In my local Borders they have a "Guy Lit." section which contains thrillers by ex SAS men, alternative histories where the Nazis win the war and Nick Hornby novels...Is there a middle ground between the SS jackboot and the lime green Converse high top? Yes, I think so. Here’s my list of 10 novels for men who don’t normally like to read novels. Each one has the advantage of giving you a passport into a genre or an author that will keep you going for a while.
10. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler. It’s raining in Bay City (Santa Monica) and the slick streets are thick with ironic private eyes - the most poetic and interesting of them is a guy called Philip Marlowe.
9. Use of Weapons - Iain Banks. A crazy, violent space opera set in Banks’s Culture universe. A dude called Zakalwe is a major league bad ass with a power suit and a big gun. Havoc ensues pretty much all the time. At one point he gets his head chopped off by a bunch of insane cannibals. He survives.
8. In Dubious Battle - John Steinbeck. Commie agents in 30's California get the living shite knocked out of them as they lay the groundwork for revolution. This is a book to make Glenn Beck keek his whips and cry into his pillow. Nobody reads this anymore. Shame because its awesome.
8. A Farewell To Arms - Ernest Hemingway. A romantic (but in a manly Hemingwayesque way) American ambulance driver falls in love with war and then a nurse. He falls out of love with the former when he quickly sees how bloody horrible WWI actually is. All the way through you're thinking, this isn't going to end well...Unlike For Whom The Bell Tolls no one gets called "my little rabbit".
7. The Code of the Woosters - PG Wodehouse. Zen master Jeeves keeps his upper lip intact even in the most trying of circumstances. You think Snoop Dogg’s laid back? Jeeves would out limbo that mother any day of the week were he so vulgar as to engage in any kind of stick based contest.
6. The Ipcress File - Len Deighton. Harry Palmer is a spy, a gourmand, he counts his coppers, lives in a flat, flies to America and watches an H bomb test (they couldnt afford to put that bit in the movie).
5. The Cold Six Thousand - James Ellroy. It’s basically the Wizard of Oz retold with J Edgar Hoover as the Wicked Witch of the East and with Dorothy blowing her brains out at the end.
4. Her Last Call To Louis MacNeice - Ken Bruen. You know those Irish tourist board ads featuring sandy beaches, jolly times in pubs, pints of Guinness with shamrocks on them? Well Ken Bruen doesn’t write about any of that bollocks. He writes about smart crooks who know that there are many many uses for a good ten pound hammer.
3. Moby Dick - They’ve taken a three year passage on board a leaky nineteenth century whaling ship with a mad captain, dangerous harpoonists and the heavy hand of fate hanging over them. Let’s see the Sea Shepherds try their water hoses on these bad boys.
2. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller. Its WW2 through the eyes of Captain Yossarian a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who has become the bombardier on a B17. He has to laugh otherwise he will cry and cry. Ou sont les Snowdens d'antan?
1. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy. Gun battles and horrific slaughter in the old west and Mexico. You'll try and get the wedding party massacre out of your head for the rest of your life. You wont succeed. McCarthy’s masterpiece.