terminator
  • Jimmy Lee Swagger
  • Jack Reacher
  • Mitch Rapp

I would like to concentrate on the last one—Mitch Rapp.  Mr. Vince Flynn created Mitch Rapp and penned the following action-packed novels with him as the main character.

  • American Assassin (Mitch Rapp #1) (2010) ​ ISBN 9781416595182
  • Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp #2) (2012) ​ ISBN 9781416595205
  • Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp #3) (1999) ​ ISBN 0671023195
  • The Third Option (Mitch Rapp #4) (2000) ​ ISBN 0671047310
  • Separation of Power (Mitch Rapp #5) (2001) ISBN 0671047337
  • Executive Power (Mitch Rapp #6) (2002) ​ ISBN 0743453956
  • Memorial Day (Mitch Rapp #7) (2004) ​ ISBN 0743453972
  • Consent to Kill (Mitch Rapp #8) (2005) ​ ISBN 0743270363
  • Act of Treason (Mitch Rapp #9) (2006) ​ ISBN 0743270371
  • Protect and Defend (Mitch Rapp #10) (2007) ​ ISBN 9780743270410
  • Extreme Measures (Mitch Rapp #11) (2008) ​ ISBN 9781416599395
  • Pursuit of Honor (Mitch Rapp #12) (2009) ​ ISBN 978141659516
  • The Last Man (Mitch Rapp #13) (2012) ​ ISBN 9781416595212
  • The Survivor (Mitch Rapp #14) (2015) ​ ISBN 9781476783451
  • Order To Kill (Mitch Rapp #15) (2016) ​ ISBN 9781476783482
  • Enemy Of The State (Mitch Rapp #16) (2017) ​ ISBN 9781476783512
  • Term Limits (not part of Mitch Rapp series) (1997) ​ ISBN 0671023179

I have read most of Mr. Flynn’s novels involving Rapp and I can tell you he is a most interesting man.

Mitch Rapp attended Syracuse University, where he majored in international business and minored in French. He attended Syracuse on a lacrosse scholarship and became an All-American due to his amazing speed and aggressive style of play. Rapp was also offered a scholarship by the University of North Carolina, but turned that down because his high school sweetheart Maureen was attending Syracuse.  Rapp had known Maureen since he was sixteen years old.  She was tragically killed in the December 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  One of thirty-five (35) Syracuse students died that day while returning from a semester overseas.

Nearly a year after Maureen’s death, Rapp was recruited into the CIA by Irene Kennedy. He began training the week after graduating from Syracuse. Only twenty-three years old at the time, Rapp did not go through the standard CIA training program at “The Farm,” outside Williamsburg, Virginia. Instead, for a year straight he was shuttled from one location to the next, sometimes spending a week, sometimes a month. The bulk of the training was handled by Stan Hurley, a former CIA operative, who taught him “how to shoot, stab, blow things up, and even kill with his bare hands.” In other words, he was schooled in firearms and marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, and explosives. Endurance was stressed. There were long swims and even longer runs. Between all the heavy lifting, they worked on his foreign language skills. Since he had minored in French at Syracuse, within a month at the CIA he was fluent in the language. He was then taught Arabic and Persian and could passably speak Urdu and Pashto. He also spoke German and Italian. He is ambidextrous, but naturally left-handed.

Rapp then became an operative of the Orion Team, a highly secretive organization supported by the CIA but definitely outside the Agency. It is funded by money diverted from congressionally funded programs. The job of the Orion Team in a nutshell is to take the war to the terrorists. It was formed in response to the Lockerbie disaster by the then CIA director of operations Thomas Stansfield. The unit operates in secret, independent, national security apparatus and circumvents the leviathan of politics that bypasses impediments like the executive order banning assassinations. The team is headed by Rapp’s recruiter, Irene Kennedy, whose official role is as director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

Rapp has been the Orion Team’s star operative almost from the day he started and has been honed into the most effective counterterrorism operative in America’s arsenal. He’s spent significant amounts of time in Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia collecting intelligence and when the situation called for it, dealing with threats in a more final manner.

Officially, Rapp has nothing to do with the U.S. government; rather, he is referred to in the business as a private contractor. Rapp lives a life completely separate from the Agency. His cover is that of a successful entrepreneur. With the help of the CIA, he runs a small computer consulting business on the side that just happens to do a fair amount of international business, which gives him the cover to travel frequently. To keep things legitimate, Rapp often does indeed conduct business while abroad.

One of Rapp’s aliases is Mitch Kruse. In the special ops community, he is often known only by his call sign, “Iron Man” after the annual Ironman Triathlon in which he has participated on several occasions and has twice won. His only remaining family is his brother, Steven Rapp, a millionaire financial genius. Mitch and Steven grew up in McLean, Virginia.

Throughout the books, Rapp works with several special operations units including Navy SEALs and DEVGRUDelta ForceAir Force Special Operations Command, the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). He also has close ties with “SEAL Demolition and Salvage Corporation”, a private military company specializing in underwater salvage such as getting rid of debris for ports and shipyards and training law enforcement divers, but whose employees also work from time to time as freelance operatives for the CIA. The company is owned and operated by Scott Coleman, former commanding officer of SEAL Team Six and friend of Rapp.

Flynn has crafted a remarkably complex character and has the ability to put that character in situations you would expect a “normal individual” to die from.  He has the uncanny ability to weave a story line that has one surprise after another.  This is truly a remarkable feat.  I love his books for this reason and one more—he is a master craftsman with words.  Truly gifted.

One caution—read “The American Assassin” first.  This book gives you the background or Rapp beginning with his days at Syracuse.  It takes you through all of the training used to produce a lethal weapon.  I strongly recommend the Mitch Rapp series for your summer reading.


BIOGRAPHY:

Born in Louisiana in 1925, Elmore Leonard was inspired by Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Leonard’s determination to be a writer stayed with him through a stint in the U.S. Navy and a job in advertising. His early credits include mostly Westerns, including 3:10 to Yuma. When that genre became less popular, Leonard turned to crime novels set in Detroit, Michigan, including Get ShortyJackie Brown and Out of Sight. The prolific writer died in Detroit on August 20, 2013, at age 87.

Famed Western/crime novelist Elmore John Leonard Jr. was born on October 11, 1925, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The early part of Leonard’s youth was largely defined by his family’s constant moves, which were the result of his father’s job as a site locator for General Motors. Not long after his 9th birthday, however, Leonard’s family found a permanent home in Detroit, Michigan.

It was in Detroit that Leonard got hooked on a serialization of the Erich Maria Remarque novel All Quite on the Western Front in the Detroit Times. The book became an inspiration for Leonard, who decided he wanted to try fiction writing as well. He wrote his first play that same year, when he was in fifth grade, and would go on to write for his high school paper.

After graduating from high school in 1943 and serving three subsequent years in the U.S. Navy, Leonard returned home and enrolled at the University of Detroit. As a college student, he pushed himself to write more, and graduated in 1950 with a dual degree in English and philosophy. Still an unknown, however, Leonard didn’t have the means to strike out on his own as a writer. Instead, he found work with an advertising agency, using his off time to draft stories—many of them Westerns.

When the popular demand for Westerns waned in the 1960s, Leonard focused on a new genre: crime. With stories often set against the gritty background of his native Detroit, Leonard’s crime novels, complete with rich dialogue and flawed central characters, earned the writer a group of dedicated readers. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that Leonard truly became a star. The man who never got enough publicity buzz, according to his fans, was suddenly appearing everywhere. In 1984, he landed on the cover of Newsweek under the label the “Dickens of Detroit.” Hollywood came calling shortly after, and many of Leonard’s novels were adapted into movies, including the crime smashes Get Shorty and Jackie Brown.

THE HOT KID:

That’s where we come in.  The title “HOT KID” refers to young Deputy U.S. Marshal Carl Webster, a quick-drawing, incredibly slick young man who wants to become the most famous lawman west of the Mississippi, and does little to hide his vanity. At fifteen (15) years of age, Webster witnessed the vicious Emmet Long shooting an officer in a drugstore robbery, but what rankled him the most is that Long snatched away Webster’s peach ice-cream cone and called him a “greaser.” Webster gets his revenge six years later by making Long the first in what will become an impressive list of vanquished outlaws, and he seals his fame with a cool catchphrase: “If I have to pull my weapon, I’ll shoot to kill.” (Funny how often he “has” to pull it.) Webster’s chief rival is Jack Belmont, the black-hearted son of an oil millionaire who’s out to show up his dad by knocking off more banks than Pretty Boy Floyd. Both stand to gain from the purple pen of Tony Antonelli, a True Detective magazine writer who follows the story as it develops, and plans to stretch his two-cents-a-word bounty to the limit.

In the “The Hot Kid” , bank robbers have become so common that “thief” seems close to a legitimate occupation, right alongside gun moll, bootlegger, and prostitute. Set over thirteen (13) years in ’20s and ’30s Oklahoma and Kansas City, the book is populated by characters looking to make names for themselves, joining legends like Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, and John Dillinger in headlines and crime magazines across the country. In this world, notoriety means more than money, and that counts for figures on both sides of the law, who engage in a game of one-upmanship that has little to do with the usual interests of crime or justice. Though Leonard doesn’t sketch them as broadly as the colorful hoods found in his contemporary crime novels, the ambitions of these larger-than-life characters take on infectiously comical dimensions.

READER COMMENTS:

I certainly enjoyed the book and must admit it was my first Elmore Lenord read.  I do NOT know why I have not stumbled upon his works before since he has written eighty-seven books.  I think his is an acquired taste.  There is absolutely no doubt, at least in my mind, about his writing ability.  The very fact he has remained a “top read” over the years is a testament to his style being accepted by most avid readers.  He is concise and brief with rhetoric. He knows how to paint a story and keep the reader interesting.  This is not one of those books you cannot put down, but it is one you definitely want to finish.  In changing from Westerns to Crime, he maintains your interest to the point you really must find out how the darn thing ends.  I can definitely recommend “The Hot Kid” to you. It’s fairly short and will involve a couple of days on and off or your time.  READ IT.

I like to include reviews of others who have read this book.  I do this frequently. Remember, there is not much difference between a lump of coal and a diamond.  Everyone has their own perspective and that’s what I like to do with the comments below.

DAVID:   FOUR STAR:  My first Elmore Leonard novel. He’s a terse, pacey author, and The Hot Kid is pretty much Hollywood in a book, but a nicely-filmed Hollywood with engaging if not terribly deep characters.

ANDREW P:   FOUR STAR:  This book came to my attention in an unusual way. I just listened to the audible version of NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and at the end the author gives some recommendations on audio books. ‘The Hot Kid’ was one that he praised so I used my next audible credit on it.

EVA SMITH:  FIVE STAR:   In one of life’s little coincidences, I was sorting through books and came across two by Elmore Leonard. I’d read them so long ago that I’d forgotten most of the plot points and the writing was so good that I gave both of them a re-read. Mr. Leonard picked that week to die so I saw it as a sign that I should seek out more of his books. Just finished “The Hot Kid.” Excellent.

BENJAMIN THOMAS:  FIVE STAR:  Elmore Leonard is a writer after my own heart. He started with westerns and then turned to crime fiction, becoming one of the best-selling crime fiction writers of all time. When I saw the audio book, “The Hot Kid” on the library shelves this time, I just couldn’t pass it up because I knew I’d be in for a treat. I also needed a relatively short book this time so I could complete it before the end of the year.

JEFF DICKSON:  FIVE STAR:  A really, really good tale by Leonard. Story is of a hot shot U.S. Marchall (sp) in Oklahoma and Kansas City area during the depression years and one particular inept criminal he goes after. Highly recommended.

STEVE:  TWO STAR:  This might be my last Leonard novel. Starts out strong, but then the conversations begin sounding familiar. This is probably a good beach book for some, but I found that the writing was a bit too breezy, the dialogue a bit too hip. At this point in his career, I’m tempted to say Leonard can write these in his sleep, but there’s some nice historical details that shows he’s not on auto-pilot. For those who like Leonard, and his period pieces, check out a lesser known title, The Moonshine War.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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