Author: Robert Cook
Publisher: Royal Wulff Publishing (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 290 pages
lejandro Mohammed Cuchulain, called Cooch or Alex, became a Marine at sixteen and a CIA special-operations trainee at 17. His father is a wheel-chair bound former marine and Medal of Honor winner who gives Alex advice as to how to survive in a violent world. His mother is the daughter of a Bedouin sheikh who sends a young Alex off, during his summer breaks, to experience the Bedouin life. The combination of a very young start in learning the art and craft of violence, combined with a thirst for knowledge combine to help him to become both a noted designer and user of explosives and an expert in Islamic affairs. Violent, yet thoughtful, Cooch represents the best in fast-moving, popular thrillers.
Ah, the conundrum of civilized behavior. If you deal with animals by using animal behavior against them, are you civilized for protecting the society, whatever it takes, or have you become an animal and consequently not fit to mingle in civilized society?"
I read at lunch. There’s nothing quite so calming as sitting in a quiet corner at Denny’s, book in hand—letting someone else cook and serve me. It’s my version of Zen. I shut out the rest of the world and become one with the characters who live on the pages before me—most recently Robert Cook’s unusual protagonist Alex Cuchulain, better known as “Cooch.” Waitresses have learned that their tips will be higher if they avoid engaging me in conversation while I’m under an author’s spell. I hate to be pulled back into reality before absolutely necessary.
However, there’s always someone who doesn’t understand that. The other day, a woman at the table next to me, leaned over and said behind her hand, “Don’t you just hate when parents bring their kids to a restaurant and let them scream like that?”
My dream-bubble popped and I blinked. “What kids?”
She laughed. “That must be some book you are reading if you didn’t hear those shrieks.”
Eager to get back to Alex who was telling Lord Alistair about the death of his son in Lebanon, I shrugged and held up the book so she could see the cover. “Yep.”
She peered through her cheater glasses. “Looks like the picture on the Arm & Hammer baking soda box.”
I glanced at the front of the book and shrugged. It looked like a Pop-eye arm to me.
“What’s it about?”
“A guy with strong hands named Cooch.”
“Is he a good guy?”
“A bad guy?”
“Only if someone messes with him.” Hoping the woman would get the hint, I tried to look as fierce and forbidding as Robert Cook’s protagonist.
“Sounds like a crime-fighting super hero to me. You know, like Batman or Wonder Woman or the Hulk.”
“He does his share of smiting,” I agreed. “He was a Marine—and the son of a Marine.”
The woman wrinkled her nose. “It’s a war story? I prefer romance.”
“There’s romance too―maybe a bit unconventional, but romance all the same.”
“I do like strong men.” She reached for my book and we engaged in a short tug of war—which I lost. She thumbed through Cooch, tisk-tisking here and there. I folded my arms over my chest and scowled. This woman was a three-time loser. First she interrupted my reading time, then she wanted an impromptu book review—and then she took Cooch right out of my hands.
“So he’s got a thing for Caitlin?”
“It’s complicated.” I held out my hand, hoping she’d return my book and focus on her Grand Slam.
Ignoring my empty palm, she let the pages fan open like a deck of cards and looked up into my eyes. “There’s lots of action in here.”
“That’s because it’s a thriller.” I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Lots of twists and turns.”
“When I read, I like to imagine who would play the various parts,” the annoying woman said dreamily. “Who do you think would play Caitlin—Lauren Holly? Sasha Alexander? Cote de Pablo?”
“I DON’T imagine television stars.”
“Aw come on,” she insisted. “What about Mark Harmon for Mac?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Cooch needs to be tough. How about LL Cool J?”
The woman was obviously hung up on NCIS—east and west coast versions. “What? Not Chris O’Donnell?”
“Chris O’Donnell is too slim—too delicate for the role of Cooch.” Obviously, the woman didn’t recognize sarcasm—or maybe she chose to ignore it.
“Everyone seems to underestimate the man. He looks like a high-class, well-educated gentleman—not a brawler.” I saw my opportunity and jerked the novel out of her hands. “He has a code of ethics but he’s no wimp—no one’s gonna walk over Alex Cuchulain.”
“Well, hoo-de-do!” The woman looked like her boiled eggs smelled like a gas leak. “No need to get all revved up over it. You don’t even know Cooch.”
“Neither do you.” I wiped her fingerprints off the spine with my napkin. “You’ve never even read the book.”
“I would if I knew where to get it. Maybe you would lend me your copy when you are done?”
I snapped the colorful volume shut and put it in my purse for safe-keeping. “I don’t share my books. Buy your own copy.”
“Well, I never.” The woman stuck out her lower lip.
I slid out of the booth bench on the side furthest from her and put on my coat.
At the next table, an older gentleman wearing a “USMC” hat touched my arm, “That sounds like a really good book.”
I smiled at him. “It is.”
“Fun to read?”
“You can finish it in an afternoon if you can find a few hours of uninterrupted time,” I glanced over my shoulder at the pouting woman who’d stolen my precious few minutes of reading time. She saw me looking at her and turned to stare out the window.
“A detective mystery?” A man in a green uniform with “Billy Joe” stitched on his chest pocket tossed back a cup of coffee and stood up. “I love mysteries – like Mickey Spillaine or James Ellroy.”
“Those are okay,” the old Marine beside me said, “but they don’t compare to Mike Angley or Del Staecker.”
The waitress set the Senior Starter in front of him. “I like those political “what if” novels – you know, like Tom Clancy or Lee Boyland? Big plots, lots of characters. Lots of action. A message.”
“Well, Cooch is a little bit of all of those types of books,” I said as I squeezed between the tables and headed toward the register to pay out. “Just shorter. Not as sleazy as Spillane and not as complex as Boyland.”
At the register, I rummaged in my purse for the correct change—glad to be away from the literary crowd in the corner.
“I’m headed for Key West with the family tomorrow,” Billy Joe’s voice behind me made me jump. “Any idea how I can get a copy of that book?”
“I’m sure you can get it on Amazon,” I said as I paid my bill.
“I don’t have time to wait for it to arrive,” he frowned. “Think I can get it on Kindle?”
“You have a Kindle?” I looked up at the burly man in surprise and gripped my purse a little closer, thinking that he was going to hit me up for my copy of Cooch.
“Naw, but I have a Droid.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and showed me the Kindle Ap.
“Then you are in luck,” I chuckled. “You can download it and read it in Airplane mode on your way to Florida.”
Exhausted from all the social contact, I got into my car and drove to Starbucks where I ordered a Grande non-fat hot chocolate and parked at the far edge of the lot. With my poodle Rosie in my lap and my windows rolled up and the doors locked, I finished Cooch in peace – once again a captive in Cook’s private fantasy-land.
Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2011)