Sunday, December 12, 2004

Gavin Lyall

The other day Walter Satterthwait were discussing (via e-mail) one of our favorite thriller writers, Gavin Lyall. I really enjoyed his work when I first read it back in the 1960s, and I was surprised to find that although he's still writing, he doesn't seem to have a U.S. publisher. That's a real injustice. I plucked Shooting Script off my shelves for a quick re-read just to be sure it was as good as I remembered, and it passed the test with flying colors.

Lots of Lyall's early books were narrated in the first person by pilots, and Shooting Script is no exception. Former fighter pilot Keith Carr's now flying charters and freight in the Caribbean, and he gets involved with a movie production company much like Batjac. The movie star who's running the show resembles John Wayne in just about every way. Pretty soon Carr finds himself involved in a lot more than a movie, including crosses, double crosses, and a Latin American revolution. It's all smoothly and expertly handled by Lyall. Appealing characters, great flying sequences, a bit of mystery, and a bit of romance. It all makes me wonder even more why his latest books don't seem to U.S. editions. Maybe I'm overlooking something.

At any rate, if you've never read Lyall, I highly recommend this book, or try Midnight Plus One, The Wrong Side of the Sky, or The Most Dangerous Game. Great stuff.

A political aside: At one point in the novel, Keith Carr says,
" . . . just for the record, I believe democracy's simply a habit. Like smoking or drinking or driving safely. Not checks and balances, not one-man-one-vote. Just millions of people saying, 'Christ, they can't do that!" But it takes time bo build up that sort of instinct."

Maybe that's why it's impossible to bring instant democracy to the Middle East.

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