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The Backup Men

Ross Thomas
In Print
The Mysterious Press (1971)

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This entry created 11 March 2024. Last revised on 11 March 2024.

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©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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The Backup Men
Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star no star (7.00)

249 pages.

My wife found this novel in the 'free' pile when visiting another library in our county. I had never heard of the author before, but I scanned the first few pages, and I was hooked.

I've since learned that the late Ross Thomas was known as "America's best storyteller" (NYT Book Review), was posthumously awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award, was a WWII veteran, and wrote crime fiction and political thrillers.

This is the third book in a series of four, but I had no trouble following it despite not having read the other novels.

As the novel begins, we meet Cyril 'Mac' McCorkle, co-owner of an upscale bar in Washington, D.C. (Mac's Place). Into the bar comes Walter Gothar, a young-looking man until you see his expressionless eyes and dirty smile. He leaves a message for McCorkle's partner Padillo, who is expected back the next day.

Padillo is a retired executioner for a mysterious government agency. Walter and his twin sister Wanda are working on spec, protecting an Arab prince about to come into a throne and a fortune in oil money. However, the Gothars have learned that two top-level assassins are after the prince. They need backup!

This turns into a chase plot, as the prince is first moved for his safety, then must make it alive to an oil company headquarters. And when Padillo needs help, can easygoing 'amateur' McCorkle keep up (and not get killed)?

I found this novel to be an easy read, with snappy dialogue and humor. The characters are memorable if not deep. There is plenty of action, and a twist ending.

Note that this is the third novel in a series of four. But I had no trouble following along, despite not reading the previous books.

There is some spy-type violence, nothing gory. No profanity, and sex is only implied.

The book is no longer available in print, but there is a digital edition.

Can you wargame it? Probably not. Most of the fights are more dramatic than tactical.

I enjoyed this one. Makes me want to track down more in the series!

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.