Published on: September 7, 2018
I’ve always been a bigger fan of the movies made from Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels than of the novels themselves. For me, the movies stripped away a lot of the technobabble and focused on the drama; especially the first three - The Hunt For Red October
(with Alec Baldwin in the role), Patriot Games
, and Clear and Present Danger
(with Harrison Ford) - were smart, well-made movies made for grownups. I was less enthusiastic about the last one, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
, featuring Chris Pine in the role; Pine was good, but the writing wasn’t very good. And I was not at all a fan of Ben Affleck in the part, in The Sum of All Fears
This is a long way of getting around to say that I was very much looking forward to the new Amazon eight-part series, “Jack Ryan,” which features John Krasinski in the title role, a far cry from the part he probably is best known for in the American version of ‘The Office.” The good news is that I was not disappointed, and had an enormously good time binge watching the series.
One of the things that I think “Jack Ryan” does well is allow for the ability to wander the occasional narrative detour or scenic route; these moments, which often are rooted in characters like a cynical French police detective or a US military man plagued by guilt because his job is to kill people via drone, give the series a texture that the movies simply did not have time to explore.
Krasinski is excellent in the role - he allows the audience to see him thinking, which is no small feat for an actor, and yet he is physical enough to pull off the action scenes. As the character grows in confidence, moving from a desk bound CIUA analyst to reluctant field agent, Krasinski gets better and better. And, he’s matched by the wonderful Wendell Pierce as his CIA boss, James Greer, who has been disgraced and is seeking a kind of redemption, and yet is skeptical of the insights that Ryan brings him. Trust between Ryan and Greer comes slowly and painfully, but it is great fun to watch these two pros at work.
The series concerns Ryan’s hunt for a man who he believes as the potential to become the next Bin Laden, and to discern the terrorist’s plans before they can be put into action. Ali Suliman is excellent in the role, as is Dina Shihabi as his wife; the actors - and the structure of the series - allows us to understand their motivations, which is important as the story reaches its denouement.
Great stuff. Find some time, and watch “Jack Ryan.” To me, it bookends perfectly with Amazon’s “Bosch,” based on the Michael Connelly novels.
One of the real pleasures of my summer was my discovery of a series of mystery novels by Warren C. Easley - all set in the Portland, Oregon, area. (Actually, to be fair, I didn’t just “discover” them. A friend in the publishing business, Michael Barson, alerted me to their existence, knowing of my enduring affection for al things Portland.)
The novels, featuring a former LA prosector named Cal Claxton who, after the suicide of his wife, moves to Oregon to start a small law practice and ends up doing a lot of pro bono work among the city’s homeless and disenfranchised population.
There’s non question that one of the reasons I like to read about Claxton is I know the area he’s writing about from my seven summers there. I jog where he jogs, I go to a number of the restaurants he goes to, and we drinks some of the same wines and beers. So I identify. (Plus, he has a great dog. What’s not to like?)
The latest and sixth in the series, “Moving Targets,” is just out, and it is a fun and entertaining read as Claxton investigates the murder of a woman who was prominent in the city’s real estate business, and who, her daughter thinks, may have been murdered before she could prevent the building of an upscale riverfront development that some see as ruining the city’s unique culture. This allows Easley to write expertly about politics and gentrification, which gives “Moving Targets” a strong narrative spine on which to build its mystery.
I’ve always thought that this is what the best mystery novelists do. They’re sometimes dismissed as being genre writers, but in fact they are using the form to comment on a wide range of issues and the human condition. You can see that in Easley’s work - I read “Moving Targets” first, but have now gone back and bought and read the entire series. I find Cal Claxton to be good company, and I look forward to the next one.
I have three lovely rosés to recommend to you this week.
First, the 2016 Alfresco Rosé, from California, which is a surprisingly supple lend of chenin blanc and syrah.
Second, the 2017 Hecht & Bannier Rosé 2017 from France’s Provence region, which is both crisp and medium bodied.
Third, there is the elegant 2017 Cistercien Rosé, from the Schloss Gobelsurg vineyard, which is a terrific blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Pinot Noir grapes from the Austrian Danube area.
The weather has been really hot, and so we’ve been enjoying these various rosés with seafood and salads and just snacks of cheeses and crackers. They’re all wonderful, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.