Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Monday, 15 August 2011

Ahead in an over-crowded race

Know what you’re thinking. Lurid paperbacks proffered by that fearfully pretentious BB who likes to boast about Ulysses and Proust. Indeed. One point: these titles, mostly secondhand, were gathered lovingly throughout the world via Abe Books and all have been re-read. My discovery.

Ross Thomas, an American, died in 1995. Wikipedia refers to “his witty thrillers that expose the mechanisms of professional politics.” A narrow view but you get an idea from jobs he’s held: “public relations specialist, reporter, union spokesman, political strategist in the USA, Bonn and Nigeria.” He writes about power and its misuse, but not all the time. As to “witty” there are clues in some of the titles: The Fools In Town are on our Side, Twilight at Mac’s Place, and Ah, Treachery!

His men and women get on with the job, don’t complain, hide their intellect, feature in labyrinthine plots, hover on the brink of irony. They travel around and there’s always a sense of place.

As with his predecessor, Dashiell Hammett, Thomas’s dialogue says a lot in almost no words at all. Here’s Chinaman’s Chance:

“Was he evil?”
“Evil. That's not a word I use much.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t suppose he was. Or is.”
“What he did, he did because he thought he was right.”
Durant shook his head. “He didn’t just think it; he knew it.”
“But he wasn’t was he?”
“Well, he’s in jail,” Durant said.
“But that doesn’t mean we were right.”
“No,” Durant said, “it means we got away with it.”
“And that’s what counts.”
“Usually.”

There’s a reason I’m not recommending Thomas: if you tried him and didn’t like him, it might change our relationship.

3 comments:

Plutarch said...

I'll accept it as a recommendation nevertheless. Nearly everything I read is recommended by someone. Your recommendations have generally proved realiable, probably more than mine. "What he did, he did because he thought he was right," sums up something quite profound about evil.It deserves further thought.

The Crow said...

I like Ross Macdonald books, and thought for a moment that was who you meant.

I'll see if there are any Ross Thomas books available in my area.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: I suppose one must distinguish between personal and general recommendations. Were you to find yourself unble to get on with, let's say, Gogol on my recommendation this would be entirely understandable; not everyone enjoys what are loosely called the classics. RT would for some reason which I haven't yet defined be different. However note the caveat in my response to The Crow.

The Crow: You've put your finger on why RT isn't so well known. Others too have confused him with Ross MacDonald whose fame possibly rests on the fact that two of his novels were turned into vehicles for Paul Newman (Lew Archer) movies. RM novels tend to be strong on morality; RT novels are more fun.