HARDCOVER by Wayne Warga


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This first fictional venture by an ex-journalist is a bland, cautious thriller, which counterpoints the world of rare-book dealers with that of Libyan terrorists; the former is conveyed credibly, the latter not remotely so. Jeffrey Dean is a Los Angeles dealer specializing in modern detective fiction. The suspense elements take up about one third of the novel; the other two-thirds cover the nuts-and-bolts of the dealer's trade, and of Dean's personal life--sparring with ex-wife Lydia, parenting beloved son Michael, and romancing the new woman in his life, Rachel Sabin, a bookish teacher. At a book fair, Dean has a run-in with an Arab, Narib Zaki, current owner of two Steinbecks (formerly Dean's) which now sport forged inscriptions. The Steinbecks had been stolen from an oil tycoon, to whom Dean had sold them through an intermediary, dillettantish Victor Dreyfus. It later emerges that Zaki, a Quadaffi agent, is preparing a team of Libyan hit men to assassinate Reagan, and is using master forger Dreyfus to create bogus documents for his team. (Dreyfus will be dismembered once his work is done.) There's also the inevitable CIA man, David Ketchum, a ghost from Dean's journalist past, who has a sniper fire blanks at Dean to get him riled up. That, and an attempt by Zaki's bikers to force Dean's Honda into a canyon, is about it for action, though there is a climactic street-chase in London, whither Ketchum has bundled Dean and Rachel for a final confrontation with Zaki. The lovebirds witness the vanquishing of the Arabs and the unmasking of Ketchum (a Quadaffi double-agent), while still finding time to splurge at Harrods, make love at the Hilton, and pick up two rare editions of Dickens. Pretty silly stuff, especially that perfunctory wrap-up.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1985
Publisher: Arbor House