Why MAKE ME by Lee Child gets graded on a curve

MAKE ME by Lee Child

I can’t count how many hardcover Reacher novels line the top shelf of my library. Lee Child is that good.

MAKE ME is his latest novel about Reacher, and it’s also good.

Not bad. Not great.

Acceptable.

Once again, our hero is (a) wandering the small towns of America only to (b) bump into a beautiful girl with a gun who (c) is investigating Some Crazy Problem Involving This Small Town.

This is also the plot of about 17 other Reacher novels.

The towns change. The nature of the evil plot changes. The women change.

Reacher never does

Lee Child is one of my favorite authors, the greatest living thriller writer, and Reacher is a great character. The brain of Sherlock Holmes shoved into the body of the Hulk, funny, smart and tough. A great hero.

HOWEVER: Child isn’t stretching a single writing muscle here. Don’t think he even had to warm up.

It’s as if the devil snuck into his bedroom late one night and said, “If I promise you riches and fame, the price being you have to write the same book every year—year after year, until you die—do we have a deal?”

If we’re grading Child against other thriller authors, he gets an A.

But we’re not. There’s a huge body of work, that top shelf full of Reacher novels already written. MAKE ME sits among them.

Not bad. Not great.

Acceptable.

There is proof that Lee Child can blow expectations out of the water, when he does feel like stretching those writing muscles.

One of the few first-person POV novels he did, THE ENEMY, slayed me with clever clues, revelations and twists. I’ve read it again and again. A great mystery, and the only novel featuring Reacher in the Army.

That’s not a coincidence.

No such thing.

I hope the next novel picks up the mold in Reacher’s big, strong hands and smashes it against the asphalt. That it doesn’t feature a beautiful girl with a gun and a badge who teams up with Reacher, sleeps with him, takes down the bad guys and disappears, like all the others.

I hope the villain is memorable and, for once, a match for the hero. I hope Reacher has to truly suffer, sacrifice and change to actually win.

I hope.

Verdict: MAKE ME gets four out of five folding toothbrushes.

Related posts:

  • Six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child
  • ONE SHOT by Lee Child
  • Why every man MUST read a romance – and every woman a thriller

8 reasons why blockbusters are meta-stories instead of Villain of the Week

Name something popular, anything at all, and chances are it’s a series instead of a One Hit Wonder.

This is about why that is, despite a serious quality handicap, and how your favorite series either does it wrong, does it halfway or flat-out nails it.

There are two basic types of series: evergreen and meta-stories.

Evergreen

This includes sitcoms, mysteries, and other shows where things don’t really change … except for the villain or problem, which constantly changes, until the movie series runs out of steam, the novelist gets sick of it or studio execs at NBC look at the dying ratings and pull the plug.

The advantage of an evergreen story is the audience can fire up Netflix and watch any random episode without being lost. You can , buy any of Lee Child’s series at Barnes & Noble and enjoy Reacher beating people up for 325 pages without needing to know anything about the other books.

Star Trek, in all its forms (original, TNG, Voyager) was an evergreen series.

HOWEVER: the best string of movies was a meta-story about Spock, with Spock sacrificing his life to save the Enterprise and crew (Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Corinthian Leather), then Kirk and crew sacrificing to bring Spock’s newborn body back from Planet Crazytown (Star Trek 3: We Stole This Sweet Klingon Warbird) and finally Spock is back with us and directing the movie, which was smart {Star Trek 4: Save the Whales), except it lead to a future movie where Shatner directed, which turned out to be an Achy Breaky Big Mistakey.

 

The disadvantage of an evergreen series is huge: it inevitably grows stale. Also, the lead actor will always be tempted to cash out and bail for the movies. And often, the ratings or sales simply tank, making studio exec or publishers pull the plug, ending the series with a whimper. Continue reading “8 reasons why blockbusters are meta-stories instead of Villain of the Week”

Barnes and Noble, tear down these walls

berlin-wall-falls

berlin-wall-falls

Readers and writers need each other, and we won’t connect when there are thick, artificial walls and book covers so filled with testosterone – or estrogen – that you may as well nail up signs that say “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” or “RUN AWAY, MEN, FOR YOU ARE UNWELCOME.”

I don’t want fiction so segmented that it becomes little fiefdoms, or ghettos, with this section for men, this one for women, little kids here, gay literature over there, big kids there, lesbians here, left-handed straight white guys here and right-handed women who are into quilting and cats in this corner. I read whatever Dan Savage and David Sedaris write, though I’d never have found them if you hidden them in a gay and lesbian corner, which is a bit too near a closet.

Good writing is good writing, period.

Here’s a brief plot summary for a novel. Read it and tell me where it belongs in Barnes and Noble.

Hank is an investigator who solves murders. But he can’t stop a new serial killer, at least not officially. Because that killer is going after the employees of his wife, a prominent businesswoman. This is a case Hank can’t touch and can’t ignore. The killer knows it — and he’s getting ever closer.

All too easy, right? This is pure mystery/thriller. You put it next to Lee Child and James Patterson.

Nope. It’s a romance novel. Some stores might get wild and put it in Romantic Suspense. This is BETRAYAL IN DEATH by J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts. All I did was change the genders of the protag and love interest.

The initials Nora Roberts put in her pen name also tell us something. Why do female authors, even crazy famous and insanely successful ones like Nora Roberts and J.K. Rowling, have to hide behind initials?

You could say J.K. Rowling went with initials long before she got famous, out of fear a female author wouldn’t be taken as seriously writing an epic fantasy novel. I blame J.R.R. Tolkien for this trend. (Sidenote: George R.R. Martin, you’re a copycat, but I love you.)

Yet after J.K. Rowling earned enough money to buy her own planet and staff it with Brad Pitt clones, she wrote a non-Harry Potter book … using the pen name Robert Galbraith.

So even the world’s richest author, who just happens to be female, still seems to feel there’s a bias against female authors.

As a writer, a reader and a man, I think that’s sincerely screwed up.

My wife has the World’s Largest Collection of Novels, including 5.92 metric tons of Deep Literature, fantasy, romantic suspense, non-fiction, plain old romance, sci-fi — basically everything. I wrote this post after comparing the backs of her romantic suspense collection to the blurbs on the back covers of my Ginormous Horde of Mysteries and Thrillers and saying hey, these are ALL THE SAME THING.

(Related post: Why every man MUST read a romance — and every woman read a thriller)

Let’s look at two more plot summaries, one for a book that turned into a movie and another for a movie.

A poor and passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman and gives her a sense of freedom. They soon are separated by their social differences.

Has to be a romance. Even if I switched genders, there’s no other subplot involving a presidential race or a stolen nuclear bomb. Nothing but a love story, straight up.

Nope. Didn’t switch genders or touch this summary at all. Pulled it right from the IMDB page for THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks, who says he doesn’t write romances or even love stories. He writes literature, and his stuff belongs next to Hemingway. (Not making that up. Go ahead and google it.) And yeah, they don’t shelve his books in the romance section, because “Duh, he’s a man.”

I’ve met a ton of romance authors from this silly blog, and whether they write historical things involving men in kilts, romantic suspense or wild stuff involving Shapeshifting Dolphin-Men and the Women Who Love Them, they are united behind one core belief: a burning hatred for Nicholas Sparks. (Related post: The Red Pen of Doom guts THE NOTEBOOK)

One last shot, this time a movie:

Vanessa is beautiful, rich — and haunted by the deaths of her parents and her lover, who died during Vanessa’s secret crusade against the criminal empires tearing at the city. Now a recluse, Vanessa is jolted when a charming burglar steals her mother’s pearls while a new villain threatens the entire city. Should she open her heart up to the handsome new member of her board of directors, or should she risk everything by trusting the cunning thief in a risky battle to save the city?

Tough one. Might flip a coin here. Here’s the trailer for this movie, and yeah, all I really did was switch genders and leave out a description of the Batcave.

You might argue these are isolated cases, and that romantic suspense is a very different genre from romance, seeing how the love story is far stronger than what typically passes for a love interest in mysteries and thrillers written by male authors.

That argument is weaker than a half-cup of Folger’s Instant Decaf.

Lee Child is the kings of thrillers today. Every one of his novels has a love interest, typically the biggest character aside from the hero, a strong woman with a badge and a gun who (1) is crucial to helping Reacher beat the bad guys or (2) gets kidnapped along with Reacher, so it’s just the two of them against the idiots who made the fatal mistake of breaking our hero’s folding toothbrush.

Want to get more literary and old school? Take away the relationships and love scenes from the Easy Rawlins books and you’d cut them by two-thirds, making Walter Mosley cry. From reading every book in this series, I can say the heart of it isn’t really solving mysteries or racism back in the day, but the bromance between Easy Rawlins and his deadly best friend, Mouse.

The villains get far less attention. The latest Easy Rawlins novel has a villain showing up in the climax that I barely knew existed, and that was fine, because the real point was connecting Easy with all his friends and family one more time, especially Mouse.

You could argue all those books are written by men, and these other books, well, they’re written by women.  And sure, there are women who’ve always written thrillers or mysteries and their work has always gotten shelved in the neighborhood of Lee Child and James Patterson. But not many.

The reverse is also true. There are men writing regular genre love stories novels … but hardly any use their own name, or even initials. They’re using female names.

Online, these walls fall away. Books don’t have to get shelved in only one place – you can tag them in all kinds of categories. However, I’m one of those people who likes to go to actual Stores of Books, and hold them in my hand, and buy them using pieces of paper decorated with dead presidents. Call me crazy.

There is a benefit to a few walls. There’s no point in throwing everything together and making people search for books alphabetically.

I’m saying it’s possible to go too far in the other direction, and to miss out on broader readership by making tinier and tinier niche markets, year after year, with only a few books by big-name authors marketed to everybody. Keep this up and we’ll have one tiny shelf labeled MAINSTREAM and it’ll all be authors who’ve figured out they’re so big now, they don’t even have to write the novels, because they can put their name in big letters, the co-author in little print and let the checks come in the mail. Hey, it’s not a bad gig, if you can get it, and these authors worked hard. James Patterson is a master of co-writing a zillion books and you can tell he works hard with co-authors so each book is in his signature style.

What’s crazy is how far this trend has gone, seeing how an author being dead isn’t a barrier anymore. Books by Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum will keep haunting prime real estate of bookstores as long as lesser names are willing to cash the lesser checks.

It’s like Hollywood sequels made long after the original director and star died. Even if the book or movie is great — and Eric van Lustbader is a far better writer than Ludlum — it still feels weird. All those Tom Clancy books that Tom Clancy never wrote will, for years and years, take up a crazy amount of prime real estate at book stores. And that’s what I’m really talking about here: real estate at book stores, which is getting so Balkanized, the Balkans are going to sue for copyright infringement.

Break the mold, then set it on fire

“We’ve always done it this way” is a bad strategy. If you study breakout hits in any medium, they don’t stick to the mold. They pick that mold up, break it and set it on fire.

The first Harry Potter book was clearly aimed at kids. Look at the cover. And sure, 12-year-old boys buy books, and they see a lot of movies, and yes, Michael Bay has made 6.2 bazillion dollars with endless TRANSFORMER movies based on this demographic alone. Yet it wasn’t just 12-year-old boys who bought all those Harry Potter books.

People actually pay more attention to something out of the ordinary, as long as you don’t try to keep it caged up in its own little demographic closet.

It’s not true that men only want to read books, written by men, about young, perfect tough guys who are 6’4 billionaires. Who’s the most popular character on GAME OF THRONES, among men and women and whoever? This guy. BECAUSE HE’S AWESOME.

Peter Dinklage dancing, game of thrones, out-takes, funny

On paper, Peter Dinklage should get nowhere in Hollywood, while all the tall, young actors with chiseled abs should skyrocket into fame every time they’re cast into the latest action movie that costs $300 million and still bombs. Dinklage, Brian Cranston and the rest of the cast of Breaking Bad prove that actors don’t just have to look like Abercrombie and Fitch models to make it. Acting skills kinda matter.

Mike from Breaking Bad is an old man, but he’s far tougher, and more interesting to watch, than 99 percent of the perfect 20-something actors who get asked to carry movies like TRANSFORMERS 15: OPTIMUS PRIME GETS AN OIL CHANGE.

Find a wrecking ball

These days, publishers and booksellers are doing plenty of other demolition work. Every time a novel becomes a hit movie, teams of carpenters show up at Barnes and Noble to create a new section for this new genre that isn’t really new:

  • Young Adult Fantasy (HARRY POTTER clones)
  • Young Adult Fantasy Romance (Hey, TWILIGHT made a bazillion dollars, why not us?)
  • Young Adult Dystopian Craziness (HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT)

Next month, it’ll be Young Adult Zombie Dystopian Coming of Age Stories in Stick Figure Graphic Novel Form, (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID meets WORLD WAR Z)

Blake Snyder was onto something with his SAVE THE CAT books, where he smashed the myth that story and genre is about setting (westerns are in the Old West! Sci-fi happens in space!). Doesn’t matter whether your protag with a badge and gun wears pants or a skirt –  it’s a mystery/thriller.

Snyder broke down story into what happens and why, and how the story works. In the old, stupid model, JAWS is a horror movie, FATAL ATTRACTION is a domestic drama and ALIEN is a sci-fi film. Wrong. That’s looking at the setting instead of the story.

All three of those movies are a primitive, visceral version of the story he calls Monster in the House, which is one of the oldest tales ever. There’s a monster in the house, and either you kill the monster or it kills you.

Eating you is optional. Villain’s choice.

So this is my not-so-plaintive cry, which is different than a plaintiff’s cry, because I’m not suing anybody: I don’t care whether the story was written by a man or a woman, whether the protag is a man or a woman, straight or gay, short or tall, young or old. I don’t give a rip whether the story is set in 18th century London, present-day Seattle or a space station orbiting the seventh moon of Jupiter.

All I care about is whether the story is any damned good.

Thrill me, surprise me, make me laugh.

Bust the locks on some of these literary cages. Unshackle authors and readers from the obsolete expectation that demographics is destiny.

Set books free.

OBLIVION swings for the fences and misses

tinseltown tuesday meme morpheous

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: OBLIVION is an interesting and beautiful movie that could have been classic.

Why did it flop?

Let’s look at the prime suspects:

5) Tom Cruise fatigue

This is an easy target. Cruise has gone from “Biggest Movie Star on the Planet” to “Incredibly Excited Actor Jumping on Oprah’s Couch” to “Scientologist Who Gets Divorced a Lot.”

As a huge fan of Lee Child’s Reacher novels, I have to say that Reacher is something like 6’5, 250, blond and quietly sarcastic, while Cruise is short, light, dark-haired and loudly cocky.

HOWEVER: I will give the man his due, because Cruise did a fine job of acting in this movie. The average sci-fi apocalypse movie would have a hot new 20-something actor mumble his way through the thing looking stoned while trying to seem macho. Cruise was an upgrade from the typical New Action Hunk.

You could’ve put Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling or George Clooney in this sucker and it wouldn’t solve the problem. Cruise gets a pass.

 

4) Double mumbo-jumbo

Screenwriter Blake Snyder (may he rest in peace) says in SAVE THE CAT that audiences will buy one crazy piece of magic or sci-fi. They’ll buy a giant robot assassins with heavy Austrian accents or they’ll buy witches with real magic powers–but they won’t suspend disbelief to see a movie featuring magical witches battling a robot assassin.

Audiences might buy sci-fi techno stuff mixed in with a little magic if you distract them with lightsabers and don’t try to over-explain the magical stuff. But if you start talking like an idiot about the magic being caused by science, say something insane like “midi-chloridians,” they will turn on you, and hate you for ruining things forever.

OBLIVION throws all kinds of stuff in here: an apocalypse, an alien invasion, evil robot drones, massive human cloning, frozen astronauts who are 85 years old or whatever plus and a serious fetish for spiffy helicopter-things.

All of this, however, is under the happy umbrella of technology. Even the craziest stuff seems plausible given the setting of the movie. Also: Cruise should spend his salary from this movie to make a working replica of his helicopter-jet thing, which I’m gonna call the Tom-mobile.

 

3) Insanely confusing plot

This is a good suspect. While the movie technically avoid the double mumbo-jumbo trap because it’s all science, there are enough plot threads to weave a throw rug.

We’ve got dream sequences in black-and-white, Morgan Freeman channeling Morpheus by way of Mad Max, some Minority Report flavorings and a dozen other subplots thrown into the blender.

Even so, the director holds it together. You understand it. So the confusing parts of the plot aren’t what keeps this movie from being an instant classic.

 

2) Happy endings are for suckers

The ending is happy, which fanboys never like. Tom Cruise Clone #1 and the dying Morgan Freeman blow themselves up in the mothership of the aliens, saving the world, and later we see Tom Cruise Clone # 2 finding his wife and baby daughter.

Reunited and it feels so good. Except it doesn’t feel great.

 

1) The villain

There are three parts to a villain, which I’m making that up right now.

Let’s call it Guy’s First Law of Villainy, which states villains must be motivated, fascinating and scary.

Motivated: If your villain is simply doing bad things for no reason, it’s nonsensical.

This is a huge problem with OBLIVION, since these aliens invading Earth go through all kinds of trouble to (a) find Earth in the first place, (b) travel a bazillion light years to get to our precious rock orbiting the sun, (c) wage a long and brutal war to gain control of the planet so they can … (d) suck up all the water in our oceans to create nuclear fusion or whatever.

Hold up.

Water is no big flipping deal. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Oxygen isn’t exactly rare. You can find water on asteroids, comets and planets. There’s some moon orbiting Jupiter or Saturn that we think is a giant ball of water with a frozen crust of ice on top.

I don’t buy aliens going through massive amounts of trouble to steal our water. Sci-fi needs to make sense, because sci-fi fans are smart people who care about this stuff. So this is a huge problem.

Fascinating and scary:

If you’re going to have an alien invasion movie, don’t forget the aliens.

OBLIVION has no aliens. I kid you not.

It has all kinds of drones, which look like angry flying cousins of Pac Man, yet tiny little drones aren’t scary of fascinating. Give us big, threatening bad guys, not cute little ones.

Who is the ultimate villain of the movie? A big faceless computer.

That’s not fascinating or scary. At all.

To make this movie work, we needed amazing aliens, the kind that are incredibly fun to watch. ALIEN got this right, as did ALIENS.

PROMETHEUS forgot about this rule, and therefore wasted the gross domestic product of Paraguay on Michael Fassbender and special effects for no good reason.

This is the reason OBLIVION failed as an alien invasion classic: no aliens. You can’t expect audiences to go wild for a boring, faceless computer as the bad guy.

It’s the same trap that doomed THE MATRIX sequels. We never saw Neo battle the ultimate bad guy in charge of the machines. He died playing anti-virus cleaner for the machine lords, which put the B in Boring.

Six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK by Lee Child

writing meme spiderman dear diary

Let’s say it: Lee Child has a Superman problem.

His hero, Reacher, is beloved by fans for having the brains of Sherlock Holmes and the body of Conan the Barbarian. The man never gets outsmarted and is invincible in a fight. Here’s the last post about these books: Secret recipe for any Lee Child novel

The latest Reacher book, NEVER GO BACK, slams smack-dab into the Superman problem. Because an invincible hero puts the B in Boring.

Did I enjoy the book? Yeah, it’s always fun to read about Reacher. With every new novel, though, Reacher struggles less and less to overcome the bad guys.

If the hero doesn’t sweat, the reader doesn’t worry. Or care.

Because I do care about Reacher and Lee Child, here are six ways to fix NEVER GO BACK.

Lee Child's NEVER GO BACK is something you should read. Do it now.
Lee Child’s NEVER GO BACK. Buy two copies, one of each cover, because I say so.

1) Don’t simply remake THE ENEMY

The only other novel with Reacher in the Army was Child’s best book: THE ENEMY, a true mystery with all kinds of crazy twists and turns and a real sense of menace. Just like that book, the latest novel has big-shots in the Pentagon and such as the criminal masterminds, using other officers as their puppets.

That book was first-person and visceral. It put you in the head of Reacher and made you feel what he felt, see what he saw. I’ve happily read that book seven bazillion times.

NEVER GO BACK starts out feeling like that book, with the full force of the Pentagon and Homeland Security poised to squash Reacher … until he escapes them, easily and repeatedly.

THE ENEMY was amazing, and the ending isn’t a clear win. Reacher is demoted and leaves the service. This latest novel doesn’t hold a candle to that classic.  Which proves that yeah, you should never go back.

2) Give Reacher a real daughter, not a fake one

What are the odds that the bad guys randomly picked a fake daughter for Reacher who looks like him, thinks like him and even talks like him?

I’ll tell you the odds: zero.

The fake daughter is an achy breaky big mistakey. It feels like Child planned on making the daughter real up to the end of the book, then decided nope, Reacher can’t have a teenage daughter, because that would tie him down in future books. So he turned her into a ruse.

If you’re gonna do it, do it.

3) One-sided beatings aren’t really fights

Fight scenes are a Reacher staple. A novel without Reacher getting blood on his elbows would be like a Jean Claude Van Damme movie without him doing the side splits and kicking a single guy in the face.

However: there’s a big difference between a fight and a beating. Every fight in NEVER GO BACK is a cake walk for Reacher, who doesn’t even break a sweat when he takes out two angry rednecks with both hands behind his back.

Give us a real fight. Let’s be realistic and let the bad guys land a punch for once.

This leads to Number 4.

4) Tough guy villains better be tough

In this book, there’s one thug we keep getting told is a giant muscle-freak with weird ears. A monster who looks like a match for Reacher.

So for hundreds of pages, you keep expecting the final battle between these two men to be epic. I was getting the popcorn out.

The fight between Reacher and this incredible hulk was over in about two seconds. Boring, and a huge let-down. Come on. That’s like showing us Darth Vader on screen for 90 minutes and Luke training with Yoda for 20 minutes only to have the two meet for the Greatest Lightsaber Battle of All Time … and have Luke cut Darth Daddy in half within two seconds. No.

The badder the bad guy, the longer the fight should last. Redneck idiots can get dispatched in a paragraph. Medium baddies should take a chapter. The boss villain should take a couple of chapters.

When every villain, big or small, goes down without Reacher chipping a nail, or doing anything at all (see Number 6),  it’s not exciting.

5) The Girl with a Gun has to be some kind of Challenge

It’s totally fine for Reacher to swim in a sea of attractive women, just like 007.

What’s not fine is for the Girl with the Gun to fall in love with Reacher in about two micro-seconds and be like a loyal puppy dog for 300 pages. THE ENEMY had a good love interest, with a conflict: he was an officer, and her commanding officer, and she was a sergeant. There was risk, and you got a real feel for the sergeant with them doing the investigation a long time before falling in the sack. It was credible and interesting.

A perfect woman who falls in love with Reacher instantly and never really does anything, well, she’s cardboard and snooze city.

6) Finish with a bang

So the bad guys are two high-powered dudes with insane connections, the ability to track Reacher in real-time, a lust for power and a network of thugs. It’s suicide for Reacher to go after them, right? They have the full reach of the Pentagon and Homeland Security to smack him like a fly.

Yet the final confrontation … never happens. Because the bad guys shoot themselves in the head.

What?

Maybe I’m nuts, but I believe, deep in my Swedish soul, that the end of a novel or movie should be more exciting than the beginning. The beginning was exciting. This ending wasn’t even as suspenseful as six random rednecks surrounding Reacher in the motel.

If you set up Reacher as some kind of invincible Superman, the bad guys can’t be cream puffs who fold at the end. To make it interesting, you have to make the villains even tougher than Reacher.

That hasn’t happened yet. Not even close.

I hope someday it will. Because that would be an amazing book.

Top 4 features Twitter should add — or kill

So, I love the Twitter, which is fun and useful, and have fallen out of love with the Book of Face, because it’s not very useful and has become rather Annoying.

Twitter

HOWEVER: There are things in Twitter that should be fixed, and features we desperately need to have.

Here they are.

Thing Number 4: Kill direct messages 

Kill it with fire. Nuke it from orbit. Go send Keanu Reeve through the Matrix to wipe DM’s from the face of the Twitterverse.

Why?

Because nobody sends them anymore, not unless they get hacked and spit out endless “U didn’t see them tapping u? http://spam.a.licious” messages.

Thing Number 3: Give unto us some LIVE CHAT already

One of the great things about Gmail is you can see your contacts on the left side of the screen, with little green dots for folks who are online, and with a single click, bam, you can live-chat your buddies.

Twitter needs this. You’re already on the Twitter, and so is your buddy, but after the third round of back-and-forth of Tweets and replies, it’s beyond clunky and you just want to do a live chat instead of waiting for Twitter to reload and such.

Live chat isn’t some kind of advanced alien technology.  Make your people happy. After you put a dagger in the heart of spammy direct messages, give us live chat, which is spam proof.

Thing Number 2: Separate the streams

Right now, Twitter gives us a single stream of tweets, and they fly by at the speed of light.

Even if you’ve got all your people categorized into separate lists and groups, and would like to check on folks that way, Twitter won’t let you.

Basically, they’ve crossed the streams. And crossing the streams is an achy breaky bad mistakey.

Sure, you can fire up Hootesuite and other apps that will let you see different streams of Tweets, as they are meant to be seen. Yet if you need Hootesuite to check different streams, then Social Bro to manage your lists, Buffer to schedule tweets and some other app to get a handle on all your contacts, that’s a flashing neon light that says Twitter needs fixing.

Thing Number 1: Give us easy ways to manage our peoples

Learn from email, please. It’s been around for a little while now, and we all know how to use it.

Don’t let us organize people into lists like “Thriller authors” and “Serious fans of Care Bear cartoons” without giving us an easy way of sending a tweet about Lee Child‘s latest novel only to those thriller authors, and not your Care Bear maniacs.

Don’t make it insanely difficult to sort through the list of people you follow, or who follow you, without wading through screen after screen. SocialBro has some really smart features, like sorting through people who haven’t tweeted in six months. Learn from that. Sock it to us.

It shouldn’t be insanely difficult to keep track of your favorite people. Gmail has a nice touch where it’ll list your 20-some most frequently emailed folks. Those are your people, right? Make it easy for users. Show everybody who tweets them the most, or retweets what they say. Don’t make us try to remember whether you spell it @batmanFANinLondon or @BATMANfanInLONDON when you’re trying to talk to the guy about what DC will do with the Justice League movie.

Also, distribution lists are smart and useful. Let us have them.

Make it easy and we will love you even more, Twitter.

Make it hard and we’ll keep on kludging together workarounds, using four other apps, as we wonder whether you’ll keep making smart decisions or follow Facebook down the path of the Dark Side, where stock options only head south after the IPO.

ONE SHOT by Lee Child

The library in my secret lair contains Every Thriller Known to Man, including every Lee Child thriller, so reviewing his novels is like riding a bicycle for me.

A bicycle with two seats and training wheels. And a chauffeur.

So let’s make one thing clear, right off: Lee Child is the best thriller writer alive.

one shot lee child
The original cover for ONE SHOT by Lee Child.

Also, Lee is British, though he lives in NYC these days, so he’s got this killer accent to go along with the killer books about Reacher.

ONE SHOT is one of his better books. It’s not THE ENEMY, which is his best. But it’s not one of his worst, and his worst are still good.

Here’s the setup: Reacher is a loner. Six-foot-five. Two-fifty. A giant. He’s some kind of hotshot ex-Army major from the military police, and when you’re investigating bad guys for doing bad things and every suspect is a trained killer, you’ve got to be tougher than they are.

Reacher is plenty tough. And smart. He’s like putting the brain of Sherlock Holmes into the body of Dolph Lundgren, and then giving Dolph another twenty pounds of muscle.

It’s almost unfair to the bad guys. But that’s a post for another day.

ONE SHOT takes Reacher to Indiana, where an Army sniper he arrested years ago in Kuwait, for killing four men, has apparently gone bad again, 14 years later. Except when the sniper is arrested, he asks for Reacher, by name. Because they’ve got the wrong guy, he says. This is despite a rock-solid case against the man, Barr: his rifle did the shooting. Five people are dead. The police have his minivan on tape, driving to the parking garage where it happened. And back in Kuwait, he’d also used a parking garage.

Reacher shows up to keep a promise, a promise meant to keep Barr in line. But he discovers nothing is what it seems. The case it a little too good. There’s a puppet master, pulling the strings, who doesn’t want Reacher asking questions.

Without giving the ending away, it’s a rock-solid thrill ride. Are there plot holes? Yeah, sure. You have to suspend disbelief, especially looking back at the first chapter. There’s a huge gamble there. It’s kind of cheating.

But you don’t care, because it’s too much fun watching Reacher in action. He’s not your typical thriller hero. He’s not suave. He’s not sophisticated. He’s completely rough around the edges, and he doesn’t use spy gadgets or fancy guns. The only thing he carries from place to place is a folding toothbrush.

one shot lee child new cover
The new cover of Lee Child’s ONE SHOT. Is it better than the original? Yes.

So, on to the numbers.

Number of beautiful women: Four. An ex-flame who’s now a brigadier general at the Pentagon, an NBC reporter, a defense attorney and a pretty redhead murdered to set up Reacher for her death.

Number of beautiful women Reacher actually connects with: One. I admire his restraint and good taste.

Body count: 13. Five victims of the sniper. Two other men. The pretty redhead. Four thugs. Then the puppet master. I may be missing one or two, but I don’t think so.

Overall: 4.75 glasses of bourbon out of 5.

Sidenote: Yes, it is true — and tragic — that Tom Cruise is starring at Reacher in the big screen adaptation of ONE SHOT. Do not like. Reacher is giant, stone-cold blond, a one-man wrecking crew. Cruise is rather short and hyper. Not a good fit.