Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Before we close the book on Triad, my favorite passages:

It's Just Drenched with Historical Goodies Like That

"Here are your airline tickets.  They're return -- from here to Amman."
"To where?" asked the bewildered Black as he fumbled opening the envelope.  He has no idea where Amman was, never heard the name before.
"It's the capitol of Jordan." p. 57

And bears! Oh, my!

... the massive slumbering Soviet war machine was awakening.  Like the symbolic Russian bear, it was clambering to its feet... p. 59

"We now know the American Eagle has his nuclear sword ready and is prepared to use it, which means that as of this moment the Russian Bear is prepared to do the same thing." p. 137

The foreign minister smiled. "The US wouldn't want that anyway, now would they." He turned to address the president. "Because, if he Russian Bear and the Chinese Dragon coupled again, their combined forces would be the most powerful the world has ever seen."
"May be," Hansen responded. "But I do not sense that the Dragon is prepared to lie down again alone with, let alone under, the Bear." p. 248

You Keep Using That Word.  I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

"... perhaps a look at the Great Wall because it symbolizes the unquenchable strengths of the Chinese people..." p. 172

A Russian, Speaking Russian to Other Russians, Makes a Play on Two English Words, in Russian

"Furthermore, Hansen's much vaunted Rapid Deployment Force is not a force -- it is a farce!" p.68

Naturally, Because This is Rohmer

President John Hansen had explained what the Russians already knew... p. 146

She Might Be Faking

She loved the light banter. p. 170


  1. Vital Deng, Nancy T'ang and the Unnecessary Hyphen

    Deng shifted the mood with vital body language as he spoke, his hands gesticulating to emphasize his points. "Your Excellencies, there is a word in English, it is the taking of breath…"
    Nancy T'ang gave him the word. "Breath-taking."
    "Yes, that is the word to describe your Triad proposal. Yes, breath-taking."

    (There's also a word in Chinese: Jīngxiǎn.)

  2. More examples of Russians speaking colloquial English:

    - "Don't believe him! He's lying I tell you, he's lying!"
    - "You want to destroy us. You want to attack us. Grind us under your heel. Wipe us out. Obliterate us"
    - "So you elected to go nuclear against us"
    - "A patrol of ours had stumbled on a Chinese patrol in an area that was supposed to be neutral, a no-man's land sector we had agreed on years ago"
    - "(Canadian PM Turcot) He's favourably inclined to the Soviet Union - even though he's in your hip pocket"

  3. Since you bring it up, Stan, what was the reason for the Soviets being so open about their border skirmish with the Chinese? I know Rohmer's reason: he wanted to create tension ("Any rupture or rift with the Chinese at that moment could negatively influence the Russian attitude toward the far-reaching proposal Hansen planned to put to Romanov the next day"). But there's no explanation for the secretive, mistrustful Soviets openly sharing their concerns about problems on the Ussuri before the American delegation.

  4. I wonder if these things would seem strange to us if we were coming upon Rohmer cold. Instead of, you know, having been already drawn into the mouth of madness. His foreigners speak a weird (arbitrary and intermittent) formalese, but so does everybody else. Texan geologists. British maître ds. Buffalo housewives.

    “I have made your coffee just the way you like it dear.”

    Same question for stuff like the Chinese/Soviet border skirmish. In another thriller it would pay off later. In Rohmer it simply is what it is. Something that happens between meetings.

    Was he still selling books by Triad? I don’t remember seeing it in hardcover, everywhere, like the early ones. What did his publishers – and publicists – think about the idea that the books were a series, but not a series? Am I the only person who’s less likely to read a book if someone tells me it’s number 15 of 29? I wonder what the economics are on that stuff. That you lose X number of perspective readers, but the ones who do read one, read all 29?

    I watched a couple of Game of Thrones this month, with a roomful of fans. It’s perfectly fine. But if I never see another that’ll be okay too.

    The two air battles in Triad are the best things Rohmer’s written.

  5. Was he still selling books? I think so, but it's worth noting that Triad was the first Rohmer novel that didn't get an excerpt in The Globe & Mail. I've seen it in hardcover, but not nearly so often as Ultimatum and the three novels he published with McClelland & Stewart.

    Still, in 1981 General Publishing thought enough of the author's future to sign him to a three-book contract - Patton's Gap, Triad and Retaliation - with a $75,000 advance ($195,000 today).

    Funny thing is I don't remember the novels that came next. Chris, you were working in a bookstore when Rommel and Patton (1986) and Starmageddon (1986) were published, right? Any end of aisle displays?

    I was working for a library wholesaler when Hour of the Fox (1988) and Red Arctic (1989) came out, but I don't remember any orders.

    Hey, didn't you read The Canadian Bomber Contract? And isn't it the twelfth Joe Gall book?

    The air battles were pretty good, but I still like the Separation story of Rashida and the miracle that is plastic surgery. So good the Major-General had to use it twice.

  6. Ah, my sweet St-Catherine St. memories as a Coles the Book Person. I clearly recall shelving Red Periscope in paperback, because it was Canadian and wasn't Firefox by Craig Thomas. I also remember Balls! in paperback, because haha Balls! And I think they made the Separation mini-series around then, too.

    This isn't connected to anything, but I wish Rohmer had created a Jack Ryan character to connect all the books. Maybe Gaspe could have become Prime Minister, or Minister in Charge of War and Oil. If there was any kind of market at all, we could bring him back. We need him more than ever, now that the Red Arctic is melting (who will police those routes!) and the mood is very tense in the Oval Office about the Keystone pipeline.

  7. As writing, I like the British PM 's plane crash from Exodus UK; too bad it didn't serve a function other than to make him late for a meeting.

    I'm guessing that with ULTIMATUM, EXXONERATION and SEPARATION, the novelty of Canadian-based thrillers that turned into bestsellers would garner a large advance like that, but the law of diminishing returns kicks in pretty quickly when something like TRIAD only featured a Canadian "main" character as a sidekick to a US president and the fabulous Triad Plan didn't really include Canada.

    Chris - you've just said something that was in the back of my mind but wasn't clear till now - these first 7(or it 8?) should have had a unifying main character, which would have gone a long way to solve the growing problem with not having a clear protagonist in the last couple of books. It wouldn't have taken much to rethink them either to allow for de Gaspe to fit into any of the stories.

    An opportunity missed.

  8. Peter Matthiessen wrote and published three novels no one liked then rewrote them into one novel and won the National Book Award. Rohmer should rewrite all these novels into the adventures of Captain de Gaspe, globe-trotting ladies man, with a interest in power politics, natural gas, and taking ladies the restaurant at the hotel. "I want a vodka martini... and a loaf of bread." He should write a new one about Putin wanting the arctic, terrorists blowing a hole in the side of the USS Cole, and environmentalists screwing up the Keystone pipeline.

  9. A unifying character? My knee-jerk reaction focussed on the simple fact that the events of each series clash with those of the next. But then, events within each series clash.

    You're both right about Pierre Thomas de Gaspé. He's the man. A good ghostwriter would unite each series in a single volume - seven skinny novels becoming three Clancey-sized tomes - each featuring the Übermensch of our reserve forces and crown oil company.

  10. Right, three novels. And you’d have to update them too -- like they do with Nancy Drew now, adding cellphones and removing references to running boards. Or maybe just one huge novel:

    A snowstorm wipes out Buffalo, leading to the United States invading Canada for its natural gas. DeGaspe repels the invasion at Pearson Airport and buys Exxon. With money he borrows from the United Kingdom, DeGaspe converts the world's oil tankers into natural gas tankers, angering a triad of oil powers -- OPEC, Russia and Alberta -- who sink England. DeGaspe, now prime minister, uses parliamentary procedure to recall his cabinet -- but not parliament itself – cuts off the world’s natural gas, and hires mercenary jet pilots, beautiful but hideous Arab assassins, and Winnipeg hitmen to settle all family business in one day, making Canada the only superpower in a new unipolar global community. Vodka and bread for everybody!