THIS NOVEL is another re-release that Follett authored under the pseudonym of Zachary Stone. It is expertly plotted -- in fact, Follett, in a recently done introduction, deems it his most clever. He goes on to admit, however, that "the small sales of the book convinced me that clever plots satisfy authors more than readers."
We might argue with that. Follett himself, in the same introduction, hits upon the real problem: there are so many characters that not one of them can be fully drawn. In fact, the thumbnail sketches are so good that we yearn for more and resent it plenty when more are not forthcoming. Follett confesses, "I have always had to struggle against a tendency to underwrite, and in Paper Money you see me struggling in vain."
The action takes place in a single day and involves the interlocking fates of a member of Parliament, an international banker, a has-been editor, an idealistic reporter, a cockney hoodlum, a wayward wife and a faltering businessman. The pace, as a result, is breakneck.
A look at a master storyteller's early efforts will always reward readers who are interested in good commercial fiction. Follett's own comments on his work are, in this regard, valuable indeed. And this novel, unlike an earlier rerelease entitled The Modigliani Scandal, is an out-and-out good read.
THIS IS one of those tough-talking first-person novels and it begins with a lot of promise. The narrator is one Beaumont, a down-and-out Houston adman, divorced, with two grown kids and a yen for his secretary, Amy. The promise fizzles early on, however, since only Beaumont is round enough to hold our interest. The plot is thin and the other characters all but nonexistent.
Oh, sure, there's a villain, Clay Thomas, but he comes across as too small and pimply to be really threatening. There's a mysterious Nicaraguan woman, Ampera, and her name indicates what she and the rest of the book sorely need: more electricity.
The best thing about the novel is its setting, particularly when the author ventures out in the Texas Gulf. All of the boating sequences are admirably done. But that's not enough in what purports to be a mystery. Nothing pays off, not the fact that the hero has a son in racing school or a daughter in the convent, not his on-again-off-again thing with Amy, nor his friendship with the owner of a topless bar. It's as if we're reading the draft of what this book ought to have been.
AN efficient thriller, Quarry involves some pretty awful villains, Vietnam veterans who are now in the business of making the worst kind of pornography. The book opens with one of them stalking and, indeed, capturing, a family vacationing in the Colorado wilderness.
Gary Colter, once a Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago newsman, now edits the local weekly. He's been lamenting the dearth of juicy news when this tale, with the arrest of one of the killers and the revelation of the kinds of films they have been making, falls into his lap.
But there's more: his daughter, Colleen, abandoned in Los Angeles by her husband, has been making her way back home for an unannounced visit. Her car quits in a blinding snowstorm and she starts walking, only to meet up with the other Vietnam veteran, a killer about whom none of the principals knows. The pace throughout is fast and the tension is kept high, but even so, the characters -- even minor ones -- have been developed well.
DESPITE THE fact that it's based on a true crime, this book isn't a thriller. Instead, it's a classic He-Done-Me-Wrong tale. The setting -- New York in the 1920s -- is probably a good part of the reason this book is being made into a movie. The other is that variations of this story have worked so often before.
We follow poor Emily Stanton who, after an undeserved two-year stint in jail, takes the only job she can get: she becomes one of Polly Adler's call girls. Ah, but Emily, with her heart of gold, wants only to win back the custody of the daughter she lost when she was arrested.
It's hard -- except for some interesting courtroom sequences as Emily attempts to bring down the Tammany Hall political machine -- to imagine Vincent Bugliosi, who gave us Helter Skelter, involved in this soap opera. The writing is atrocious. Witness Emily and a date on a stroll: "With her delicate cameo face, thick auburn hair, willowy figure, and a dashing modern-day Galahad beside her, she was a sweet whiff of perfumed dignity in Broadway's rancid miasma of exhaust fumes and chop-suey grease." Yuck.
Carolyn Banks is the author of four thrillers, the most recent of which is "Patchwork."