Alistair Maclean, 1973
Most of the book club posts that Carlo and I have put up have been non-fiction, but every once in a while a work of fiction provides a start point for a discussion. This is such a book. Not because it's a great book, or a timeless story, or a classic, or (Crick forbid) "Literature". The Way to Dusty Death is a pretty standard Alistair Maclean 'thriller'. Like many of his other stories, this one is a fast-paced tale of a man on a mission, with intricacies and secrets revealed, piece by piece, every chapter. Guns, fast cars, hot women, shadowy criminals... what's not to love?
So why am I spending time I should be using to work to write a book club about it? Because it's 'Dick Lit'. It was somewhat 'timely' for me to complete this book this week, as I've just discovered the new blog by author Cliff Burns, Beautiful Desolation. Not much up there, yet, but his Spleen section includes a mention of the 'boys don't read' phenomenon, and a possible explanation for it: the dearth of 'Dick Lit', the opposite of 'Chick Lit'; or books that boys might actually want to read, because they're NOT about deep characters with complex emotions and hopes and dreams and motivations and two X chromosomes. Dick Lit is, archetypically, stories about guys by guys. In other words, guns, fast cars, hot women, shadowy criminals, good guys, bad guys, and stuff blowing up (real good).
Alistair Maclean is therefore a Dick Lit author. I don't know if Mr. MacLean would have appreciated this classification, but he's dead so I doubt he'll do anything about it (if he does, that would be awesome). His more famous novels include The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare. I've personally read lots of his books, because my parents owned lots of his books.
The story here is basically pretty good, and it's very well written, but the ending is what really settles it in my mind as Dick Lit. It just...ends. No drawn out reunion scene, no tearful farewells (or hellos), just the bad guy dies spectacularly and the good guy wins and gets the girl. That's it.