When I was younger, my casual reading was probably about 75 to 80 percent fiction, with the remainder being non-fiction. Now, I find that the ratios are reversed. Part of the reason is that I try to continue to educate myself in new topics, or expand my knowledge in topics with which I am already familiar. But, to be honest, part of the reason is that I have found it difficult to find new fiction authors that I enjoy.
The issue really struck me about 10 or 15 years ago. I realized that I needed to broaden my fiction reading. My favorite genres just weren't producing new authors that I enjoyed and I couldn't find new books that were engaging even from some of my well-liked authors. Consequently, all I was doing was rereading novels I'd already read two or three times. So, I literally started walking down the library aisles and selected books based on perceived popularity: generally, the number of books by that author on the shelf. I also started "purchasing" a lot of free books for the Kindle. I came across some good books--some real gems in a few cases--read some that are classics in their genre that I had never gotten around to reading, found many books to which I was indifferent, as well as some truly terrible books. I also found some authors that had one good book, but subsequent books were bad, or authors that could write engaging novels about one particular character, but novels about other characters that just did not work for me.
So, as you might guess, it is exciting to find a new-to-me author that can keep my attention over several novels about different characters. And this group now includes Marcus Wynne, who came to my attention last year. I read a couple of his novels, and enjoyed them, so I was very pleased to receive the Wylde collection as a gift this past December. Unfortunately, I had a large backlog of readings, so I wasn't able to finish these until about a month ago.
This is a compilation of essentially two stories: Johnny Wylde and Two's Wylde, the latter of which was expanded by some 60,000 words for this edition--this is the length of another novel in and of itself. Anyway, that's how you get the three volumes.
The main character in both novels is Johnny Wylde, an ex-special forces soldier, who is content to make his way through life working as a bouncer at a bar, with a few extra side jobs for his friend, a South African named Deon Oosthuizen. Deon runs a gun store as well as some training, but also engages in a bit of gun running. Other major characters are Johnny's girlfriend, Lizzy Caprica, an exotic dancer and Buddhist philosopher, police detective Nina Capushek, a couple Russian mobsters (that are also a couple), and the femme fatale assassin Dee Dee Kozak.
The first novel introduces Johnny Wylde and the other main characters, and involves Deon's decision to steal some weapons from the Russian mobsters, leading to a lot of shooting as the Russians attempt to find out who stole their weapons and exact revenge.
The second story picks up shortly after the end of the first story. A voice from Johnny's past suddenly contacts him, and he learns that he has become targeted for assassination. In the meanwhile, a rogue CIA group is working on grabbing a huge shipment of gold from Vietnamese mobsters and cover their tracks. Meanwhile, Dee Dee and the remaining Russian mobster are working on exacting revenge on Deon when they stumble across the money transfers from the Vietnamese mobster and his gold supplier. Their plan for revenge morphs into a heist ... requiring help from their former enemies. And, meanwhile, the police, ATF, and FBI are trying to figure out who is trying to kill who.
As I've noted in my reviews of other books by Wynne, I appreciate the little details that are included based on his knowledge of military combat and law enforcement. This extends beyond weapons and gear (although there is a lot of good ideas there). For instance, when we are introduced to Deon's character:
To the trained eye, there's more to Deon than a thin South African huddled in the back corner of a rough bar. On his right hand there was a pad of callus and series of long scars on the web of his hand, between his thumb and index finger. Someone who knew about such things might recognize the scarring of a very serious hand gunner, someone who shot a lot with automatic pistols in a high hand grip that would on occasion catch the flesh on the recoiling slide.And this:
Here'a a little secret about killing the virgins will never know.
There is a Mark of Cain. It's invisible to the civilians, all the polite sheep who wander preacefully through their day, concerned only with punching the clock and getting home to mama and the kids, shutting the door, and putting out of their minds any concerns about the wolves among us.
I'm a wolf. Me and my brother wolves, we can see the sign, the Mark of Cain. We smell the blood on one another.
The scent of a killer. The look in the eye only the initiated will ever know.
Killing a human takes you into another country.
Killing dangerous humans for work, as a warrior, a soldier, a cop, a hired killer--that the ticket into a special fraternity.
Your life is different once you cross that line and step through that dark door.
You lose an essential innocence when you've snuffed out a life. No matter how not-innocent you might have thought you were before you pulled the trigger or inserted the knife or tripped the switch or swung the blow.
You'll never look at anyone in the same way.
And all the rest of us who've done the same will know you.
We'll smell it on you.
And you'll know the secret we all know.
It wasn't really all that hard to do. And the next time, not only was it easier, but it might have even have been a little ... fun.
I found that to be true.
After the first two or three times.These stories were fast paced and highly entertaining, and get two thumbs up from me. FYI: If these were movies, I think they would get an "R" rating, for sex, language and violence, just so you are forewarned. At the time I write this, the volume is free to read with Kindle Unlimited, or $5.98 to purchase. For $6 bucks, you are getting big chunk of good story telling.