Friday, May 10, 2013

Forgotten Books: Our Man in Washington -- Roy Hoopes

I really wanted to like this book.  When you hear the setup, you'll understand why.  The narrator is a young James M. Cain, and he teams up with H. L. Mencken to solve a murder in Washington, D. C.  The story involves the Harding administration and its many scandals, including Harding's mistress, but there's even more to it than that, and Cain and Mencken at one point find themselves playing catch with the Hope Diamond.  Many historical characters, from the well-known to the obscure, appear.  

And that's part of the problem.  Hoopes is Cain's biographer, and he knows so much about Cain and about the time period that it seemed as if about 3/4 of every page was an info dump.  I was overwhelmed by the flood of information, and for me it got in the way of the story.  I like Cain's lean, mean storytelling style, which proves (for me) that less is more.  Hoopes' style is just the opposite.  If you prefer long books with plenty of historical detail and a decent plot, you might like this one much more than I did.  Give it a shot.


Todd Mason said...

But, at least, it wasn't the attempt to involve Chandler in a mystery that Bill Pronzini so enjoyed mocking in GUN IN CHEEK (or the sequel?)...nor the latter-day DEATHCLOUD botch. Meanwhile, I'm working on my present-day equivalent: "Marcia Muller turned to the counter, and opened the jar of Peter Pan Organic Chunk Hazelnut Spread over the Great Harvest Caraway Rye her sister had brought out from Pennsylvania (why not Freihofer's?, she thought?); Muller reflected on how much she missed Devil Dogs, now no longer available [etc.]"

Unknown said...

I read that Chandler book long ago, and Pronzini was too kind to it.