I took a break from my usual science fiction and sci-fi military reading and film consumption to binge read one of my favorite authors. I read the John Rain thrillers over a decade ago. Our moody anti-hero, John Rain, is a disenchanted Vietnam vet turned contract killer in Tokyo and Osaka.
It’s hard to stay solo forever, so of course, this professional invariably screws up by forming attachments with people he cares about and has to protect. Sometimes he fails and they die. Then he has to avenge them. It’s a vicious cycle.
The author, Barry Eisler, recently relaunched with Amazon and I was curious to see how those books held up for me some 10+ years later.
Even better, the books are now in Kindle Unlimited and I can get the Audible, which Barry himself narrates quite well.
Dear reader–they were epic. I sank so deep into that world, striding the streets of Tokyo, Macao, and Rio de Janeiro and barely made it home.
Of course, after I made it home, I drifted into Fault Line which is set in my stomping grounds of Silicon Valley.
This is where we meet Ben Treven, the former Green Beret who is now a “Military Liaison Element, an elite undercover soldier paid to “find, fix, and finish” high-value targets in America’s Global War on Terror.”
Ben has rushed home to the San Francisco Bay Area to rescue his brother. His brother is a patent lawyer dealing with a sensitive cyber encryption program.
The messy interpersonal family drama combined with the mysterious forces trying to erase Ben’s brother’s life and any evidence the encryption software ever existed keeps you turning pages. Absolutely thrilling. For me, the combination of black ops storyline with the high tech angle was as addictive as a bag of chips and dip.
Luckily, there is a second Ben Treven book (Inside Out ), so when I catch up with my other work, I can dip back into those waters.
What brought about this massive detour into the world of thrillers and former military protagonists? Well, the author is local and launches all his books here at Kepler’s in Menlo Park. It’s an institution and I bought tickets for Barry Eisler’s reading. Here he is talking his former career at the CIA, the books, his inspiration for writing a prequel on John Rain (it was Shibumi: A Novel in case you were wondering).
As Barry pointed out, Trevanian’s Shibumi is about a master assassin and master between the sheets. Hard to beat that. I looked at the tagline for the old paperback,
“A westerner raised in Japan, he survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world’s most artful lover and its most accomplished assassin.”
Wow! Needless to say, I purchased that ebook for $1.99 with my one-click.
Barry said that when we meet John Rain, he is already the master assassin, but before that, he was just a CIA bagman. So what was Rain like before? How did he become the master assassin? How did he become the man so attractive to women like Midori, Naomi, and Delilah? He answered those questions in his newest Rain novel Zero Sum (A John Rain Novel).
My writer audience will appreciate this. Barry said that once he finished Zero Sum, he realized that there was more to his protagonist and that it may require a second book to complete the arc.
So I’ve been saving Zero Sum. I figure it will be a good reward to read for when I finish Book 2 of the Cold War.
As a small tribute to Eisler, I’ve also been writing a little short, which I expect to complete this month.