Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Finished Retaliation.

The need for speed:  why is there such an obsession with having things happen so fast in Rohmer world?  Harris of the CIBC has a jet ready to go at a moment's notice if Paul James needs him for backup;  the bankers fly off to see Citicorp and BankAmerica in LA and NYC as soon as the deal is done and essentially barge into the US offices to announce the takeover;  The President and PM meet in Bermuda in a rendezvous arranged so quickly the Canadians don't even bring their team.  People are always flying to make deadlines, rushing at breakneck speed across the globe to get things done.  I know it must have seemed amazing to live in a world where air travel made this all possible, but there is a tinge of artifice to the urgency - all of it seems contrived to get pull quotes about how the story is so "fast-paced".  Maybe after 9 novels I don't want to hear anymore about how tired people get from jetting about so.

And (Spoiler Alert) has there been a more downer ending to a Rohmer novel?  Canada's economy is in shambles, hundreds of thousands are out of work, rioting is happening in the streets, Canada is out of NATO and NORAD had a 1300-mile gap in it.  But at last Paul James and Sam get to frolic on a beach in the Barbados and forget about all that nastiness in the North and Potts has a great story to tell at the pub.

I want a whole book featuring Potts.


  1. Is it because Rohmer is a pilot that he thinks air travel is so important? You have me thinking back to all that flying around in past novels, with American Presidents and Vice-Presidents visiting oil installations and meeting with world leaders. The former is entirely unnecessary; the latter might be necessary… or the issue involved could've been handled by an ambassador. Note there is next to no diplomatic corps in Rohmer's novels. Diplomats are either ignored (Triad) or used for sex (Balls!).

    Looks like I won't have time to finish until this weekend. Can't say anything I've read makes me want to revisit my schedule.

  2. While scanning the unread list, I just realized DEATH BY DEFICIT is a novel.

    (with an awful title, but still).

    More financial intrigue ahead...

  3. Why did the takeover have to happen in a week? A couple of days in, we're told -- like it's good news -- that the "big boy" institutional investors have noticed the price of the bank stocks going up, so now they want to sell. "Yes!" go our heroes. "Now we'll pay more!"

    ... and that's... good?

    But -- am I crazy? -- if they'd bought the stock slowly, that wouldn't have happened, right?

    Of course, the "plan" in Retaliation is pretty arbitrary, even for Rohmer. Why do the Canadian banks want to buy the American banks?

    Answer: Because.

    Okay, then. Let's get started. There's no time to lose!

  4. Brian: this is a spoiler, so read no further until you're there.

    "Because" also answers the following questions:

    1. Why are they in a castle?
    2. Why are you buying smokescreen stocks in all these other companies again?

    When Potts and his Black Brigade report back that they've killed Ezio and the other kidnapper, Paul James is excited and thinks that's just great. He can't wait to spread the good news. He's a business guy - would be really be so upbeat that he's just had mercenaries kill people and paid them a million dollars to do so? Do the banks approve? The Saudis or Kuwaitis?

    And another thing - Paul James is worth 200 million. At the end his "commission" (split 60-40 with Sam) is 3.3 million and he seems overjoyed - we even find out how he invests the money. But.... he doesn't need it.

  5. Don't you buy another company because you see it's undervalued? Or you think you could run it better? Or what it does fits in with what your company does? (I'm sure there are a dozen other reasons. Maybe you have too much cash, or some kind of tax position.) This caper isn't based on any of those things. Paul James says to two Canadian banks and Saudi Arabia: "Let's spend about three billion dollars for about three billion dollars' worth of something... oh, and after we do, it may or may not turn out to be legal." And they say: "We're in."

    Why does it have to be secret? Not to keep the price down. It goes up anyway, because they're buying it so fast. Not to get around the law. They have to reveal what they did anyway. It just means they have to find out if it's okay, after it's happened.

    And they tanked the Canadian economy. I've got to assume that at least some of assets of TD and CIBC are held in Canadian dollars. What happens when the dollar goes down to 60 cents? How do you explain that to the TD and CIBC shareholders?

    "I know the whole plan sounds perfectly pointless. But you had to be there when Paul James pitched it. He had a telescopic pointer."

  6. How many times does Rohmer describe lowering or raising the drawbridge? At least ten times. Didn't you assume that had to pay off somewhere later? Nope.

    Why Barbados?

  7. Barbados so they can he really far away from the Canadian economy they helped ruin.

    There is no plausible reason for the banks and the Saudis to get so excited about this project. They are buying some stock - at the end of the story, they own the stock.

    I think the reason James is able to sell it comes back to Rohmer's obsession with things happening fast - everyone is bowled over by a plan that requires you to act reallllllllly fast. If we kick in a billion and you're off to convince Saudi Arabia to do the same and it HAS TO BE DONE right away, this must be a good plan!

    And why, when we're in the home stretch, does the Mafia get dragged in? It's almost like "I've done a kidnapping plot involving Italians. I guess now I have to squeeze the Mafia in somehow."

    Add another question that can be answered by "because": Why do the Mafia show in the last 30-40 pages and add nothing much but an arbitrary gunfight?

  8. (Brian, don't read this part.) Don't be silly, Stan. The Mafia come in at the end of Retaliation for the same reason running characters die suddenly on quality hour dramas: To knock the wind out of the the viewer/reader. Just when you think the caper has come off, you shockingly kill someone. Fade to black, Credits. And if you're Rohmer, you add three more pages where you hear the character is perfectly fine, in case Rohmer wants to use him again.

  9. Ahh yes - nobody is happy anymore unless there is a twist.

    Somewhere Chubby Checker is smiling.