Friday, October 25, 2013

Forgotten Books: Scratch One -- John Lange (Michael Crichton)

This was Michael Crichton's second published novel back in the days when he was writing paperbacks as John Lange.  I've mentioned several of the others in the past.  You can check out my comments here, here, and here.  Clearly the edition of Scratch One on the left is the brand new Hard Case Crime edition, so the book is no longer forgotten, if it ever was, but I think it's appropriate to talk about it here.

The story involves an American lawyer, Roger Carr, a man with no ambition or goals.  He has a cushy job with a prominent law firm, thanks to the fact that his father is an influential senator.  When the firm sends him to Nice, France, to purchase a villa for another powerful politicial figure, he's glad to go.  He'll stretch the trip out with wine and women, or so he thinks.  But when he's mistaken for a hired killer, he winds up in the middle of a complicated arms deal, wanted by the American spies and by the Associates, a group involved in the deal.  

Crichton/Lange has a good bit of fun with this.  The chief American spy is a fool.  Carr is lucky but often hapless.  And one of the spies who's killed in his cameo appearance seems very familiar.  Carr meets The Woman of His Dreams and begins to shape up.  I don't think you'll be surprised when the woman turns out not to be what she seems.  

In fact, not much in the book will seem surprising, but it's quite entertaining, anyway.  It rips right along, and the local color is outstanding.  Crichton/Lange does a good job with this in all his books, and if he's never traveled to the exotic locations he's describing, he's certainly good at faking it.  The big scene near the end is set at Monaco's Grand Prix, and it's like watching a movie of the events.

This isn't a deep  or thoughtful novel, nor is it intended to be.  It's just good paperback fun.   The prices of the original Signet edition are quite steep, but now you can get it from Hard Case Crime.  Check it out.


George said...

For years Crichton wouldn't let his name go on these "John Lange" books. I'm glad a new audience may find this books now that HARD CASE has reprinted them.

Kelly Robinson said...

I have mixed feelings about HCC releasing so many Crichton books at once. What is it--five? As someone who's trying to read through all of them, I've always appreciated the mix of authors, and while some are repeated, there's variety in between. On the other hand, this will mean a lot of sales for HCC, and I'd like to see them continue.