I wonder if Barry Eisler, after all the painstaking research, storycraft, and fantastic writing he does, would be a bit taken aback to learn that the thing I love most about his novels is the sex.
I sprained a couple ligaments the other day in taekwondo class, and spent two days reading. The John Rain books (Rain Fall, Hard Rain, Rain Storm, Killing Rain, and The Last Assassin) have been in my TBR pile forever. I'm almost happy at the injury, because otherwise I wouldn't have had two glorious days devouring all five, one after another.
Thank God, he does not write corny James Bond sex scenes meant only to remind us that Bond is a ladies man. (Not a big fan of Bond, here. Not saying that Brosnan and Connery aren't sexy, just saying that James Bond does not trip my trigger.) No, all the sex scenes are full of conflict and are the most character-enlightening that I've read.
Bond would definitely be described as tall, dark(ish) and handsome. Rain, on the other hand, doesn't do much for me on a physical level. But his mind, his character ... major drool factor. First, he's a conflicted dark and brooding bad boy with a good heart. Kind of good heart, pretty much as good as you can get when you're an assassin-for-hire. Second, he can pretty much protect you from anyone, as long as they don't have a gun. (Although, he has been known to shoot, and he has been known to wrestle a gun away from someone.) Third, he ... well ... he's definitely alpha material.
Which brings me back to the sex scenes. Romance novels cut out all the dominant sort of sex that pervaded those 80s bodice rippers in order to be more politically correct. The latest surge in erotica has brought the dominant man back (the publishers finally figured out: women like sex, too!), but mainstream romance and other commercial fiction seem to tiptoe around anything but vanilla sex.
Eisler seems to get that even a strong female character can love a little show of male dominance. And that sex under such circumstances does not diminish or disempower a woman. The whole act of sex is dominant and submissive; nature didn't make sex PC. Ever watch two horses go at it? Two animals? Nature did not make the sex act an act of equality. And you know what? What's natural is erotic to me. (With the exception of rape--obviously, I hope!)
Does that mean that woman is lesser than man? Nope. Does that mean that women are better than men? Nope. (Debatable, though.) Equal rights are great, but all humans are not created equal. Some have talents that others don't. Some are stronger; some are weaker. I believe in equal rights, but I accept that we are all different. Don't think for a moment that I won't fight to the death for women's rights. I'm just saying, sex and what's erotic are a different topic altogether.
Please don't let my drooling downplay Barry Eisler's amazing talent. His novels are truly the best espionage novels I have ever read. Well-developed and multi-layered characters, fine storycraft, strong and original voice, and great action. Barry Eisler writes the perfect novel. Exactly what I want to read. If I could find more novels like his, I wouldn't want to write a spy novel myself!
I need to confess something here. I'm a total fan of spy fiction and yet ... there's not a whole lot of it that I'm crazy about. The writing is often clunky, the characters are flat, and you know what? Sometimes I just feel plain stupid. And when I sit back to read, I don't want to be questioning my intelligence.
While I was propping up my foot, I tried starting the espionage classic, A Small Town in Germany. I read the first page and felt stupid (could've been the painkillers). I couldn't figure out who was who, on which side, who was even narrating, or what was going on. I put the book down and read Barry Eisler, and felt smart.
Yes, yes. A Small Town in Germany is a classic and all that. I'll get to it. I loved reading many of John le Carre's works. He's a master, no doubt at all about it. A Small Town in Germany was an earlier work, so maybe after the rocky start, I'll catch on and won't feel stupid.
Anyway, back to the point. Mr. Barry Eisler, any chance for a bondage scene in your next book? Or maybe just a little blindfold? What would Delilah do if Rain gave her a spank, like he did Naomi? (Could be deadly, or ... could be sexy as hell!)