Batchelor's second volume-written in a style as frantic as a morning DJ's-in a projected quartet of fast-paced tales about spy-writer Tommy ``Tip'' Paine (Gordon Liddy is My Muse, 1990). Here, Paine (``thinking like a make-believe cowboy'') gets involved in an Asian money war when Charlie Purcells, a neighbor, comes to him for help. Purcells is being blackmailed, he claims, by South Korean gangsters: long ago, he says, when he has a Spec. 4, he sold information. Sister-in-law Lila (of ``many and varied personalities'') has been paying off the gangsters, but Charlie's in too deep. Paine, ``an artist in the league of Greene, MacArthur and Eastwood all at once,'' decides to enter the fray and ``walk the cat''-i.e., ``find a fixed point and work forward and backward.'' In so doing, he moves from New York to Singapore to Seoul and points in between, tracking down clues and potential suspects: Raj, Lila's old lover, seems implicated; and Rosie, at first a sexy, innocent governess, turns out to be an operative of the Korean CIA. The plot quickly deteriorates into an out-and-out parody, boxes opening into boxes, until everyone is a suspect, and everyone is somehow guilty. Charlie, it turns out, is trying to ``run a sting operation on everybody,'' and even Paine is double-dealing once he hooks up with two agents from the US Military Intelligence Corps. Once the dust has settled, including poisonings and murders, the South Korean government is the revealed culprit, having used Charlie before flushing him out. In the end, a sort of nihilism wins the day-''The devil does what he wants stupidly, brutally, senselessly.'' A clever hoot-something like a cross between Murder, She Wrote and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
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