Butterworth drops his W.E.B. Griffin nom de plume and shifts from spy/soldier/police derring-do to produce a romantic adventure novel fueled by sly, sometimes arch, humor.
Two narrative threads follow Philip Wallingford Williams III, a rich boy expelled from more than one of the right prep schools. In the first, World War II has just ended, and young Phil decides to forge a birth certificate and join the military. He takes "to the Army like a duckling to water," and Butterworth’s tale becomes a Forrest Gump–like story of right place, right time. Names are dropped—Schwarzkopf, Colby—as Phil joins a military intelligence detachment in occupied Berlin. Soon he's working for the German-American Gospel Tract Foundation, a CIA cover that unearths Russian spies like beautiful Legs Benidik. Berlin characters include ring-knockers, ticket punchers, hard-drinkers, and refugees from mental institutions and Fort Leavenworth prison. A lusty weekend results in Phil’s shotgun wedding to Brunhilde Williams, a Viennese ballerina who later earns the sobriquet "AA," the Angry Austrian. Marriage to a foreigner costs Phil his security clearance, so out of the Army he goes, to settle in Muddiebay, Mississippi, and begin a career as a novelist. Surreptitious notes he made of military officers’ sexual peccadilloes become the foundations for bestsellers. The second thread, circa 1975, follows successful novelist Phil among Muddiebay’s oversexed dilettantes, trust fund babies, and nouveau riche pretenders as they organize a pheasant-hunting trip to Scotland, a beard for adulterous liaisons and aristocratic hobnobbing. Throughout there’s bed-hopping; arch, referential, smug, sometimes supercilious humor; some bits of outright funny stuff; "Expletive Deleted!!" employed by the dozens; a quirky homage to the late Tom Clancy; and some lamentable anachronisms—but Phil finds true love.
Butterworth’s good-natured buffoonery and hyperbole work far better than Butterworth-as-Griffin adding repartee to Hazardous Duty (2014).