Last year I wrote my first blog post about the Gray Man, "Lessons for living from a fictional assassin, the 'Gray Man.'"
Now I've read two more books in the six-part series about Court Gentry, so it's time to update the life lessons I've absorbed from the astoundingly engrossing novels.
What I said last July still holds:
But something about the Gray Man appeals to me on a deeper philosophical level. Again, this is weird, because the fictional Court Gentry seemingly isn't much like the real person Me.
This excerpt from "The Gray Man" points to the main thing I like about Court Gentry. He goes through life largely clueless about why stuff is happening to him, but he manages to carry on just fine anyway.
...Sure, Court Gentry knows a lot about the shadowy world he inhabits after being betrayed by his CIA handlers. But in his day-to-day efforts to complete a mission for hire, and stay alive while doing so, he often has no idea what is going on. Yet this doesn't stop him from dealing in a marvelously spontaneous way with whatever is happening without an evident why.
...Court Gentry does what needs doing. He is motivated by what he feels to be right, not by anyone else's conception of rightness and wrongness. Sure, he makes mistakes. But the Gray Man learns from what goes wrong and keeps on doing what is right. With boundless confidence.
Not a bad philosophy of life, not bad at all.
Having just finished "Dead Eye," the fourth book in Mark Greavey's Gray Man series, I've gained additional insights into what motivates Court Gentry. Here's a passage that describes his appealingly honest moral perspective.
"I guess in the back of my mind I always knew I was damaged goods."
"What does that mean?"
"Never mind. I need to see this thing with Whitlock and Kalb all the way to the end to prove to myself he was wrong about me. There's right and there's wrong. Sometimes I teeter on the edge, like I could fall off in either direction. So I fight it. I fight against falling off on the wrong side, by doing right whenever I can. It doesn't make me pure. It just...it's just better than the alternative."
Gentry is worried that his CIA psychological assessment showed that he was psychopathic, or at least sociopathic. He doesn't feel that he fails to care about people; he just knows that he has no qualms about killing people who deserve to be killed.
Yet Gentry realizes that he, like almost everybody else, is capable of going in either direction: toward right or wrong, good or bad. What makes him different from his fellow ex-CIA operative, Russell Whitlock, an almost equally skilled assassin whose code name is "Dead Eye," is that Whitlock makes no attempt to resist his psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies.
I like Gentry's observation that this "doesn't make me pure."
Court Gentry doesn't live in a world of black and white, but of shades of gray. Which is one reason why his own code name, Gray Man, is so fitting (along with his ability to hide out in plain sight, so to speak).
Gentry and Whitlock do share this characteristic: they are repeatedly described as "singletons."
Meaning, they operate independently, even though they take on missions on behalf of organizations, groups, cartels, agencies. They'll play by other people's rules until the game doesn't make sense to them. Then they go their own way. And usually the solitary path they take is the better way, since their instincts are so sound.
There's nothing wrong with being a team player. But there's also something appealing about Court Gentry's determination to march to the beat of his own drummer, as Thoreau put it.
One reason Gentry is so skilled at finding his own way is his hyper-sensitivity to his surroundings.
I'm glad that I don't have to worry about being tracked around the world by numerous spy agencies, criminal cartels, and such. However, the Gray Man books make me realize how much more aware I'd be of what is going on around me if potential danger lurked around every corner.
Court Gentry notices things. His life depends on it.
By contrast, most of us -- me certainly included -- go through life largely clueless about who is doing what around us. I'm not saying that we should be as wary as a rogue intelligence operative being sought by highly skilled agents with vast tracking resources at their disposal.
However, I should be able to remember if I turned the burner off on our stove before I left the house. Or if I locked the door of my car after I parked it on a downtown street.
I was hooked on the Gray Man series after reading just a few pages of Mark Greavey's first book. It isn't just the action and intrigue that is so appealing. It's Court Gentry's personality, demeanor, and philosophy of life that makes these novels so gripping.
I like the guy, though I wouldn't want to be him.
Believe me, if you think your life is too stressful, read one of the Gray Man books. What Court Gentry often goes through in one day is more than most of us could handle in a year, or even a lifetime. Yet he always makes it through and lives to fight another day.
(Well, I'm assuming so. Hopefully there isn't a nasty surprise at the end of book 6.)