That guy’s name was Vince Flynn

June23/ 2013

It was 1998 way back in our days.  Blondie found this book – Term Limits – on the $5.00 table at B&N.  She and I loved the book.   Book lovers are worse than first time grandparents in terms of having to share their experience with others.  One friend that we told “you gotta read this one” quickly recommended it to a lot of other people.  A lot of those other people then read that first book by a young author – Vince Flynn…….

Vince Flynn died last week from prostate cancer at 47.  Since Term Limits in 1998 Vince Flynn wrote a total of 14 novels in the gendre known as “political thrillers”.  Each Vince Flynn novel quickly became an automatic NYT / Amazon “best seller”.   Over the past 10 or so years Vince Flynn has resided in the pantheon of mega-popular fiction authors along with Tom Clancy, David Baldacci, Robert Ludlum and Lee Child.  That pantheon is a small club.   His “latest” always flew off the shelves.

A bit of literary trivia….. that first novel – Term Limits – did NOT feature the character who would quickly become synonymous with Vince Flynn – Mitch Rapp.  Mitch did not appear until Book #2 – Transfer Of Power.

Vince and “Mitch” became generic and inseparable.   Research the careers of most highly successful people and you likely find a circumstance or two that jet-propelled their success.  September 11, 2001 certainly was such a boost for Vince.  Were his early books already “great reads” before 9/11?  Absolutely.  Clancy’s Jack Ryan was already well-established as was Ludlum’s Bourne series.

In the aftermath of 9/11 many Americans needed to believe there could be “a new John Wayne” out there who would spit in the eye of the Islamo-terrorists and in the beady eyes of the wishy-washy bureaucrats and liberal political weenies.  “Mitch” not only spit in their eye he gut shot the sumbitches and disemboweled’em.  He was only slightly less charitable with the wishy-washy beady-eyed government weasels.

In one of the more recent stories Mitch was under a full-harrassment attack by an unmistakeable  “Nancy Pelosi” character.   Terrorists were enroute to blow up most of DC and this she-jackass was doing all she could to discredit the POTUS and Mitch and Kathleen for her own political gain.  I won’t be “a spoiler” but just say Good Guys Win.

Vince’s “beady-eyed government weasels” were often more “unlikeable” characters than the Islamo-nutjobs with their van full of C-4.

That’s why Vince and Mitch had so many fans.  The Good Guys did win… but not without enduring personal tragedies and heartaches in doing so.

Comparisons of Mitch to Jack Bauer of “24” were automatic.  Which came first?  Mitch came first.  Vince Flynn was a story consultant to “the 24 guys”.

Like all good literary series, Vince Flynn novels developed a recognizable formula…. think Ian Fleming’s James Bond.   “A formula” is not a bad thing at all.

Fans rely on that familiar formula and look forward to the point in the story, usually Chapter Two, when a beleaguered President, faced with the looming likelihood of “another 9/11”, would summon NSA/CIA Director Kathleen/Irene Kennedy and say:

“We need Mitch for this one”.
“Yes, Mr President, I’ve already briefed him.  Mitch should be touching down in Yemen within the hour.”

….. Uh oh!

If Mitch needed vital intel in order to save innocent lives and he needed it RIGHT NOW and a bad guy was in custody….. Mitch “got that intel”.  I’m not sure if Mitch ever waterboarded anyone.  He had “other means” that were equally effective.

I doubt Vince / Mitch was too popular in places like Chapel Hill, Berkley, Harvard, et al….. bastions of extreme liberalism; but that likelihood increased their popularity everywhere else.

Vince Flynn and I had a mutual friend so I learned a bit about Vince the Man versus Vince the Author.  They were THE SAME GUY….. Yippeee.  That’s not always the case.

I even had a brief chat with Vince in a radio interview promoting a book 6-8 years ago.   Around Book 3 or 4, Vince had Mitch get married to an info-babe.  On the surface that was cool…. but not really.  Mitch Rapp “getting married” was the equivalent of Jack Reacher buying a condo and a mini-van.

…… so I told Vince “I’m not sure Mitch Rapp is a married-kinda-guy?”   I recall Vince laughing and saying “BobLee, you’re not the only fan to express that opinion.  Read this new book.”

Sure enough…. in Chapter Three of that next book Mrs Rapp gets blown up in their Maryland Eastern Shore beach cottage by terrorists coming after Mitch.   Mitch was back being the laconic lone wolf with no ties or trust in anyone other than his unwavering sense of duty and special friendship with Director Kennedy.

In a prequel (Book 11-12 ??) we met the grizzled special ops veteran (spook?) that turned a young Syracuse lacrosse player into “Mitch Rapp”.   He was “a pieca work” himself.

Unless you count “24” there has never been “a Mitch Rapp movie” but Vince did sell the movie rights of several books.  As with Jack Reacher, Dirk Pitt, and Bond James Bond putting a face and form to a book icon is dangerous.   Sean Connery /Bond is the classic case it WORKED.  Tom Cruise’s Reacher was not as awful as I thought it would be.  Matthew McConaughy’s Dirk Pitt was acceptable.   I’ve never seen any speculation of who might be Mitch.

With Vince’s passing last week there is no word about Mitch’s future.  But….. here’s some first-rate alternatives for Mitch-oholics.

Brad Thor’s “Scot Horvath” would be my first choice.  There are 7-8 Scot Horvath novels.   Very Mitch-esque.   Wait til you meet Nicholas The Dwarf and his two giant dogs.

Ben Coes’ “Dewey Andreas” may be even more laconic and more “lone wolf” than Mitch.  Coes’ 4th Dewey novel comes out in July.  Definitely read these in chronological order.  I REALLY like Dewey… and his “Gerber knife”.

Certainly Stephen Hunter has a incredibly roguish fella I am especially fond of.  His nickname is “Bob The Nailer”.

Ted Bell’s “Sir Alex Hawk” is more Bondian than Mitch but a must-read series.

Andrew Peterson’s “Nathan McBride” is another version of Mitch…. Nathan is a former special ops guy who now has his own private security firm.  Nathan kick’s butt.

Baldacci has various reoccuring character series (Camel Club etc).  Any Baldacci novel is great but look for a few recent one featuring John Puller.

I just finished a terrific four book series by Greig Beck.  His Capt. Alec Hunter (aka “The Arcadian”) is Mitch on Steroids.  Literally, Alec is a very special special op-guy with bionic super senses.   These I would classify as “soft sci-fi” as each book involves a “creature” as well as the usual batch ‘o bad guys.  Again, a bit afield from Mitch but worth a look see.

Beck’s books are similar to James Rollins and Matthew Reilly.  Reilly’s “Scarecrow” stories are first-rate.

And, of course, all things Cussler.  A Clive Cussler is its own gendre.  His latest series with Super Detective Isaac Bell are very good.  NOT exactly like Mitch and these others at all.

OK….. that oughta keep you buddies and babes busy the rest of the summer.

I’m off to Omaha for a special Blue Ribbon Committee to figure out how to return the Home Run to CWS.

PS: 3-4 years ago I was at a party with a former CIA Director (don’t ask, can’t give details)…. and I asked – “So, George, are there real Mitch Rapps on our side?”  He smiled – “I get asked that a lot.” – and gave me a very slight affirming nod.

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