THE SPY IN THE DEUCE COURT by Frank Deford

THE SPY IN THE DEUCE COURT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Spritzer-and-strawberries snack from a senior editor at Sports Illustrated. This time around, Deford (Everybody's All-American, 1981) has jettisoned the melodrama that weighed down his last fiction offering, and concocted instead a treat high on chuckles, devoid of protein. Ronnie Ratajczak travels the world, bedding women and writing articles about the international tennis circuit. Caught in flagrante delicto by an enraged cuckold, Ratajczak is saved from death by two CIA agents--or so they claim--who recruit him to pass as a spy, so that a real spy on the tennis tour will escape suspicion. Meanwhile, Felicity Tantamount (author Deford loves these fey names; another character is called Prosper Higginbosch), world's top woman tennis player, ex-Playboy centerfold, and good friend of Ratajczak, is about to wed former French-fry magnate Dale Fable on the center court at Wimbledon. These two parallel plotlines are connected by a dozen madcap episodes, including the Three Stooges-like defection of a young communist player, the murder of a top tennis official, a botched kidnapping, and violence from a whistling cocaine dealer. The plot careens from Punta del Este to New York to Sydney to Grenada (site of the Grenada War Memorial Tennis Tournament) to Singapore to Fiji to Wimbledon, as apparent innocents turn into spies and then back into innocents. Ratajczak falls in love with a gorgeous former terrorist, gets shot in the lung by an assassin named Bubbles, and winds up $3 million dollars in the black. All the characters here (even the bad guys) are likable cartoons or lovable true-to-life misfits. Although Deford's one-liners sometimes strain for effect (""It was his wit and his wits that got him by""), the exceptionally vigorous, wacky plot zips by so fast one scarcely notices the stress marks. A few odd tidbits about the women's tour are dispensed--how many men realize what an obstacle big breasts are to championship play? (they cramp high backhand shots)--but, overall, this is less a farce about tennis than about romance, sexual and platonic. Foolish, fuzzy fun.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1986
Publisher: Putnam