Thursday, April 26, 2012

Part Twenty-Three, Chapter Six - Mandatory Nicknaming

No gametes in this chapter, thank the wood gods.  Instead we get the return of  Jimmy "The Gutter' Tavilnasty, and you'd better believe that every single time his name appears it's as Jimmy "The Gutter."

Fate didn't have me on rations that day.  It was being very liberal.  It was even insisting on me taking all the bad luck I could hold and then some.

So is this a corny attempt at a dramatic narration, or satire of corny, overly-dramatic narration?

Gris gets shaken awake from his manly weeping by a housekeeper, who tells him that a "horrible-looking man" is out in the yard.  That man is Jimmy Tavilnasy, passing the time by playing a solo round of "mumbletypeg" - this is some Tom Sawyer crap, Hubbard.  You were old when you wrote this, and definitely living in your childhood.

Jimmy's got his list of potential customers for Gris' mobster hospital if Gris produces the man he's supposed to kill: Gunsalmo Silva, suspected of betraying "Holy Joe" Corleone, in case you've forgotten.  And I wouldn't blame you if you had.  Most of this book would probably be cut if any poor sods tried to adapt Mission Earth for the big screen.

Off Gris goes to hurriedly make some phone calls and arrange for the still-comatose Silva to be dumped in a hotel room.  After a bit of uncomfortable small talk with Jimmy to stall for time, Gris leads the hitman to the city, bribes his way onto a roof across the street from the hotel, and waits with Jimmy until sundown.  "Oh, boy!" says the grizzled murderer-for-hire when he sees his target through the window.  Jimmy readies his gun and stiletto and hands Gris a list of two hundred names, all mobsters who would appreciate a fresh start in terms of birth certificates and plastic surgery.  Gris hurries to a bar to order a coke and establish an alibi, taking care to shortchange the cashier so he'll remember the encounter.  And holy crap, that was actually clever.  A flicker of competence after chapter upon chapter of failing to act and not being able to assemble the clues passing before his eyes.

There's a trio of deafening gunshots, Gris gets out of town, and I'm pretty sure Silva isn't dead.  Gris doesn't hang around to confirm the kill, and since we're obviously meant to assume that Jimmy killed him, Silva's survival will be saved for a "shocking" plot twist in a couple of chapters, or maybe a book from now, who knows.  Plus, the reason he's called Jimmy "The Gutter" Tavilnasty is that he doesn't use guns.  Even though he brought a gun, and checked it before making his hit.

And although now would be a decent enough place to end the chapter, it instead continues for another four pages, even though we've gone through plenty of dinky four-page chapters before.  It's almost as though this book was haphazardly edited and badly planned.

Gris goes back to his reluctantly free clinic and meets a new bit character, Nurse Bildirjin, who lets him see "Doktor Muhammad Ataturk" - yes, Dr. Prahd's alias is the Turkish equivalent of Jesus Washington.  Gris complains about all the interns and nurses and dinner staff being hired and explains that the hospital is about making him some money... um, to cure diseases with, of course.  He tries to give Prahd the patient list but the doctor doesn't know how to use our puny Earth telecommunications equipment.  Gris gets mad and goes home, deciding to contact the potential patients himself, at least until he remembers the NSA might have tapped his lines.  So he comes up with instructions to hand to the New York Apparatus office so they can handle it, because they've done such a wonderful job so far.

The chapter ends with Faht Bey mentioning a disturbance in town, prompting Gris to explain he was "having a Coke, and I can prove it."  Engage the laugh track.

In summation: Gris runs errands while thousands of miles away the book's hero is no doubt advancing the actual plot.

Still, there might be potential here.  Consider a book that shows the intense planning and craft that a villain goes through in order to set up that climactic encounter at the end of Act Three.  A story told from the bad guy's point of view as he struggles to hire lackeys, find a contractor that does pit traps, buy sharks in bulk, get the right uniforms for his unholy army, and consult an interior decorator for his throne room.  Could be entertaining, could be a sly parody of narrative conventions and satirize a genre or two.

Y'know, all the things Mission Earth isn't.

Back to Chapter Five

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