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.