Anytime I read a Ross Thomas novel, I lament that he or someone like him is not around to capture these times. True, we live in an era of Peak Cynicism thanks to Trump and his gang. But it’s not like the late-60s/early-70s era which this novel takes place was some sort of political paradise either.
I’ve been itching to read a Ross Thomas novel since Briarpatch came on air and decided to finally knock this one out as it’s been on my TBR list for a while. It’s not his best effort but it’s a good one, with the usual focus on political fixing and corporate espionage. And it has the familiar voice of a Thomas novel: the way someone looks at the carnival with a weary eye, too young to be idealistic, too proud to be jaded, too aware to be suckered. The scion of the main character aspires to be “the wisest man in the village.” I get the impression that’s Thomas’ inspiration too. The country is a mess, so folks who can cut through the bs should be highly valued.
The plot itself is similar to others, just inserting unions instead of fictional foreign countries or local stateside elections. Thomas seems to grasp the nuances of union loyalty, although this isn’t a genre I myself am too familiar with. The characters are all vintage Thomas and they speak the wry language of their creator quite well.
Really the only drawback I had with this one is the racism. I don’t think Thomas is an out-and-out racist; frequently, his white characters are lampooning the racial views of real life power figures. But the use of the n-word is definitely gratuitous. Like a lot of white writers, Thomas reformed his language in the late-70s (this one came out in 72). Doesn’t make it okay.
Still, if you can deal with that, this is yet another fun read from the Elmore Leonard of Politics.