Friday, November 26, 2010

Forgotten Books: CONTROL -- William Goldman

William Goldman's written some wonderful books, both fiction and nonfiction, and these days I suspect he's best known for The Princess Bride, a favorite of mine. But at one time Goldman was considered one of the premier thriller writers. In fact, two of the reviews quoted in the front pages of this book use the word thriller to describe it. Which just goes to show how the meaning of that word has changed in the last 30 years or so.

This Dell paperback edition of Control is a bit over 300 pages long with really tiny print. Very little of it is taken up with action, though when the action comes, it's intense. The first 100 pages or so is all backstory about various characters. There's a prison break, but even that's pretty low-key. In other words, this isn't what you'd expect from a thriller written in 2010. I wonder if the book would even be published now, because what Goldman did in a lot of his books was give you a bunch of disparate characters going about their lives and leaving you to wonder what the connections were among them, or even if there were any connections. There are, of course, and everything comes together, in one of the wildest plots Goldman ever concocted. It's part SF, part . . . I'm not even going to say, because that would spoil the whole book. There's one thing I should warn you about if you've never read Goldman before: anybody can die at any time. He loves to kill of sympathetic characters.

This isn't my favorite Goldman novel. It's almost too far-fetched even for me. But the characters and the writing make up for it, and the plotting carried me right along. Even re-reading it was fun. If you haven't read Goldman, you might not want to start with this one, though. Try Marathon Man, Magic, or The Color of Light. Avoid Brothers, a sequel to Marathon Man that I didn't like at all.

10 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for this one. Years and years ago, I think I read THE TEMPLE OF GOLD.

Scott Cupp said...

I love William Goldman's work as you know and this is a good one. Your recommendations are spot one, particularly as it relates to BROTHERS.

Anonymous said...

You forgot NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, Bill. I'm a big Goldman fan from way back (including his non fiction) and remember reading BOYS AND GIRLS TOGETHER back in the late 1960's and looking up everything he'd written to that time.

I agree on COLOR OF LIGHT.

Jeff

Todd Mason said...

Well, even now, despite the ITW, the term "thriller" is a catchall in the way that even "suspense" or "horror" are not...a little patience never hurts a reader...

Given Goldman's career, one often has to wonder why any of his novels hasn't been filmed, if they haven't...the bit of mystery (is it...a sports novel?) you provide, and that other teaser, have me wondering about this one, and ready to dig it out...(yikes, the dry air here at the folks' is playing hob with the eyes...)

Bill Crider said...

This one really does depend on its far-out surprise, so I can't say more. I think it's a bit far-fetched, and that's why I don't like it as much as some of the other books.

Evan Lewis said...

I liked Marathon Man and a few others. Didn't know about Brothers, or I'd no doubt have wasted a couple of days on it.

George said...

I read CONTROL long ago. It's one of the more memorable gambling books that I've ever read.

jack ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jack ryan said...

Control is a wonderful novel. How it hasn't been made into a movie yet is beyond me..

Bill Crider said...

Considering Goldman's screenwriting abilities, so am I.