Sunday, August 14, 2005

"The Fools in Town Are on Our Side"

At eight years of age, Lucifer Dye could “shill a crap game, pimp for a whore house, speak six or seven languages, roll drunks, and hustle the rubes,” but could neither read nor write.

Dye is the central character in “The Fools in Town Are on Our Side” (1970) by Ross Thomas.

It is a complex, unique, compulsively entertaining small town corruption novel.

After Dye completes his education on a “scholarship” granted by a clandestine government agency he is employed by the agency, Section Two. And, he is told, “There is no Section One.”

After being unceremoniously dumped by the outfit, he is hired by Victor Orcutt to corrupt the corrupt in a Gulf Coast city.

Myriad scalawags abound, chicanery is the order of the day and abundant deceptions are trump cards, as a cast of sharp, unforgettable characters are manipulated by Dye, Orcutt and two associates.

There is never a dull moment in the absorbing narrative.

The “heroes” are tarnished and shady, and not much better than their adversaries.

The novels of Ross Thomas are fascinating and impossible to put down.

Out of print for nearly a decade, several of his works are being reissued by St. Martin’s Press. Do yourself a favor---pick one up and enjoy the ride.

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