Friday, June 05, 2015

FFB: Cast a Yellow Shadow -- Ross Thomas

My theory is that you can't go wrong with a book by Ross Thomas.  Cast a Yellow Shadow isn't without its flaws, but it's also stuffed with all of Thomas' virtues: great dialogue, fine descriptive writing, and insightful offhand comments about politics and politicians and the world situation.  Not to mention McCorkle and Padillo, two guys who are excellent company.  

This was the second book to feature Mac and Padillo, coming along after Thomas' Edgar-winning The Cold War Swap, at the end of which Padillo was presumed dead.  Mac knows better and when he opens a bar in Washington, D. C., he considers Mac a full partner.  (Their original bar in Germany was destroyed in the previous book.)  Mac has pretty good life, a nice income, and is happily married.  Things change when Padillo turns up again.  Certain members of the government of a South African country want Padillo to assassinate their ambassador.  (The ambassador wants this, too.)  When he refuses, they kidnap Mac's wife and use her as leverage.  What's to be done?  Padillo calls in some favors and gets three double (or maybe triple) agents to help out.  As in just about any Thomas novel, you can count on plenty of double (or maybe triple) crosses.  A good rule in these books is to trust no one to be what he or she seems, other than Mac and Padillo because that's the rule they follow.  They know there will be betrayals, even if they don't always know by whom and in what fashion they'll come.   As is often the case with Thomas, the plot is very complicated.

This book was published in 1967, and contemporary readers might boggle at things like the difficulty of getting telephones installed in automobiles and setting up a four-way conference call, but in most ways the novel doesn't seem dated at all.

And I can't resist quoting one line, among many, that made me smile:

"You watch television much?" Padillo asked.
"Some," I said.  "It's like China.  If you ignore it, it just gets worse."


Todd Mason said...

Somehow, it hadn't quite registered with me that Thomas was active in the '60s, as I had him lazily pegged as a '70s/early '80s guy who seemed to go away at his height...and, unlike my reading of Gregory Mcdonald, my reading of Thomas has been slight enough never to get me a better sense of his career, despite liking everything I've read by RT. Thanks for the pointer, Bill.

Todd Mason said...

if you haven't seen this--I miss john Carmody's writing for the post, spoke with him once, good man.

George Kelley said...

I've been a fan of the Mac and Padillo series for decades. You're right about Ross Thomas. He was a talented writer who never wrote a dull book.

Jeff Meyerson said...

And don't forget his Oliver Bleeck books. Other than one book which I couldn't get through despite two tries, I've read everything he wrote under both names. He is definitely a writer I could see rereading. I loved the Artie Wu/Quincy Durant and Otherguy Overby books.


Mel Odom said...

Loved the Artie Wu/Quincy Durant books!