Death Brackets: Toughest Dicks vs. Baddest Thriller Heroes: Semi-Finals

Death Brackets, the tournament to the deathOf all the literary tough guys from mysteries and thrillers, who would win in a fight to the death? No rules. No referees. No bells. We outlined the contest in the Introduction and gave you the tale of the tape for each contestant in the First Round (Part 1 and Part 2), and we’ve already eliminated twelve of the original sixteen.  We have only two of the master detectives and two of the spies, assassins and anti-heroes remaining.  So without further ado, on to the Final Four!

1) Sherlock Holmes vs John Rain

The battleground: Key West, Florida

The Action: This island doesn’t give you a lot of places to hide.There is the sea, however. Boats are a great way to get around the place with speed and safety. Who’s going to be able to sneak up on you while you’re cruising around in a sailboat—or a speedboat?

Holmes dresses like a deck hand and works the docks. He expects Rain to try for a boat, just as he would. It’s the smart thing to do.

Rain does get in the water—but from the other side of the island. He steals a small cabin cruiser, snags some scuba gear and circles the island, looking for hiding spots, and for Holmes. He sleeps below decks during the day and travels at night.

Nothing like a speargun to even the odds.
Nothing liike a speargun to even the odds.
Holmes is on a tourist’s fishing boat, the kind that takes people out on the water to catch swordfish or go scuba diving. He’s got a diver’s knife on his belt and a speargun at the ready.

Rain lets Holmes see him. Lures the great detective onto the open water, letting Holmes think he’s tailing from a safe distance. Once they’ve left the shallows, Rain waits until night to drops anchor. Turns off the cabin light and pretends to sleep. 

He knows Holmes will wait a few hours to mount an attack. He doesn’t care how long. Because he puts on the scuba gear, sinks both boats and waits for Holmes to surface. Rain waits for Holmes to swim for half an hour, reaching exhaustion. Then he he swoops up straight up from the depths, like a shark, and drowns the great detective.

Lives to fight another day: John Rain of the spies, assassins and anti-heroes.


2) Jack Reacher vs James Bond

The battleground: Mendel Research Station, Antarctica

The verdict: Putting these two men in the Czech’s summer research station is rough enough. Putting them there in the winter, when the station is abandoned is even tougher.

The two men know the fight will be inside. Do you lay traps for the other man and wait, or do you probe and attack?

Sean Connery as James Bond holding a gun
007 does love his weaponry.
Bond would rather have a gun or his gadgets. Reacher is more comfortable improvising with the scientific instruments and simple tools already there. A hammer and a knife and he’s good.

Both men are comfortable in hand-to-hand combat, and that’s how this ends. Reacher figures out where Bond is when the British spy is still hunting, room by room, for some kind of rifle or gun. They must have something around to shoot polar bears, right? It’s a battle of fists, elbows, feet and whatever heavy instruments they can grab off shelves and tables.

Ian Fleming described Bond as being six-feet tall and 167 pounds. Reacher is 6’5 and between 230 and 250.

Bond gets two good licks in before Reacher stuns him with a head-butt to the face and finishes him off with an elbow to the throat.

Lives to fight another day: Jack Reacher of the master detectives.

Next: the Finals, Reacher vs. Rain.

Antarctica image via Panoramio.


Guy Bergstrom is a speechwriter and reformed reporter. His first novel, Ten Days, was a 2011 PNWA finalist for best mystery-thriller. You can pick literary knife fights with him at @epicblackcar on Twitter.

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