Re: RARA-AVIS: Chinaman's Chance

Date: 15 Aug 2000

I was very much looking forward to reading Chinaman's Chance. My excitement only increased when I read the blurb by Brian Garfield (should I know who he is? is he on this list?) on the dust jacket of the copy I got my hands on. It said something like, "combines the compassion of Ross MacDonald, the descriptive insight of John D. MacDonald, the toughness of James M. Cain, the breeziness of Rex Stout and the recovered memory and command of French of Marcel Proust." (Okay, I made up the last part about Proust.)

Well, I guess I couldn't help but be underwhelmed after that kind of buildup.
 Struck me as much more in the jokey school of Robert Parker et. al. than the real tough-guy school. The politics of the book, and the sense of evil, were shallow, and the old stock figure Eastern Establishment Wasp pulling the strings was way too much of a deux ex machina to my taste.

I coincidentally read Kem Nunn's Tapping the Source right after Chinaman's, which is much more in line with Garfield's quote than Thomas' book, and also managed to contain that special evocation of Southern California that seems to also be a hallmark of the genre.

That said, it was an enjoyable read, but I was surprised at just how breezy it was. I have a stack of Thomas' book coming my way courtesy of Ebay, and I am interested in delving deeper into his oevre to try and get a better sense of what the fuss is all about.

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