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First of all, let me offer a round of applause for Jon Stewart, who tomorrow night will end his 16+ years as host of "The Daily Show," turning it from just another talk show into a cultural and political institution that for many of us was must-viewing. Stewart's take on the headlines of the day provided millions of people with fodder for how to think about important issues, and how the mainstream covers such stories ... and did so with rare humor and humanity.

I've watched "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" pretty much every night for as long as I can remember. When I could not watch it at night, I always tried to catch up the next day ... simply because it was an indispensable part of my day.

I'm going to miss him enormously. I'm sure Trevor Noah, who replaces Stewart next month, will bring his own perspectives and humor to the show, but even if he's great, he'll never be the same. Because even in the madness, Stewart always was capable of combining moral outrage with a moment of zen.



I have often written in this space of the novels of Ace Atkins, who these days is turning out two high-class series - succeeding the great Robert B. Parker as author of the iconic Spenser novels, and writing his own series of Southern mysteries about a former US Ranger turned small town sheriff, Quinn Colson.

"The Redeemers" is the latest of the Colson books, the fifth in what is turning into a classic series that places the elements of the western into the modern south of fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi. One of Atkins' great achievements has been his ability to breathe full-blown life into this community - you can smell the grit and feel the weather and practically taste the cigars and bourbon and home cooking that he describes with precise and evocative language. And the people ... Atkins hasn't just created a compelling hero in Colson, but a group of personalities that comes alive because of ripe characterizations that often emerge from a small movement or a simple phrase.

In "The Redeemers," Colson has been voted out of office in favor of a lesser man, but like most heroes, his journey does not end just because people are telling him that his job is done. He's propelled by a moral sense of purpose, as a kind of modern Will Kane unwilling to step away from his greater responsibilities. Tibbehah County is in need of such a man, because of a deep corruption of the place that has taken place over decades, though it is clear that not everybody thinks the community needs to be cleaned up ... which means that Colson's enemies are not always the obvious ones. And sometimes the enemies who lurk in the shadows are the most dangerous.

Most of all, "The Redeemers" is terrific ride, gathering momentum with every page as it moves to an inevitable and yet ambiguous conclusion. Read it ... it is great stuff.

You can order "The Redeemers" here.




Finally, let me offer an unqualified rave for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

I am as surprised by this as anyone. Longtime MNB readers will know that I've never gotten over the first Mission: Impossible movie, which I thought showed utter disrespect for the original TV series, which I loved, and put its fixation on Tom Cruise above any sense of what the series was all about. I didn't love the second one, and thought the third one was only marginally better.

But the fourth one, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was a blast ... in part because it restored a sense of humor to the proceedings, and in part because director Brad Bird understood that one of the things that made M:I work was a sense of teamwork ... and he gave it a surprising amount of actual humanity which made us care about the characters.

And now, against all odds, Rogue Nation has done it again, as director/writer Christopher McQuarrie has fashioned a thriller with heart, complete with the fabulous set pieces that always have typified the series. (Like Cruise hanging off the side of a plane, or engaged in an underwater sequence that is quite literally breathtaking.) And while Cruise remains entirely committed to doing his own death-defying stunts, there even is a little "I'm getting too old for this stuff" vibe creeping in ... which makes him oddly more appealing, not less.

Go figure. Five movies in, this series just gets better and better. And I'm even looking forward to the sixth.
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