FOOL'S ERRAND by Marc Norms


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A three-act novel with a hot screenplay just under the surface, Norman's latest excursion into dour humor and rougher eras takes place in Central and South America during the Depression. Ethel Booton, a Boston University graduate nurse who wears thick glasses and has followed her doctor lover to a tin mine in Bolivia and become a radical socialist, is stranded alone at the Panama Canal with 4200 pounds of wet dynamite slowly turning into nitroglycerin because of heat and bilgewater. The explosive is needed at the tin mine (supposedly) to blow out a fire deep in the mountain. A grandly self-pitying American pilot, George Forney, whose tiny three-plane outfit has just been seized by the bank, offers to fly the nitro to Bolivia in his planes. Forney thinks that he's dying anyway, of some nameless exotic bowel germ, so wiping out while trying to land nitro in a pocky country field would be the perfect end to a life whose quality of misfortune is almost tangible. In a mad three-plane odyssey, Ethel and George are joined by one-eyed Slovak, who only flies drunk, underage Navy deserter Kinner, ex-Yale man Queen, and Brown, a loser who once crashed and killed twelve passengers. There's a ludicrous climax ahead, but stick around for stupendous battles with 100-mph winds, the Andean heights, and some biting, spitting, Oklahoma Crude-style humor.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1978
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston