Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Fools in Town are on our Side -- Ross Thomas

I've mentioned before how much I like the novels of Ross Thomas. Here, for example and also here. The other day I picked up a copy of The Fools in Town are on our Side and started thumbing through it, thinking I'd re-read a couple of paragraphs. One hundred pages later I knew I wasn't going to stop. If I hadn't already pledged my allegiance to Chinaman's Chance as my favorite book by Thomas, I might have to say that this one is. It's a close race.

The apparent ease with which Thomas writes makes me grind my teeth in envy (even though I know it couldn't possibly have been easy). When I read a book like The Fools . . . . I wonder why I even bother to try to write anything more ambitious than a grocery list. The book's main story is about how Lucifer C. (for Clarence) Dye corrupts a place called Shankertown, "but the local wits had long ago changed that to Chancre Town . . . ." That sentence tells us what one of Thomas's inspirations for the novel was, but it gives no clue to the way the story unfolds. Or the stories, since the main story is frequently interrupted by flashbacks to Lucifer Dye's past. Naturally these flashbacks are handled so smoothly that you'll hardly realize how well they're done unless you stop and think about it, which you most likely won't do on a first reading, thanks to the propulsive force of Thomas's narrative.

Ross Thomas has been dead for about ten years now. When he died, all his books were in print. Now only the cognoscenti even remember who he was. Or at least that's the way it seems to me in my darker moments. I hope it's not true. Thomas was a masterful writer, absoluetly one of the best.

3 comments:

Vince said...

FOOLS has long been my favorite of Ross Thomas' novels. It was also my introduction to his work, which I thought had something to do with it. I've since read many of his books, including the great CHINAMAN'S CHANCE and his Edgar-winner BRIARPATCH, and enjoyed them all. But the scope of FOOLS keeps it atop my personal list. Any of his books, though, is worth reading.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I have to go along with Vince, Bill. Fools is my favorite of his books also. From the great title onwards it's just a classic.

Christopher said...

Ross Thomas was one of the authors I discovered from the rara-avis list (and thus very possibly from Mr. Crider himself). The first one I picked up was "Fools," and I was immediately captivated. I wound up with something like 15 of Thomas' books in my collection, and while I like them all, "Fools" is still my favorite.

AS a matter of fact, I think I'll pull it down from the bookshelf right now...