Tuesday, February 08, 2005

In the Bleeck Midwinter

Rara-avis, the hardboiled list, is devoting this month to the novels of Ross Thomas, who also published as Oliver Bleeck. Since one or two of you might not be on rara-avis, I thought I'd reprint my thoughts on The Procane Chronicle here.

I’ve never been disappointed when re-reading Ross Thomas. Practically every page of The Procane Chronicle has a passage or two that made me stop reading in simple admiration of the writing. The descriptions, the names, the action scenes, the dialogue. Man, Ross Thomas could write, no matter which name he was using.

In The Procane Chronicle, Philip St. Ives, the professional go-between, is hired to make the payment for and recover the journals of a professional thief, Abner Procane. After a false start, during the course of which St. Ives discovers the dead body of Bright Bobby Boykin, the exchange is made. But that’s just the beginning. I loved every bit of it.

This is the St. Ives book that was made into a movie. The first mistake was casting Charles Bronson as St. Ives. Bronson was wrong in every way for the part. Maybe the moviemakers figured that out or maybe Philip was considered a sissy name or something, because Bronson became Raymond St. Ives. Could be Philip’s brother, I guess. The name’s not the only thing that was changed, either. The setting was moved from New York and Washington to L.A., and of course the plot was pretty much done away with and another one was substituted. I’ve never been able to figure out why that happens. The book’s plot is a pretty darned good one. Why buy the book and then dump the perfectly serviceable plot? Oh, well. One thing I can’t argue with is the casting of Jacqueline Bisset. John Houseman was pretty good, too.

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