Man of the Century

James Stewart Thayer, Author Donald I. Fine Books $24.95 (342p) ISBN 978-1-55611-512-7
Discovered by a credulous young Washington archivist, 108-year-old, Zelig-like Woodrow Lowe--the self-proclaimed ""spy of the century""--launches into an extended account of his adventures in this entertaining historical picaresque from popular suspense veteran Thayer (Five Past Midnight). Lowe's story begins on the mean streets of 1880s Boston, where he befriends fighter John L. Sullivan, then uses his own boxing skills to knock out Theodore Roosevelt. The future president takes an interest in Lowe's cavalry career, and the soldier begins a series of adventures that take him around the world: a charge up San Juan Hill with Teddy; a stint as a prisoner of Arabic forces in Sudan; a stretch in the Amazon, where he's captured and held as a sex slave by ""the Women Who Live Alone."" The chief conflict in these yarns is Lowe's long-running battle to marry the woman of his dreams, a society beauty named Amy Balfour, whose corrupt brother takes advantage of the enormous sacrifice Lowe makes for his lady love. While most of the tales are engaging, Thayer rarely gets beneath the surface of Lowe's character or the historic context of the vast terrain he covers. The episodic plot, the relentlessly over-the-top, slapstick humor and narrator Lowe's false modesty wear a little thin after a while. The result is not so much a historical novel as an extended series of tall tales, very often charming, occasionally just plain strange, but throughout as American as apple pie. (Oct.) FYI: This is the second of two novels from Thayer this season. Five Past Midnight (Simon & Schuster) is reviewed below.
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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