It's a bit scary to think that Bill Clinton loved Ross Thomas' writing, as Tony Hiss reports in his introduction to The Fools in Town are on Our Side, Thomas' 1970 novel of political manipulation. The book's central plot line is the deliberate corruption of an American city in order to facilitate its political takeover. Allies are surrendered up for humiliation and ruin in order to lull the opposition in complacency
Why is this scary? Because Clinton, whatever one thinks of his policies, was widely admired and detested for being such a superb politician. How much did he learn from Thomas? How much of a kindred spirit did he recognize in Thomas' fixers and PR men?
Westlake's comedian is Koo Davis, a star of radio, television, and stage shows who made his name on USO tours during the Korean War and continues into the Vietnam era, filled all the while with questions about the world and how it's changing around him.
The format allows Westlake much room for amused observations about American entertainment of the 1950s from the perspective of the late 1970s. Unsurprisingly for a book set in the '70s, a kidnapping figures prominently. Davis' question-and-answer sessions with his kidnappers yield some unexpectedly moving introspection on his part and, I suspect, on Westlake's as well.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012