Re: RARA-AVIS: ross thomas

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 26 Feb 2001

Funny this should come up. Just the other day, I was wondering why there was no biography of Ross Thomas. Of course, his books have a hard time staying in print, so publishers probably don't see much of a market for his life.

Too bad, because from the oblique references in the few short biographical notes and articles I have seen, it seems like his life must have been fascinating. Many of his stories seem to have come from personal experience -- there have been rumors of CIA ties, lots of PR work, including elections in Africa (as in Seersucker Whipsaw - by the way, did everyone catch the brief Padillo sighting in the book, after he went MIA at the end of The Cold War Swap?), then his years as Hollywood script-doctor.

Speaking of that last, did he do any original scripts besides Bad Company (the one with Lawrence Fishburne, not the Western)? Not many seemed to like this film, but I got a kick out of it. Trivia -- a Ross Thomas novel sits on Fishburne's coffee table in the movie, I forget which one.

As for what to read, I always recommend Chinaman's Chance first. I tend to like the con job books best, particularly those featuring Wu and Durant. This is one of three series Thomas wrote, along with the Mac and Padillo books, which lean a little more towards espionage (although con jobs and espionage never seem to be too separate in his books) and the Phillip St. Ives books written as Oliver Bleeck, about a professional go-between. Most of his books do not feature series characters.

Thomas plots sometimes threaten to get out of hand and he sometimes wraps his convoluted plots up a bit too quickly, but his characters are always great and he seems to know his stuff, all of the facts and figures ring with authenticity (if they aren't real, and I have no reason to think they aren't, he certainly makes you believe they are). There is not one of his books which I did not thoroughly enjoy. He really does deserve more of an audience than he has.


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