Sunday, December 3, 2017
Black Friday, by R.T. Lawton
I knew that if I wrote these reviews long enough I would eventually have to tell you about George F. Will. That day has come.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter debated candidate Ronald Reagan. Among those asked on television to evaluate their performances was conservative pundit George F. Will. Not surprisingly he praised Reagan's showing. More surprisingly, it turned out that he had been one of Reagan's debate coaches. So he was praising his own work without bothering to mention it.
And that's why you have never heard of George F. Will again.
Here's why I bring this up. R.T. Lawton and I are first readers for each other. Before I send a story to an editor I ask him to critique it. He does the same with me.
That means I read an earlier version of this story and made some suggestions for improving it, a few of which, I think, the author took. So you can argue that I have no subjectivity about it now. All I can say in reply is that the first version I read would also have been the best of the week, before I got my grubby hands on it.
This is part of a series of stories about Yarnell and Beaumont, a sort of low-rent version of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder and Kelp, marginally successfully thieves. It is the day after Thanksgiving and Yarnell is visiting a pawn shop to retrieve his wife's wedding ring. Unfortunately there is a robbery going on.
"Not so fast," said the robber.
Yarnell wasn't sure if that meant he was now supposed to move in slow motion or not at all, so to be on the safe side, he quit moving altogether. In fact, he thought it best under these circumstances to have his brain check to see if his lungs were still pumping air.
Eventually Beaumont shows up. He is the smarter half of the team - although that is not a fast track by any means - and finds a hilarious way of settling the issue.
My favorite element of this story is Lebanese George, owner of the pawnshop who remains unflappable. Another day, another hold-up. Ho-hum.
This is a treat.