Friday, October 08, 2010

45. The Porkchoppers by Ross Thomas


This was recommended to me by a bookseller at the Stui in Amsterdam where they have a book market every Friday (more on this visit when I get the picture from my wife's camera). He said that you always knew there is a real intelligence behind Ross Thomas' stories. It had a tough look to it and the opening sentence (which I always check when deciding on a book) was very strong indeed: "They were old hundred-dollar bills, a little limp now, even a little greasy, and one of them had a rip in it that somebody had neatly mended with a strip of Scotch tape."

The Porkchoppers is the story of a union election, told mostly through the eyes of its current president, though it has a big cast of characters and spends some time with each of them. This truly is a novel told in the omniscient voice, except for one small mystery that holds it all together. It almost felt a little removed to me, the way the perspective jumps from location to location, coldly (and richly, I must add) describing each character, their background, their hidden foibles, their own take on the situation. But it builds up a real momentum and the characters are all so engaging that its hard to put down. The president is a total alcoholic, barely able to make it past noon without being blotto, but he is still very charismatic and has a certain driving will. A lot of the action is him going from campaign stop to campaign stop, supported by his advisors, handlers, wife and son. These scenes paint a complex and entertaining picture of the big union machine of the early 70s, all the corruption and politics. Only adding to the cynicism are the scenes of the real power players who are competing in the background to pull the strings and make sure their money wins out. This goes all the way up to the White House and paints a very bleak picture.

I really enjoyed this book and am really appreciative of the Dutch bookseller with excellent taste who steered me to Ross Thomas. He is definitely on my list. Great stuff.

7 comments:

Louis XIV; 'The Sun King' to you, chief said...

So is this one written in the third person? The Thomas novel I'm reading at the moment is in the first...

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yeah, total third person omniscient. Hmm, maybe I should read a few more of his books before making sweeping analyses!

Louis XIV; 'The Sun King' to you, chief said...

Nah. Certainly hasn't stopped me!

Doc said...

That opening sentence is indeed solid, given the subject of the book. I read the sentence and thought "cool." And then read it was a story about a union election and thought "COOL!" because the sentence then really came to life.

Louis XIV, 'The Sun King' (a.k.a. Nick Jones) said...

I'm reading this one now, and the difference between Thomas in first-person mode and Thomas in third-person mode is remarkable. I can see why you were confused about the Chandler thing! There's not a hint of that in The Porkchoppers.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Ah, very interesting! I'm going to have to check out one of his first-person novels.

Lantzvillager said...

Question: What books do you read?

John D MacDonald: I would say that probably over half my reading is in non-fiction, but of the fiction I read there are only a few who are tilling the same soil I am.

Question: Such as?

JDM: Elmore Leonard. And Robert Parker and Ross Thomas. Those three I think are the outstanding contemporary suspense novel people.