In 1947 West Texas, a slick, silky buccaneer seeks plunder and revenge.
We meet him first in the Lincoln Continental convertible he’s just purchased, at his side a weary-eyed, fine-bodied blonde named Della. No surname. No name at all for the cool, good-looking, Harvard-educated narrator, on his way to do something complicated and nasty to someone who richly deserves it. As they approach the equally nameless West Texas town where it will all happen, the tale begins to take shape in small, tantalizing increments. There’s to be a high-stakes poker game involving the narrator and the object of his serious antipathy. Though the two have not yet set eyes on each other, matters are being carefully arranged, in part by confederates with such names as Icepick Willie and Chicken Little, hard guys with sharply honed skills for larceny and general mayhem. What’s it all about? Before allowing us to know, Burton juices his plot with a giant oil strike and a delicious love affair, both of which pave the way for an assortment of neat surprises—surprises involving chicanery, double-dealing, vigilantism and an unabashed antihero playing the rogue’s game close to the vest. The fun lies in trying to decide whether he deserves to win.
An auspicious debut: tricky, amusing, even edifying, without a single dull page.