Words to Die For, Lynn Kostoff … well, it’s already received a *STARRED* review from Booklist, so all I can add is the following: Simply put, Words to Die For is another brilliant novel from one of the very best in the business, Lynn Kostoff. It’s 1986 in Indiana, where Raymond Locke works miracles at a public-relations firm called Public Domain. What he does is provide damage control to fuck-ups (whether they’re individuals, corporations, or the greedy SOB’s running the corporations). He’s very good at his job and is famous in the industry for saving a Bishop after the Bishop’s mistress committed suicide and left a very destructive note behind. Raymond is married to the love of his life (love at first sight), Kate. They have an autistic child, Andrew, who requires constant attention and care, but the strains of his job and their son place their marriage in jeopardy.
When an outbreak of salmonella and other poisoning occurs on the heels of Public Domain’s biggest client, Happy Farms Chickens’ (whose motto is: Only The Rooster Gets A Better Piece Of Chicken) grand opening of a couple of fast-food restaurants, a 10-year old girl winds up in a coma. Raymond has to step up big time to try and save the company from the greedy corner cutting it may have enacted for the sake of profit. Not a very envious task to have (protecting scumbags), but Raymond has to do his job and it’s crucial he get it done if he wants to save his marriage and maintain the week-to-week affordability of his stress-filled life. The girl, Tina Brackett, has a father who’s been to hell and back as regards luck, but he’s now sporting less than half a deck. He’s a major problem for all concerned, especially since nobody can figure out what exactly his angle might be … does he intend to sue his former employer, Happy Farms, or take a settlement (of sorts). There are a couple of opportunistic journalists seeking higher profiles of celebrity (and perhaps a Pulitzer) determined to bring down the owner of Happy Farms Chicken, an unlikeable little shit named Lamar Ditell. There’s also an opportunistic prosecutor looking to hang a murder charge on Ditell should the young girl die. There’s a ton going on and all of it is intriguing and very thought provoking. One is constantly asking oneself, why is this decent man working to protect such scumbags?
Against the backdrop of this 1986 story is Iran-Contra scandal (talk about spinning something into nothing) … Kostoff does a wonderful job of juxtaposing the two disasters; how they’re ultimately perceived by a public helplessly hypnotized by the drama spun by professionals. Think that’s not possible? This morning a public opinion poll show 56% of Americans in favor of putting ground troops back in Iraq.
A passage I particularly loved shows how Raymond often felt about his job rescuing people from their lapses in judgment and/or stupidity and/or bad nature(s): As long as he continued to feel appalled. Raymond told himself, he’d be all right. Appalled kept him from getting lost. Appalled was good. Appalled was the line of breadcrumbs he dropped in order to find his way back home.
Words to Die For is brilliant writing, start to finish. Kostoff once again leaves this reader envious of what is obviously his natural gift of masterful craftsmanship. He remains one of the very best in the business today.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (as are all of Kostoff’s works).
Missionary Stew, by Thomas Ross … this one also leans toward St. Reagan’s Iran-Contra motif, wherein government officials and their protectorate (the CIA and FBI) are pulling few stops to quash the smell of American atrocities overseas. Draper Haere is a political fundraiser having an affair with a Governor anxious to become the President’s wife (the wife is also anxious for her husband to become president). There’s a journalist who’s been held in captivity in Africa who’s been fed human flesh in the stew served by the prison. Draper needs to learn the secret behind the secrets of a right-wing coup in Central America. Draper and the journalist (Morgan Citron, who has a mother with limited motherhood ability, is also in the mix) wind up pitted against drug dealers, dirty generals (supported and protected by both the CIA and the FBI). It’s an ironic and clever read, loaded with some great one-liners. Recommended for those who enjoy a page turner filled with ironic humor and open to the underhanded dealings of our government.
There was a picture shoot for the cover of the book and this may just be the actual cover … James Head Giuliani with Primo and Charlie and Yum-Yum (on his lap) … The release date is just around the corner … but you can pre-order now and put this baby into the stratosphere.
Great Scenes from GREAT movies … this week it’s Rounders … Teddy KGB .. .Mr. Son-of-a-bitch …
Check, Check, Check …