Out on the Rim

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ross Thomas’ plots are always ingenious, his characters seldom ingenuous, his background flawless -- even to the tiniest detail--and his books are never over until they are over. The action continues to surprise the reader right up to the last sentence. Artie Wu and his ever-present partner Quincy Durant, who trust each other implicitly, are “out on the rim” in the Philippines with their marginally reliable ally Otherguy Overby in pursuit of the biggest score of their somewhat checkered careers.

Someone wants to funnel five million dollars to a Filipino rebel, Alejandro Espiritu, ostensibly to finance his retirement from the rebellion game. Espiritu finds the idea intriguing, but he is understandably somewhat suspicious of an ambush. Therefore, he requires that the transfer of funds be entrusted to a colleague from World War II, Booth Stallings. Stallings, an expert on terrorism, thinks the whole affair is a good idea, but decides that acquiring the five million for himself is an even better notion. Although Stallings possesses impressive credentials in a variety of areas, the successful theft of that much money is beyond the scope of his talents. In consequence, he recruits Wu, Durant, and Overby to assist him in the delicate task. At this point, the story begins to twist and turn, with the entrance and exit of a series of characters that could only spring from the ever-fertile mind of Ross Thomas.

Thomas is noted for his exceptional characterizations, his devotion to action and suspense, and his ability to turn a phrase better than almost anyone writing in the field; few others would describe an individual as looking “as if he had been put together by someone who hadn’t bothered to read the directions.” Thomas has not returned to previously used characters for some time, but those who were enthralled by the exploits of Wu, Durant, and Overby in CHINAMAN’S CHANCE will find a new reason to read into the early hours of the morning.