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.”

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