Monday, January 20, 2014

Scratch One (Michael Chrichton writing as John Lange, 1967)

Another case of the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mistaken identity crossover with espionage with lots of romance this time, but - unlike the highly original and enjoyable 3 to Kill - this one is very formulaic, predictable and simply boring.

Story is trivial but still full of holes and nonsenses. Our hero, jetset kind of lawyer, gets mistakenly sucked into a sinister plot involving 30 million dollars worth arms shipment and killing of bunch of secret agents and arms dealers. One of them is Formula 1 driver and his demise is planned to take place during Monaco race by sniper blasting one of his tyres (!?!?). This ingenious plan is masterminded by the secret group of various dubious intellectuals who called themselves Associates.

It's pretty messy, so no wonder that our hero, on pg. 64 already, is "still more confused than he was at the start" because as he rightly concludes "it just doesn't make sense". Fifty pages later, when he receives severed finger, he finally realizes that "he had to do something" and calls American embassy. But still, up to this point, Scratch One is amusing in its silliness and its humorous (kind of) style. But then everything changes when Roger meets mysterious, beautiful, sensitive and intelligent Anne.

Obviously they fall in love  and spend 20 pages on their lunch and museum visit. At this point the whole thing really starts to fall apart and I realized that it's gonna be pretty shitty reading from that point on. It simply seems that author gave up on the plot altogether. Later on there's another painful section of them having a picnic and buying some villa (once again 20 pages) followed by brief description of Brauer killing the real hit man. There is a short glimpse of hope when two stories meet but it soon turns out that this big twist is just (another) far fetched coincidence.

Pretty silly indeed, but I did enjoy a couple of things. First one is the gang leader's character Dr Liseau. He's a delightful gentlemen/sadist kind of an asshole (Ether, my friend. Injected intravenously, it is quite amusing). Just loved that scene where he gives some poor schmuck thorough physical examination before he starts torturing him to make sure his heart is strong enough to endure the pain! What a sick fuck, right?! I wonder whether he had ever heard of Hippocratic Oath. Btw, his number one henchman Brauer is also pretty cool and a bit insane but he's criminally underused.

Grand finale with aforementioned assassination plot is simply hilarious. Our hero becomes a decoy for police because you see, after spending three (3!) days in Dr Liseau's villa, he knows him better than anyone. Even though cops have been after him for years, have all kind of surveillance photos and shit like that. So here comes the hilarious part: cops give our hero a whistle to blow in case he spots him! No guns, no wire, a fucking whistle to blow in the middle of the crowd attending the Formula 1 race. Almost pissed myself laughing.

Silly stuff, and not even silly in a funny way.



Roger Carr, a lawyer

French Riviera - "A very rich area, and a gambling area. That is a rare and unbeatable combination." Which is of course bullshit, rich people and gambling go together hand in hand. What the hell was Chrichton thinking I wonder. In any case, he doesn't really use much this exclusive and somehow exotic jet-set casinos background.

Body count
13 (not counting 2 dead and 3 badly injured on the plane blown up by the planted bomb)

Anne, Anne and once again Anne.

Well, he's not supposed to be a tough guy so we can forgive him that he passes out 3 times! And I'm not even counting the occasion when he is properly sedated by the good doctor in order to fix his broken nose. Also it needs to be noted that the last one is pretty idiotic because he loses his conscious after the fight.

After the all mistaken identity fuck up, Carr becomes "a perfect decoy to divert them while they shipped a new man onto the scene." Which is of course suicidal mission that one french cop comments briefly by "Sracth one American". And btw - that same asshole suggests Carr to simply "act naturally"!

By Glen Orbik. I guess it is a illustration of Anne in the scene when Roger meets her for the first time on the beach while she's sunbathing. It's okay, but it could have been a bit more sexier. I included another cover (have no idea who the publisher is) that's also cool and somehow better reflects the novel's tone.

Cool lines:  
"Dry vermouth on the rocks." It was an interesting choice of drink, he thought - alcoholic, but weak. It fitted a man whose business was killing.

He moved well for a big man, his grace was swift, controlled, and his strength was deadly.

A handsome devil, he thought, if you liked them mean. 
He would be a great success with ladies who preferred their sex swift and brutal. And he dressed well, In a sort of English way. 

"The gun is now in my pocket," Brauer said. "Do not speak to our friend [policeman] up there. I would not like to ruin my suit, or his."

"What's that?" he said.
"A gun."
He stared stupidly, wondering where it came from. After all, she wasn't wearing anything. Christ, he thought, I must be drunk.
"Does it work?"
"Bien sur."
He nodded. It figured: she didn't look like a girl who would fool with a rod that didn't work. 

He regarded him in a detached way, as if he were a prospect buyer for a product of dubious usefulness.[The Coolest!]

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