Move Over, Tom Clancy!


September 22, 1991|By DAVE BARRY

Today we are pleased to present a major new literary talent, Rob Watts of Pungoteague, Va. Rob is 11 years old and has already written three novels.

Rob's three novels are entitled "Chopper Attack," "World War II" and "Assassination in the Gulf." He sent us a copy of "Assassination in the Gulf," an espionage thriller so fast-paced that we finished it in one sitting. Fortunately this was easy because "Assassination in the Gulf" is only two pages long.

But Rob Watts is the kind of writer who can fit a lot of plot into two pages. Other writers, such as hugely successful techno-thriller novelist Tom Clancy, often become so involved with describing the complex and sophisticated machinery of modern combat that they'll take two pages merely to describe a simple action:

"Far beneath the surface of the North Atlantic, inside the U.S. nuclear submarine Sea Turnip, Second Lieutenant Major Sergeant Commander Bart Brickman glanced at his watch. It was the Rolex Military Chronotron Model FX-6000, with 127 separate functions. The display revealed to Brickman that the time was 1400 hours. Brickman briskly punched this information into the Sea Turnip's main computer, the 6.5-skillion megabyte RZT-960000 DataHumper by Radio Shack. In less than one-billionth of a second, the computer flashed the result to Brickman: '1400 hours equals two o'clock.' Snack time. Brickman turned to the General Electric LS-MFT-53800000 'HellFrost' Naval Combat Mini-Fridge and punched in his Food Access Security code. Silently the door swung open. Brickman reached inside, extracted a Mister Mexico GRUBARF-210000000 Mixed Beef Parts Tactical Field Burrito, and slid it into the Amana AR-78X-3287-9382000 'DeathWarmer' Microwave Oven With Amphibious Laser Defrost Capability. Then, using his right index finger, he . . ."

And so on. This is not the way Rob Watts writes. Rob Watts gets right to the action. Here's how his book starts:


"Hey I just heard that Saddam's brother is going to be in Norfolk this week, he might want to sabotage our Naval base."

"Well, could we kind of, well uh kill him and make it look like a hit and run murder or an accident?"

"We could but it would be hard."

"We'll blow up the plane he'll be on!"

Note the lean, economical prose. Rob Watts doesn't waste the reader's time with a lot of extraneous detail concerning what the characters look like, or how they feel.

Quickly the scene shifts to Baghdad, where we learn, through subtle nuance in the opening dialogue, that Saddam's brother does in fact plan to blow up the Navy base:

" 'Bye Saddam, I'll be sure to blow up their Navy base,' " said Saddam's brother Sod. Little did he know that on the plane packed with innocent civilians there was a bomb placed in the engines so that all would blow up when the engines were turned on at take off."

Two sentences later the plane explodes in a scene whose stark horror is evoked by the following chilling description:

"Ka-boom, ka-boom, ka-boom, ka-boom!!!!"

We immediately shift back to CIA headquarters for Chapter Three, which begins:

"Yes! We killed him that jerk."

"Sir, but what about the civilians? In all 404 innocent American high schoolers from a small town in Iowa returning from a field trip were killed and reduced to little chunks this big."

(After the word "big," the author has drawn a small ink blot to indicate the body-chunk size.)

Talk about your masterly plot twists! Just as you, the reader, are thinking that the climax is over, Rob Watts confounds you with a completely unexpected, yet totally plausible, plot element: Iowa

high-school students on a field trip in Iraq.

It takes Watts another full page to resolve the issues raised by this plot twist. I won't give away the ending, except to say that it involves the following dramatic action sequence:

"Ka-boom! Blam! Blast! Crash! Bash!"

Perhaps someday "Assassination in the Gulf" will be made into a Major but Really Short Motion Picture. It would definitely be rated "G," because it has no dirty parts. This is good. Sex always seems out of place in military thrillers:

" 'Oh Bart,' moaned Chief Petty Ensign Commander Fifth Class Doreen LaFume as Brickman reached for the clasp of her bra. She was wearing the General Dynamics Armored Assault Brassiere, featuring . . ."

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