RARA-AVIS: The Fools in Town Are On Our Side

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 11 Sep 2003

I didn't find Ross Thomas's THE FOOLS IN TOWN ARE ON OUR SIDE (1970) very gripping while I was reading it, and skimmed some sections, but after I put it down it became much more interesting, while I thought about how it fitted into the times and the genre. The introduction talks about Thomas and his Chandler heritage. The narrator is a wisecracking, cynical, hardboiled ex-spy, and in one place he almost quotes Marlowe's quip about how his bad manners keep up at night. The Hammett lineage is there too: it's a twisted town-tamer story, where the narrator busts a town wide open as in RED HARVEST, not to establish order, but to transfer control from one set of corrupt bosses to another.

Thomas wrote a lot (it seems; perhaps always?) about the cold war, and here the narrator is a former spy for a secret American agency called Section Two. He's seen a lot, he's been in trouble, he can handle himself. It's a good background for a tough hombre at that time, and it keeps away from cliches and nostalgia. It all fits together to make bizarre but possible people doing something feasible in a town that could be real. The book wasn't as much to my taste as I'd hoped, but I certainly admired how it was built.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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