341 pages. $19. "Catfeet" Millard could've testified against mobster Darrin Favore and avoided spending 28 months in the county lockup. But Catfeet had done the right thing, knowing he would be rewarded for his silence. Maybe Favore would forget the 22 grand Catfeet owed him. It would only be right.
But Favore isn't interested in "right." What he is interested in is getting rid of Catfeet so he can get close to Catfeet's woman. That's why he let the meter run on Catfeet's bill. At 6-for-5 a month, Favore figures Catfeet now owes him just over 3 1/2 mil. And no one is going to stop him from collecting.
When crime novelist Eugene Izzi is good ("The Take," "Prime Roll"), he's very good. When he's not, he produces something like this. "Prowlers," his eighth novel, is devoid of the insider's knowledge that makes his best so effective. Instead, Mr. Izzi gives us uninvolving characters in a relatively mundane plot that takes so long to come together that, by the time it does, you
simply don't care. Maybe next time. These are tough times for the espionage writer. Unless the author brings in drug lords or terrorists, writing about world geopolitics becomes tricky -- no one can keep ahead of the swirl of events regarding "good vs. evil." But there are a few exceptions. In "Saviour's Gate," former BBC reporter Tim Sebastian manages to come up with a fascinating twist on the espionage novel.
The novel supposes that the Soviet Union's economic and political climates continue to deteriorate. Espionage services 11 notice a daily unofficial flight from Moscow to a Soviet outpost. It is not a passenger, military or cargo flight. Is Gorbachev planning a defection?
The West is faced with a tantalizing problem. While there is undoubtedly political capital to be gained, does the West want the U.S.S.R. to be leaderless?
The major flaw in "Saviour's Gate" is one of timing. When it was written, Gorbachev was the darling of the West, and he is lionized in the novel. Recent events have tarnished that image. Still, "Saviour's Gate" takes chances and, by and large, succeeds.
SECRET LOVE LETTERS.
Edited by Ray Lewis White.
283 pages. $29.95.
On Nov. 28, 1912, Sherwood Anderson, the owner and manager of a paint-manufacturing company in Elyria, Ohio, stopped in the middle of dictating a letter and walked out of his office. He just kept walking -- through cornfields, along railroads and across creeks, 30 miles -- until he turned up in Cleveland four days later. Anderson's lapse into this fugue or dream state is often cited as the inspiration for his career as a novelist, but what is less well-known is that he lived life itself in a similar state of lonely detachment.
A case in point are these letters. Written for every day in 1932 to his lover Eleanor Copenhaver (whom he later married), they were found, hidden in a cupboard, only after his death in 1941. The letters offer eloquent tribute to the unsung women Anderson knew (he quotes Eleanor, for instance, exclaiming, "If only I could show the men in power" of the essential goodness of human beings) as well as penetrating criticism of over-sung literati: "You feel no human tenderness in him," Anderson writes of Upton Sinclair.
Most of all, though, the letters capture Anderson's ardor for Eleanor: bittersweet for him because he does not yet know if he will be able to marry her; beautiful for us because we know he will. "Dance down to the sea," he writes her in one poem. "Dance to islands in the sea. Dance south. Dance north. Dance, woman. You are queen."