The best books with the baddest badass dudes of crime fiction

Robin Yocum Author Of The Sacrifice of Lester Yates
By Robin Yocum

Who am I?

My novels range from coming-of-age to suspense. I was an award-winning crime and investigative reporter for the Columbus Dispatch for 11 years. That background helps me with the investigative aspects of my books. I enjoy exploring the moral dilemmas often presented in real life. My characters all have morals, but I like putting them in compromising situations. It’s easy to sit back and judge others, but how far would you go to keep your own son out of jail? Would the love of your son get in the way of your morals? It’s never black or white. Most of life is spent dancing in and out of the vast gray area in the middle. 


I wrote...

The Sacrifice of Lester Yates

By Robin Yocum,

Book cover of The Sacrifice of Lester Yates

What is my book about?

Lester Yates is the notorious Egypt Valley Strangler, one of the country’s most prolific serial killers. Or, is he? Yates is two months from his date with the executioner when Ohio Attorney General Hutch Van Buren is presented with evidence that could exonerate him. But Yates is a political pawn, and forces exist that don’t want him exonerated. To do so could derail presidential aspirations and change the national political landscape. Yates’ execution will clear a wide political path for many influential people, including Van Buren, who must battle both the clock and a political machine of which he is a part.

A Strand Magazine review of The Sacrifice of Lester Yates, said, “A brilliant thriller by a master of the neo-noir thriller. This should be on your nightstand. Read it.” 

The books I picked & why

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In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

By James Lee Burke,

Book cover of In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead

Why this book?

Dave Robicheaux is a New Iberia, Louisiana, sheriff’s detective in a series by James Lee Burke. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Dave. He is righteous, but flawed. He regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, struggles with nightmares of Viet Nam and other unseen demons, but has an acute sense of right and wrong. In Crusader’s Cross, his loyal sidekick, Cletus Prucell says of Dave, "He's got polka dot giraffes running around in his head, but he's the best guy I've ever known.” I’m a Burke fan, and I like everything he writes. In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, and Purple Cane Road are my personal favorites. In Electric Mist, Dave is drawn into a 40-year-old unsolved murder that he witnessed as a college freshman. In the midst of his investigation, Dave has regular conversations with the ghost of Confederate General John Bell Hood. It’s a great read.


Swan Peak

By James Lee Burke,

Book cover of Swan Peak

Why this book?

Cletus Purcell is Dave Robicheaux’s sidekick and, for my money, one of the best characters in crime fiction. He and Dave were detectives together at the New Orleans Police Department. “The Bobbsie Twins from homicide,” as Cletus likes to call them. Cletus, who wears a porkpie hat and drives a pink Cadillac, is now a private detective. This guy has more character flaws than any human being on the planet, but he is an absolute loyal friend to Dave. While I love reading Burke’s books, I get as much pleasure from listening to Will Patton read the audiobooks and bring Cletus to life. 


Bad Luck and Trouble: A Jack Reacher Novel

By Lee Child,

Book cover of Bad Luck and Trouble: A Jack Reacher Novel

Why this book?

Yeah, I know, naming Jack Reacher as one of the badasses of crime fiction is the equivalent of a six-inch putt. A gimme. Child has taken a totally implausible premise—a six-foot-five former Army MP wandering around the United States and finding trouble with nothing but an ATM card in his pocket—and created one of the best characters in suspense literature. When Reacher is on the hunt, the results are never in doubt, which is why we love him. He’s the fullback coming through the line, time and time again, and no one can stop him. One reviewer of Child’s books said that Reacher is never the underdog. That’s a perfect description.


Depth of Winter: A Longmire Mystery

By Craig Johnson,

Book cover of Depth of Winter: A Longmire Mystery

Why this book?

Walt Longmire is the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. Longmire is a decorated Marine and played offensive line at the University of Southern California. He’s big, and he can brawl. He can be the cerebral Sherlock Holmes or Rambo, depending on the situation. In most of his books, Longmire teams up with Henry Standing Bear, but in Depth of Winter, Longmire is largely on his own as he sneaks into Mexico in search of his only child, Cady, who has been kidnapped by the leader of a Mexican drug cartel. Longmire is a bulldozer in his quest to rescue his daughter.


The Disappeared

By C.J. Box,

Book cover of The Disappeared

Why this book?

Seriously, who’s tougher than a Wyoming game warden? Box’s character in more than 20 novels is Joe Pickett, who, by the standards of most crime fiction protagonists, is... What’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh, yeah, boring. He’s married, has three daughters, no major addictions or hang-ups. Box describes his character as someone who tries to “do the right thing.” I think that’s what makes him such a badass and likeable character. After all, it’s not easy being a game warden when virtually everyone you encounter is armed. Nate Romanowski is Joe’s sidekick. He’s a great second banana, but without the personality and capricious temperament of Cletus Purcell.


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