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Friday, November 8, 2019

GOLF NOIR–THE BIG TOUR

GOLF NOIR–THE BIG TOUR
Recently, in search of something else (which is usually how these things happen), I found instead my copy of this diamond-hard gem of a novel, which was over due for a reread.

As things would have it, I read about golf far more than I play it. In fact, don’t actually play golf. Instead, I play 'at' golf. Once or twice a year, I wack a ball around eighteen holes with a friend, never keeping score and simply enjoying the beauty of being on a golf course. 

However, I have over a hundred sports pulps containing golf stories from the ‘30s and ‘40s, which are all pretty cool, and I have over fifty golf fiction titles on my bookshelves opposite my similar collection of boxing fiction. If there is a new golf novel published, chances are I'll buy it and read it.

That said, golf novels usually fall into three categories–sharp-tongued humor fests featuring wacky characters and wackier situations (usually written by Dan Jenkins or Mike Lupica, both of whom can make me laugh out loud), smalzy, mystical quests seeking to provide salvation through golf (think The Legend Of Bagger Vance), or attempts to cross the golf novel with the mystery genre, which are rarely able to serve both masters (there are a few exceptions, in particular, Keith Miles’ Alan Saxon novels).

When I read Robert Upton’s first golf mystery, Dead On The Stick (the second in his Amos McGuffin private eye tales), I found it mildly amusing, but nothing more than one of the neither fish nor fowl golf mysteries. 

Fortunately, Upton’s standalone novel, The Big Tour, is something completely different–the first golf noir novel, a cocaine fueled lightening jag into the heart of one man's darkness.

The difference in the two books is remarkable. One is a lightweight, disposable mystery, forgotten immediately upon turning the final page. The other is a classic example of hardboiled literature, which I've thought about often after reading it. It was as if Upton went to bed as Agatha Christie and woke up as Cornell Woolrich.

By never letting his characters take the easy way out, and by forcing them to experience the consequences of their actions, Upton drags us over a crude eighteen hole course of betrayal and despair in a foursome with Jim Thompson, David Goodis, and James M. Cain–you just know bad things are going to happen.

Don't expect sportsmanship and Rockyesque endings here–this is a wild ride through the rough where you bet with you life and and every club shaft in your bag is a serpent in disguise.

THE BIG TOUR
This is not your parents' golf game...In the hard-driving world of professional golf, even a golden boy must learn to win...Duff Colhane has just won his first professional golf tournament. It should be the celebration night of his young life. But he'll be spending it in Miami Federal jail.

Son of a barroom-brawling Montauk fisherman, Duff came across as a gentleman born to wealth and privilege. A brash, cocky golden boy and darling of the media they compared to Nicklaus. Golf was his greatest pleasure in life, the one thing he did perfectlyly, a poor boy’s ticket out–pure. Until he saw it played like a rigged game on grass where the only rule was not getting caught and big money was for the taking.

But after a golf lesson Vegas Mob-style all but shatters his pro dreams, Duff struggles desperately to regain the old form only he believes he can recapture. An unscrupulous Dr. Feelgood prescribes a witches’ brew of performance-enhancing drugs, and Duff is bankrolled by his high school sweetheart–a model with no portfolio but plenty of cash and cocaine and some very dangerous friends. If drugs don’t put an end to Duff–she and the Feds will...

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