MONEY MOUNTAIN by James Magnuson


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Mack McLaine is an aging C&W singer, once semi-famous, now semi-forgotten; his marriage to Annie (mother of beloved little Kaia) is on the rocks; he's disenchanted with life around Santa Fe, N.M., with its artsy-craftsy excesses. So Mack is ripe for a little adventure when his pal Rick--a ne'er-do-well playboy type--comes up with a new clue to an old mystery: whatever happened to the supposed fortune in gold (50 tons) found--and then misplaced--by prospector Roy Tucker 40 years ago? Rick's clue, Tucker's deathbed scrawl, turns out to be a Hopi hieroglyph called ""the flute player."" And it leads Mack, after an interview with Tucker's widow (a now-aged Indian woman), to figure out where the gold must be located--""somewhere in the canyon near the San Carlos Pueblo, in a cave with a flute player cut in the ceiling."" With Rick and two other cronies, then (mean/macho Grier, hippie-ouch Indian craftsman Harry), Mack finds the cave--after a raft journey and rough mountain-scrambling. Unfortunately, however, it's a) filled in with solid rock, and b) on Indian land. So the foursome has an arduous, secret job ahead: hacking away at the rock with picks and shovels, risking shaft cave-ins, but eventually discovering the gold in a pit within the cave. Happy ending? Hardly. Because, while Mack and the others are slowly removing the gold, a young park ranger stumbles by, gets suspicious, and triggers a predictable finale: arguments between decent Mack and ruthless Grier; murder; cat-and-mouse chases on the rocks; and Mack's ultimate victory--with help from buddy Harry--over nasty psycho Grief. Magnuson occasionally indulges here in the sort of pretentious stewing that made Open Season and Without Barbarians so tiresome. (""Gladness snuck back like a thief. Mack had been through a bloodbath, killed a man, the future was a question, one long wait, and yet he had had his vision. . . . What had been lost and what had been saved swayed within him like counterweights in a shaft."" Etc.) But this is straightforward treasure-hunt melodrama for the most part--with, despite some blatant echoes of Deliverance, no real complexities to get in the way of the serviceable, atmospheric action.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Doubleday