Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2018 October 05 • Friday

Well, here's a ridiculous book and artifact of a certain time and certain tendencies in certain streams of pop culture: John Quirk's The Tournament.

This is actually the third book in a series, but the front and back cover copy seem to be hoping you'll think it's the first. This accompanies a new design, a new publisher and a new presentation of the author, here John Quirk but in the previous two John Q.

I believe I picked this up in Cape Cod for twenty cents. It's interesting to see how the worlds of books and movies responded to the massive success of James Bond. By the time of The Tournament the whole genre was morphing into self-parody and this book is definitely heading that way.

Its purpose seems to deliver sex and violence with an irritating male protagonist who excels at and always attracts both. Peter Trees is a millionaire ex-commando (or something), often referred to as the Survivor, grins a lot, has lots of experience and knowledge and skills, yet is also strangely ineffective, quite early in the book being completely railroaded, captured, doped with truth serum and avoiding death only by a typically ludicrous maneuver that's as unconvincing as it is familiar.

The writing style is loose and sometimes melodramatic.

Martinelli closed the great double doors behind his back, using both hands. Martinelli, short, slim, lined, gray-haired, urbane, accustomed to the power of extreme wealth. Martinelli. After all this time, the face-to-face confrontation, Trees and Martinelli. Martinelli, the great manipulator; he was a five-foot-seven Italian giant. Martinelli, the international socialite, the dilettante Communist, the giver of sex parties. Martinelli, who had sent the assassins after Bottle and his fuel injector in the affair of the Chocolate Bunny. Martinelli, who had plied Roberto Alvarez with an elaborate orgy, seeking to seduce him from the rail spur in Guerra. Martinelli. Twice there had been conflict between the empires. Twice Peter Trees had one for Archangeli, and twice Martinelli had known the strange, coppery taste of defeat.

The first line is "Bullshots, that's what the men drank, the princes and their friends, consommé and vodka".

The immediate defining of "men" to be "princes and their friends" launches the reader on a snob appeal/luxury porn journey.

I was more interested in the backgammon angle, since I like backgammon and it's almost never the subject of a book or movie, unlike chess.

The Peter Trees books weren't very successful, it seems. There's a lot of sexist garbage, the most wearying example being a gorgeous lesbian character named April Rain (groan) who appears to give herself sexually to Peter Trees at the end of the book (of course).

The Tournament appears to have been meant to be read quickly and soon forgotten and if so, mission accomplished.