12/03/2012 10:34 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2013

Writers Who 'Thrill' Me: Vince Flynn, Lee Childs, Nelson DeMille and Patricia Cornwell

"MURDER IS always a mistake. One should never do anything one cannot talk about after dinner," said Oscar Wilde.

  • I LOVE reading thrillers. As you might know, Lee Childs of the Jack Reacher series is my current crush and soon we will be seeing Tom Cruise playing him in the movies. I am always hoping I will run across a Childs paperback classic about Mr. Reacher, a guy who buys only one set of clothes at a time and discards them for new every few days. He travels only with a toothbrush and a little cash. Lee Childs is a writer of such brevity and emphasis and always, just one or two totally brilliant plot ideas, that I am constantly hoping I will find his first few books. But when I inevitably buy his titles, I see I've already read them, so I read them again. (I know I should be improving my mind with history and biography, but to take your mind off your troubles, you need a thriller every day or so.) Childs is published by Putnam.     

    Before I discovered Lee Childs, I was hooked on the author Vince Flynn. (Emily Bestler Books/Atria) He has a brand new one, titled The Last Man. And his is a continuing story of Mitch Rapp -- a troublesome trouble-shooter owned by the CIA, but not too controlled by them. He is a real toughie who brooks no interference and has an "in" with the woman who is the CIA director.

    The Last Man is about inter-agency conflict in Afghanistan, made worse by the FBI, the State Department and the local police, sheiks, warlords and sell-outs who constantly betray one another to al Qaeda and the Taliban's delight.  Evidently, writer Flynn believes that it is foolish for the U.S. to try to interface with Middle East locals and that we should just get the hell out of there. According to Flynn, we've spent billions without accomplishing anything worthwhile or lasting. And he is up on the latest -- Pakistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

    His hero Mitch Rapp is not law-abiding and is just a killer who gets things done when diplomacy, paying people off and trying to reason with them doesn't work. (You can read some of this author's back titles -- Memorial Day... Executive Power ... Separation of Power... The Third Option... Transfer of Power or Term Limits and there are more before them. He is quite prolific.) There is another writer in this mix and he is Nelson DeMille (Grand Central Publishing). With The Panther, on the bestseller lists right now, author DeMille takes us to Yemen, which was the little country where al Qaeda killed 16 U.S. sailors some years ago, sailing a suicide boat up to a U.S. cruiser.  His hero, a terrorist task force agent named John Corey, along with his FBI wife, are dispatched to Yemen ostensibly to learn more about the past attack. But Corey believes Yemen to be "the asshole of the universe" and the Coreys' real mission is to kill a local mastermind named the Panther. Again, we get the State Department, the FBI, the CIA, local tribesmen, sheiks etc. --  all more at war with one another than can be thought possible. But it's all very exciting.  Some of this book, written well before Benghazi, reflects what happened to our diplomats there.      

    But when we return to the good old U.S.A., we always go back to Patricia Cornwell who thrilled us so much in the past. Her heroine, the forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta, has become something of a mess and a bore.  She is paranoid to the extreme, clings to  her high-tech lesbian niece who has already disgraced herself while behaving semi-heroically in the FBI.  Scarpetta has the man she loves but now is attracted to others in Patricia's latest The Bone Bed. This thing cost over $27 in the Shakespeare bookstore on Lex and 69th. I don't know if it was worth it. But it is autographed in a most dashing indecipherable way. 
  • FOR 24 YEARS I've been worrying about the children of New York via the Police Athletic League.

    PAL holds a luncheon at the Pierre Hotel annually to raise money for this worthy cause. Because all of the bigwigs from the district attorney's office and the NYC chief of police usually show up for this event, I've learned that these denizens of anti-crime think a lot of the PAL programs for children.   

    When they see playgrounds and mentoring and after school programs for needy kids all over the five boroughs, crime fighters realize that helping kids this way means less hapless crime down the road. Children who get help, learn to give help later. Looking down from the podium over the years to see the great Robert Morgenthau or Cyrus Vance or the heroic Ray Kelly and all who proceeded and will come after them, is a true affirmation of the value of PAL.     

    This year I won't be the emcee for the first time in umpteen years. I have graduated, I guess. My pal Mark Simone is going to do the honors for this year's list of important helpers to PAL.  The honorees are philanthropist Patricia M. Altschul, Starcom MediaVest Group's CEO Laura Desmond, LeFrak Productions Francine LeFrak, Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Siobhan Schroth. The chair is I. Dolly Lenz, with the ever-faithful Amelia Bernstein our Honorary Chair. They are aided by Andrea Çatsimatidis and Jenny Lenz.      

    The Humanitarian Award goes this time to Dr. Deepak Chopra. And they've got a little something for me too, but I don't know who will give it although I'm told she has been honored herself in the past.      

    The important thing this year is needing to repair the depredations of Hurricane Sandy. The big event to kick that off happens at noon on Dec. 10th, so call 212-477-9450 for the very reasonable tickets.