THE DEVIL'S WIND

Richard Rayner, Author . HarperCollins $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-621292-0

Smooth, callow architect Maurice Valentine scores a calculated marriage to a wealthy senator's daughter, casually names names for Joe McCarthy, designs casino hotels and builds mock suburban subdivisions to be vaporized by atomic testing. But when cool, blonde femme fatale Mallory Walker appears, noir strictures demand that the moral house of cards that is this cynical operator's life be slated for demolition. They also require a thrillingly lurid plot machinery—including a troubled mob patriarch and son, a land scam involving Jimmy Hoffa, heroin, murder, revenge and periodic nuclear blasts—to embroider an elemental struggle pitting 1956 Las Vegas, aka corruption and hollowness, against insurgent beatnik romance. Rayner (The Cloud Sketcher ) mines such Nevada gothic sources as The Godfather Part II and Bugsy for inspiration, and he handles his classic pulp materials with style. The novel's tacit theme—why the '50s deserved to be annihilated by the '60s—is conveyed by reiteration of Nietzschean truisms ("[E]verybody wants power.... Power, not goodwill, not democracy, not love," muses Maurice, while Mallory opines, "God quit a long time ago") that combine jaded worldliness with apocalyptic anticipation. Plot twists and betrayals, bomb blasts and unrequited love all add up to a classy neo-noir. Agent, Jeff Posternak at the Wylie Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 01/10/2005
Release date: 02/01/2005
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