Friday, August 07, 2020

50. Out of Control by G. Gordon Liddy

I found this in one of the free book kiosks in the Mile-End.  I actually hesitated over it for quite a while.  This late summer, my thirst for book hunting knows no quenching.  However, my cup (as in my on-deck shelf) runneth over and I am reading quite slowly because of the NBA bubble.  I was not really feeling very enthusiastic about watching sports this year as it feels like we have much bigger issues in the world right now, but the condensed and accelerated season with all the teams quarantined in Disney World has actually made for some super entertaining basketball.  There are games on from 2 in the afternoon until 11 at night and it really cuts into my reading time.  So I hemmed and hawed on this book and finally took it because I mean come on a spy adventure novel written by one of the Watergate conspirators  How can I say no?  

And during the first chapter, I was rejoicing for my choice.  It starts in media res with a professional thief and safe cracker hiding in the custodial closet at the top floor of a NY office building.  We get a nerdy but very entertaining blow-by-blow of his break-in.  Liddy does not spare the technical details, right up to the brand of the cylinder being different than the brand of the rest of the safe.  Unfortunately, this is a peak and it kind of comes down to earth for much of the middle of the book, rising back up again for a crazy finale.  

Out of Control is an odd mix of almost dull technical and business procedure and then over the top situations and craziness.  There is a lot of 1970s orientalism, most of it made up and wildly inaccurate (though not disrespectful or belittling; just kind of fantastic) which is off-putting.  However, my grade 10 self would have loved it, as there are martial arts masters, secret Tong societies and even a climactic kung fu fight.  The hero is an absurd fantasy, the son of a Nazi Luftwaffe ace (and a pilot himself who still flies a messerschmidt recreationally, which of course figures in the finale), whose dead wife was from a powerful mafia family and whose current girlfriend is connected to a super powerful Tong enterprise.  He is also an expert financier.  The sexual and romantic banter between him and his girlfriend is tiresome and dated, but felt genuine.  We are failing all Bechtel tests here, but he does make her a real person.

I can not recommend this as a good book, but I found it likable, wanting to entertain and succeeding at many points.  There is a lot of self-congratulating business manipulations that went way too far into detail for me, but there are also a lot of great and creative action moments. And it does get genuinely crazy.  If you are a fan of 60s and 70s American crime and espionage fiction, you should check this out.

[Also minor golf clap for having reached 50 books.  My real goal for 2020 is 59 as I will then have achieved an average of 50 books since I started this challenge.  Then we'll have a real celebration!]

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