Monday, May 31, 2004

How to make this girl very happy 

Write a retrospective on Ross Thomas, as Richard Giller did yesterday for the Boston Globe. Instead of listening to me wax rhapsodic, let Giller explain what made Thomas's novels so wonderful:

[The] novels provide quintessential windows into the world of Thomas. It's a shadowy place where political power and big money intersect, and where all the important plays are made behind the scenes. The adversaries -- morally compromised heroes confronting irredeemable villains -- are invariably brilliant, treacherous, and cynical. Deception is the order of the day, or rather night, since an inordinate amount of the action occurs between midnight and dawn. Thomas takes you into the hotel rooms, corporate suites, and political offices of the people who know the score, the way the game is played, and exactly which levers to pull.

Make no mistake. For all their worldliness, these are not the burnt-out cases one finds in the pages of Graham Greene or John le Carr. Tough as nails, these guys (and not a few gals) run the gamut from congressmen to con men, political fixers to third-world dictators. They combine an outsize appetite for life with an eye locked steadily on the prize, and they play the game with a zest that is refreshing, inventive, and bold.

The two novels Giller cites--BRIARPATCH and OUT ON THE RIM--are fine places to start, although I'm also partial to the most recent reissue, 1983's MISSIONARY STEW (with an introduction from this fine blogger) because it's about the lead-up to an election year and the various machinations, blackmail, and murder (of course) that results from it. Cynical, world-weary, but ultimately idealistic--that's why I love him.

And how to make this girl extremely happy--reissue the rest of his novels! Earth to St. Martin's Press...

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