Archive for February, 2015

Dirty Tricks And Riotous Retribution

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Some wise person once said, “Politics is show business for ugly people.” That sentiment is often taken to another level in political thrillers, where people are not only ugly, but also do very ugly things. Of course, in political thrillers, there are enough beautiful people around to keep all the dastardly deeds from being too indigestible. That’s certainly the case in the last political thriller Ross Thomas wrote, Ah, Treachery.

Ross Thomas was one of the acknowledged masters of the oft tongue-in-cheek political whodunit. His intricate plotting, detailed machinations of shadowy government organizations and covert subcontractors infused his tales with enough reality to keep plausibility high, and enough chicanery to keep morals low. It’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the multiple characters flowing in and out of Thomas’s tomes but it’s worth the effort if only to revel in the menacing motivations of each. There are always plenty of good guys, bad guys, victims, perpetrators, and not-so-innocent bystanders to keep you turning pages looking for the next twist or turn.

Ah, Treachery makes the majority of its cat and mouse moves between the sun-splashed streets of Los Angeles and the grey and granite facades of Washington DC and surrounding suburbs. It’s set in the late 1990’s when Bush 1 was on the way out and Clinton 1 was on the way in. The plot involves stolen campaign stashes, mysterious wrongdoings in El Salvador, murder here, there and everywhere, and a sense of impending peril that seems to trail all the participants regardless of their various political affiliations.

In the middle of all the cloak and dagger comings and goings is Edd Partain, an ex-military type who gets bounced from a dead-end (but low maintenance) job in the wilds of Wyoming and ends up providing aid, comfort, and muscle to an ex-Texas matriarch now sequestered in her own rent-free hospital room in Beverly Hills. She’s looking for millions that have somehow gone missing, and he’s looking for a paycheck and payback (if available, which it turns out to be) on whoever was responsible for separating him from the only woman he ever loved long enough to marry. Rest assured that Edd runs up against sinister schemers, charming conspirators, stone cold killers, and dangerously desirable (and available) romantic interests. How he maneuvers his way in, out, through and over this maze of honor’s mutineers is what keeps you churning from chapter to chapter.

The Fiction Fortune Hunter found Ah, Treachery up to the Ross Thomas standard of sly, intelligent, wicked fun. Here’s hoping you will too.

Time Long Past But Not Forgotten

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Most people live long lives. Innumerable seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. Why is it then, that most of that time is easily forgotten? Gone, as if it never happened. And yet some of it remains with us always. Locked forever in the corners of our minds. Or perhaps our souls. Where we keep the moments that have shaped us, and made us who we are.

Such are the musings brought to mind upon finishing Larry Watson’s small novel of a few unforgettable days in Montana 1948. It tallies less than two hundred pages and covers less than a month in a boy’s twelfth summer, but its impact, like the young man’s memories, stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned.

Watson fashions his tale as a recollection. An older, wiser man recalls events in a summer that changed his life like none since. He imbues the narrative with both an adult’s perspective and an adolescent’s wonder. And in so doing creates a time and place we can all relate to whether we spend our summers in cities, suburbs, or small towns like Bentrock, in Mercer County, Montana, where the author sets his story.

It’s impossible not to be reminded of To Kill A Mockingbird, when reading Watson’s story. Elements of that classic abound–violence, sexual awakening, prejudice, fear, bravery, the loss of innocence and the acquisition of insight. But the author tells his story in his own way about the Sheriff of a windblown prairie community trying to do what’s right when it would be infinitely easier to simply do what’s pragmatic. The plot centers on how the young boy and his parents react to events around them as discoveries of heinous behavior entwine them in legal, ethical, and moral choices that become increasingly difficult to deal with. Questions are raised about duty to family, fealty to truth, and honor or the lack of it. But not all is philosophical. Physical danger figures into the equation as well. There’s more than the loss of self respect involved. There’s also loss of life, with the fear of more to come.

I’ve tried to give the essence of Watson’s novel without giving away details of the story itself. Because it’s the story that keeps you turning the pages briskly to see what’s going to happen from one moment to the next. But it’s what’s between the lines that will leave you reflecting on Montana 1948 long after you’ve finished it.

If you enjoy literature steeped in honesty, insight, and exceptional storytelling, take a trip like The Fiction Fortune Hunter did to Montana 1948. You’ll be glad you did.