Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thursday At Noon - William F. Brown

    2012; 278 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Action; Intrigue.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Things have been rough lately for Agent Thomson.  There was the fiasco in Damascus for which he has been given the blame.  Now all his younger cohorts at the Cairo CIA office snicker at him, and the US Ambassador to Egypt is just waiting for an excuse to ship his over-the-hill butt home.

    So when a local Egyptian approaches him in a bar with the offer to sell him some important photographs, Thomson recognizes it as a scam and refuses to pay.  But when the Egyptian is shortly thereafter beheaded right outside Thomson’s hotel, he realizes that he may have missed an opportunity to redeem his career.  How can things get any worse?

What’s To Like...
    The action is non-stop, and the prologue (the chapters before we meet Thomson) will draw you instantly into the book.  Thomson makes for a fine anti-hero – he drinks too much, gets beat up a lot, and makes wrong decisions.  He also is quite the wit, which adds lends a nice “flavor” to the action.

    The setting – Cairo - feels “real” to me; although granted, I’ve never been to the Mideast.  The 1962 mindsets are also well done, and I am old enough to remember Egyptian and Israeli sentiments in those days.

    It’s both rare and nice to see an author working some Arabic into the text.  And it’s both rare and refreshing to see Abdel Gamal Nasser (and even a second Egyptian official), portrayed in a positive light.  The Israelis are not perfect either, although it has to be said the overall tone here is more pro-Israel than pro-Egypt.  There’s only one female character in the book, so the love angle is pretty easy to foresee.

    The storyline builds to an exciting climax, with only a couple WTF moments along the way.  At one point, a bound-&-gagged Thomson somehow saves the day.  At another, a patient who’s been hypodermically drugged, is revived by throwing some water in his face.  I don’t think it’s quite that easy to overcome chemistry.  OTOH, compared to a Dirk Pitt novel, TaN’s WTF moments are few and far between.

    The small cab heeled over and Thomson braced himself, grabbing the door handle for dear life as the small cab sped on into the city’s Old Quarter.  It had once been ringed by sixty massive stone gates, but only three of them had survived.  It was common knowledge that the Cairo cab drivers had probably knocked down the other fifty-seven, and inciting one of these drivers to speed and drive recklessly was both redundant and suicidal.  (loc. 2315)

    “There is no CIA plot.”
    “There is always a CIA plot.”
    “You’ve got the CIA on the brain, Captain.”
    “I admit to certain prejudices, but history shows your country never tires of meddling with little people like us.”  (loc. 2403)

Kindle Details...
    Thursday At Noon sells for $2.99 at Amazon.  William F. Brown has three other novels available for the Kindle, all of which are also $2.99.  For some reason those other books don’t show up on Amazon’s “William Brown Author’s Page”, but you can see them in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section.

“Ah, those Cairo nights, full of mystery and sin.”  Bullshit, Thomson thought.  (loc. 592)
    There are some weaknesses.  All of the characters are either “black” or “white”.  This makes it easy to figure out what’s going on and who’s behind it.  It also means that there are very few plot twists that “gray” characters inherently cause.

    There aren’t a lot of typos, but three prominent ones – hangar/hanger, Luger/Lugar, and Frankfort/Frankfurt are curious in that William F. Brown gets each of them correct about half the time.  Random guessing?  I’m also surprised that spell-checker allows “Lugar”.

    Overall, I found Thursday At Noon to be a well-told page-turner, with a nice blend of action, history, wit, love, and intrigue.  Seeing Nasser portrayed as a man of honor and integrity was a pleasant surprise; and it was also a timely read, given the current unrest in Egypt.

    7½ Stars.  There are a couple loose ends (Collins, Ilsa) still hanging at the story’s end, but perhaps this is deliberate so things can segue into a sequel.

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