Posted: 21 Jun 2015 09:01 AM PDT
Jim Racine is a professional boxer. He is 36, and his best years are gone; he is still fit, but his quickness, speed, and strength are memories. When he was younger, Racine was a contender, but now makes his living fighting second- and third-tier opponents in South America. He makes good money, too, but the wheels fall off in the fictional city of Quitasol when he kills his opponent in the ring.
The outcry is significant, and the local government seizes his passport pending an investigation stranding Racine in Quitasol. The U. S. Embassy is unwilling to help, and Racine is certain if he could speak directly to the ambassador he would have his passport back in a matter of hours. When he finally gets his audience the meeting is interrupted by terrorists who kidnap Racine, the ambassador, and three others. The terrorists’ goal is to ransom the ambassador back to the State Department; which means the remaining hostages are extra baggage.
The Long Count is a sparse, well-plotted gem. It is written in first person with a rich, literate prose—seemingly simple, but its simplicity is deceiving. Jim Racine is one of Mr. Faust’s most likable protagonists; many are cold, almost unapproachable, but Racine is well-defined with high intentions. It is also a novel of ideas. There is a late scene where the ambassador and a terrorist are arguing their political differences; the ambassador turns to Racine—
“‘Racine,’ the ambassador said contemptuously. ‘Haven’t you anything to say for your country?’
“‘You aren’t talking about my country,’ I said. ‘You’re repeating slogans.’”
The ideas tendered are very much of the novel’s era. It was originally published in 1979, and its major themes are communism, capitalism, and the United States role—both politically and economically—in South America. There is no clear “ideas” victor, but everything is encased in a brilliant adventure story.
Interestingly, the word “quitasol,” used as the name of the city where everything begins, is Spanish for “parasol.” I haven’t worked out the connection between parasol, and the story, but I bet there is one.
The Long Count is Ron Faust’s fourth published novel. It was originally published as a paperback original by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1979, and it is currently available as a trade paperback and ebook from Turner Publishing.
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