The Road to Omaha

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Robert Ludlum brings back General MacKenzie “Mad Mac” Hawkins and lawyer Sam Devereaux, the main characters from THE ROAD TO GANDOLFO, for another outrageous scam. In that book’s action, which is referred to frequently in THE ROAD TO OMAHA, MacKenzie engineered a kidnapping of the pope and involved a reluctant Devereaux in the plot. This time, an equally reluctant Devereaux is maneuvered into a plan to claim the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska, for the Wopotami tribe.

The novel begins with Hawkins uncovering a treaty entitling the Wopotamis to all areas within a thousand arrow’s flights from a spot near Omaha. He is less concerned with the tribe’s claim than with revenge against the establishment that ruined his military career. Because the goals are mutually compatible, however, he pursues the Wopotamis’ claim to the best of his remarkable, unorthodox abilities. Hawkins, no lawyer but a devious person with a lot of time on his hands, concocts a brilliant legal brief to present to the Supreme Court. He needs a lawyer to make the actual presentation to the Court; enter Sam Devereaux.

The premise of THE ROAD TO OMAHA makes the book. It is a comedy, but it shares patterns of shifting alliances, sabotage, and double-crosses with Ludlum’s espionage novels. Most of the plot involves the machinations of Hawkins and of the government officials who try to thwart his plans. The details are amusing but forgettable. The same can be said of the secondary characters, many of whom are caricatures of recent U.S. government officials. Finally, as many of his fans will be pleased to hear, Ludlum has toned down the writing style!