Thomas Perry

April 21, 2011 Books

If I taught a course on how to be a successful criminal, the books of Thomas Perry would be assigned reading. Perry is a master strategist and game player who weaves intricate plots with intelligent and even captivating criminals; fortunately, for society, most street criminals are bumblers, easily caught and rarely have charisma.  And they don’t study books like this. They watch CSI, and as Alexander Pope noted, a little learning is a dangerous thing.

I almost wrote a similar book. The idea for it sprung from the Iraq invasion and the looting of the National Museum. In the chaos that ensued from the intense fighting, many priceless works of art were stolen. So I wondered if a criminal mastermind could pull off a big heist in South Florida during the confusion surrounding a hurricane. The police and everyone else would be so tied up that a gang could loot jewelry stores, museums, and other venues. My dubious hero even studied weather forecasting to be able to predict where the hurricane would make landfall. Of course, as usual, I have a lot of ideas but get lazy and fail to actually do it.

But I am not the only one. The world is full of people who have ideas and never execute. Marketing genius Seth Godin calls it shipping. Actually doing it means shipping it. And he ships. He wrote 13 books including my favorites, Linchpin and All Marketers are Liars, and finds time to write a blog post a day at  Sign up for his daily posts; they are usually brilliant ideas. So I had the book all plotted out but never sat down and did the hard work to write it. I didn’t ship.

Thomas Perry does ship, and he is one of my favorite thriller writers. Last night I turned the last page of his latest book The Informant. It is the third addition to his Butcher’s Boy series. The butcher’s boy is a hitman, a methodical killing machine who always gets his man, yet you can’t help yourself for rooting for him. The stories have two main characters, the hitman and a Department of Justice lawyer who has spent 20 years pursuing him. This time the butcher’s boy had been in quiet retirement when a trio of mafia killers came after him. This motivated him to launch a war against a series of mafia dons most of whom end up dead.. He leaves the landscape between LA and Baltimore littered with bodies. The story builds to a great ending which I won’t disclose so not to spoil the fun. Perry won the Edgar for the first volume in the series The Butcher’s Boy. This one is just as good.

Perry also writes the Jane Whitefield series about a half white half Indian member of the Seneca Wolf clan who is an expert in making people in danger disappear, women fleeing from abusive spouses, children who are the targets of vicious predators, people under death threats, a sort of private witness protection program. She’s clever, beautiful, and dangerous. She calls herself a guide and uses her Native American instincts to work out amazing escapes involving torturous twists and turns and then establishes new identities for her charges. If you ever wanted to be a fugitive, here are your blueprints.

The opening scene in Vanishing Act has her and her client being a chased through an airport by bounty hunters. A great episode. Other fun stories in the series are Dance for the Dead, Blood Money, The Face Changers, Runner and Shadow Woman. Unfortunately I read them all and have nothing left to look forward to. Fortunately Perry is prolific and even writes stand-alone stories in addition to these two series. So I won’t have to wait long for the next one.