RARA-AVIS: Ross Thomas: The Cold War Swap

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 09 Feb 2005

For Ross Thomas month, I just finished THE COLD WAR SWAP (1966), which is Ross Thomas's first novel, the first of the McCorkle/Padillo series, and the winner of the Edgar for best first novel. I don't know who else was nominated that year, but man, it's no wonder it won.

Mac and Padillo own a bar in Bonn, Germany. They're both WWII vets, and Padillo's some kind of spy. He goes off on jobs every now and then, and in Germany in the mid-1960s there was a lot to do. He gets in a jam in East Berlin and Mac, who's never been involved in any of the spy stuff before, goes to help. Action ensues.

There's a short piece about Thomas here (long URL, may linewrap):


which says, "His language is calibrated to an almost technical precision. Combining an eye for detail with an ear for perfect pitch, he juggles dialogue, description, and action with equal verve." That's certainly true of this one. Lots of memorable characters, great stuff about cold war Germany, twists and turns, exciting action, and good heroes. (Mac predicts the Berlin Wall won't fall in his lifetime, but who'd have known?)

I liked this one so much that I moved right on to NO QUESTIONS ASKED
(1976), written as Oliver Bleeck, a St. Ives story about the theft of a copy of Pliny's HISTORIA NATURALIS. So far it's really good too. The first Ross Thomas book I ever tried was THE FOURTH DURANGO, and I never bothered finishing it. I'm glad I've found the right entry books now.

A while ago Mr. Moore said something about Ross Thomas's time in Washington .... did you know him, or just of him? Was he in the spy business for a while?


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

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