Tuesday 7 December 2010

Ross Thomas: Out On The Rim

We meet one of Thomas's recurring characters, Booth Stallings, for the first time in this tale of spies, conmen and guerillas set in the Philippines. Then a WW2 second lieutenant, he watches his irregular companion behead a mad medic to keep their position safe, a hell of a bonding exercise as we later come to discover.

Stallings muses as he looks between oompanion, corpse and Japanese soldiers:

"It occurred to him that this was the second Filipino he had come to know well; the first having been Edmundo something other or other from San Diego who, like a robin, had appeared each spring near Stallings' grade and junior high schools, dispatched by the Duncan Yo-Yo people to demonstrate their product. Edmundo could make a Yo-Yo do anything and for three childhood springs Booth Stallings had taken a limited number of private lessons at an exorbitant 50 cents an hour until, having turned thirteen, he had discovered masturbation, Lucky Strikes and girls in approximately that order."

Move on to 1988 and now terrorism expert Stallings is fired "over a glass of fairly good Spanish sherry" - he's chosen a bad time in the US's diplomatic view to call an Angolan interest a "brilliant back-slid Maoist crook".

Poor, knocking on a bit, Stallings is now available for a shadowy group to hire in order to pass five million dollars to a Philippine rebel group - he's the perfect conduit as the group is led by machete man from the distant past. Rather more interested in getting his own hands on some of the money, Stallings enlists the help of conman Otherguy Overby to find Artie Wu and Quincy Durant - con artists, hard men, one of the best pairings ever invented in this genre.

Just to make it more interesting, the cash is protected by Georgia Blue, ex Secret Service, gorgeous and lethal. We also met a scrofulous Aussie, a deadly female guerilla or two and sundry other nasties along the way. I won't give away any more but I will say that this is one of the best Thomas books, and that's among a very good body of writing,


Post a Comment

What do you think?