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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Department of Book Reports Number 10

"Tonight the bloggers were off on the trail of laundered money that went straight through the back door of the White House, and the case of the former director of the FBI who'd either jumped or been pushed from the eighteenth floor of a hotel in Baltimore on the eve of his appearance before the grand jury investigating the Vasico affair. The president had made another speech- the usual Tamberlainish stuff about scouring kingdoms with his conquering sword. Great strides were being made in the war of Good against Evil, most of them in secret, the president said, but it would not be long before the American people learned of the noble victories already accomplished in their name. The bloggers were sifting through the text of this speech like soothsayers reading goats' entrails. It was noted that when the president said "Patriotic America knows it's strength. To all nations, we say..." the initial letters of the first eight words ominously spelled out "PAKISTAN."
-from Surveillance, by Jonathon Raban, Pantheon Books, $24.00

This is not a who-dunnit. When Mr. Raban stopped by to sign he was very concerned that we not sell the volume as a 'mystery', "it's quite Literary Fiction" he said in that charming British accent. I know what he means now.
Literary fiction has it's own convictions, most of which bore the tits off me.
Except. When a story is so well crafted, the place perfectly painted, it slams me into my own neighborhood.
Surveillance is just that book. Jonathan Raban is a transplant to Seattle and we honor and cherish him as "our local author" and yes the other transplants will call him a "native" at the 15 year point, but I'll speak for the remaining natives now and say Jonathan Raban really gets it.
He has effectively captured a snapshot of Seattle in the age of spying, bullying, fear of our landlords gone amok and desperate fear for your long-time Gay friends.

Lucy, a single mother, has been assigned a magazine feature piece of a famous, extremely reclusive author. His book Boy 381, concerning his childhood in concentration camps has swept America. But his publisher has decided his vocal libertarian views would not play well on the Author Tour circuit. Meanwhile a new landlord threatens the comfortable home she's had for the past 15 years. Alida, Lucy's daughter has fallen under the spell of the reclusive author just as doubts about his actual identity begin to surface.
The end of this book left me crying, terrified, sobbing like a motherless child on her butt on these mean streets. My streets.
You don't need to live in Seattle to appreciate the fury of this book. Some of the UK reviewers say "set in the future", it had come out in the UK a year ago. By the time it was available here, in the city in which it's set, we are already there. We're always the last to know.
Good morning, Seattle. Welcome to New Orleans.

democommie™™™™®© had nothing to do with this book report, but I can't get him to quit reading over my shoulder.

Signed copies of Surveillance are available at Jackson Street Books, Seattle Mystery Bookshop and fine independent bookstores everywhere.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.