Friday, May 06, 2005

Book: Cavalcade, by Walter Satterthwait (2005)

Full disclosure: Walter is a friend of this website. But I was reading him long before he was reading me.

I deliberately saved the latest installment in his Pinkerton series for my trip to Los Angeles. I’ve never had a more enjoyable flight, and I chalk that up to the fine company of Phil Beaumont and Jane Turner.

In this outing, Phil and Jane travel to Germany in 1923. Someone has tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the leader of the surging National Socialist Party. The Nazis have hired the Pinkertons to find out who.

The story, obviously, is darker than previous adventures – Hitler appears as a character in several scenes, and Phil’s experiences in the Great War loom in the background. Walter does a splendid job recreating the period, and he deftly avoids the great pitfall of historical novels in that the characters aren’t unnaturally prescient. Phil and Jane quickly perceive how dangerous their clients are, but don’t foresee the catastrophes that they will wreak on the world a decade and a half hence.

And the book maintains an effervescent tone that carries the day. The sections narrated by Phil contrast nicely with the Englishness of Jane’s many letters home. In lesser hands, the conceit of Miss Turner’s correspondence would play like a gimmick. But Walter makes it one of the book’s strengths.

Miscellaneous: Links

What can we learn from this Los Angeles Times article on action guru/screenwriting legend Shane Black? That success can be every bit as daunting as failure. And if you plan on attending the time traveler convention at M.I.T. tomorrow, stay away from the chicken. I found it dry.