There is plenty in Flynn’s thrillers that could lend itself to long debates about everything from casual law-breaking to torture to assassination. But in this case, I think that would be to miss the point. This is escape, delivered in ways that said there were other folks out there who shared that sense of enormous frustration over the gist of far too much of the evening news. Flynn’s books always put me in mind of an observation I heard more than 25 years ago, at a P.E.N. meeting in New York , from the great Peruvian novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa. Vargas Llosa was talking about the difference between reality and fiction, and he argued that fiction is precisely the realm in which our more extreme impulses and imaginings can most safely be let loose. As Vargas Llosa summed it up, man is an angel, but he is also a devil — and the devil, too, has keys to the city.
Flynn’s Mitch Rapp was the best in the world at what he did. But he also took quite a beating; that was a big part of what shaped his character, and part of what made the books compelling was watching Rapp come back from one pasting after another. Rapp lost his first love in the Lockerbie bombing. Later, he lost his pregnant wife to a bomb meant for him. In Vince Flynn’s most recent book, published last fall, The Last Man, Mitch Rapp’s old maverick mentor and sparring partner was dying of cancer, but still in action.
So, when he wrote that book, was Vince Flynn. Some two years ago, writing on his web site, he told his readers that he was fighting prostate cancer. Then he got back to the business of writing books. Given his colossal previous book sales, he surely did not go on writing just for the income. I suspect that at least part of why he did it was because he knew there were so many readers — many of them in the U.S. military — waiting for the next tale of Mitch Rapp. Flynn’s next book, The Survivor, has been listed for pre-order for a while now on Amazon with a publication date of Oct. 8, 2013. I don’t know if he had time to finish it. But clearly there are a lot of readers who hope he did. In the time I have spent writing this post, The Survivor — more than three months ahead of its publication date — has moved up in the Amazon best sellers ranking from #62 to #61. Flynn didn’t write the kind of books that would ever be honored with fancy literary prizes, but with his stories he enthralled and delighted an enormous number of readers. I’m one of them. For years, I had some vague thought of sending him a letter to say thank you. I never did, but I’ll say it here. Thank you, Vince Flynn, and Godspeed.