RARA-AVIS: Yellow Dog Contract

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 27 Sep 2003

My love of Ross Thomas is well-documented on this list. Most of his novels are flawed, some much more than others, but I am a sucker for him for many reasons. First of all, he understands Washington like few writers. Second, he occupies a world that I occupy. Thirdly, he is a helluva writer and is masterful beyond exaggeration at the creation of believable characters.

There was one novel by Thomas I did not have and the other day I wandered into a store and found a Pan paperback of YELLOW DOG CONTRACT and I realized it was my missing one. I knew this because CONTRACT features Harvey Longmire, a political consultant in retirement (temporary at least) and I would have remembered this one as I have worked campaigns and know many political consultants. This is one of the closest Thomas novels to my world.

One of my private joys about Thomas is the fact that he so often visits the area of Washington where I work. Reading the descriptions of the location of Mac's Place, featured in several of Thomas' novels, I have labeled Jefferson Place and N Street as two very likely locations. So in this novel Thomas carefully descibes the one-block Jefferson Place during the course of action. I still consider N Street a more likely location but it is again affirmation that Thomas knew my area well.

Let me stop here and note the HBO program "K Street" which blends reality with fiction and centers on a firm that does election, lobbying and public relations. I have more than a passing interest in that my company is located on K Street and does lobbying and public relations but does not accept candidates as clients or do electiions (although my lobbying friends often take short leaves to work campaigns and it is a rare presidential election that does not have friends of mine in both camps. Rare, hell. Every presidential campaign of the last quarter century qualifies).

Based on the first broadcast, I can not recommend "K Street." If you want to view the world of the political consultant try "Power" starring Richard Gere, Gene Hackman, Julie Christie, and Denzel Washington. It flopped everywhere but Washington but is a pretty good movie and certainly true to life.

I especially love Harvey Longmire in part because he is what I would love to be: retired on a farm near Harper's Ferry. He is called in by a foundation that is dedicated to investigating possible consipriacies. Specifically, Harvey is hired by kthe foundation to investigate the disappearance of a labor union president. Said labor official was having an affair with Harvey's sister.

Many Thomas novels have great premises. Unfortunately many have serious plot flaws along the way to the conclusion, YELLOW DOG CONTRACT is at the top rank of Thomas novels. The novel came in 1976 in the wake of Watergate. It is gripping to the end and there are no logical flaws to the plot. This is one of several Thomas novels (CHINAMAN'S CHANCE and AH TREACHERY are two others) that I will return to often during the years.

Richard Moore

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