Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Book: John Welter, NIGHT OF THE AVENGING BLOWFISH: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat. Algonquin Books trade paperback first edition, 1994. Fine condition.
First read: 1995
Owned since: 2000

John Welter gives himself away as a non-Washingtonian on the very first page, when his protagonist, Secret Service Agent Doyle Coldiron, sees a notice for a proposed covert baseball game between the Secret Service and the CIA.

First Annual Baseball Game
the CIA and the Secret Service
Date: July 14
Time: Classified
Location: Classified

...The game will be played at night, without lights, to avoid letting the opposing team know where the game is.

Clues will be provided, to allow team members to locate the playing field and the game time. If only one team shows up, it wins. The winning team will be given a spookball trophy.

Sign up now, if you can find the sign-up sheet.

Okay, you ask, so what's implausible about that? Nothing, except that Washington offices don't play baseball. They play softball. Summer softball is a grand D.C. tradition, one of several things that make the city feel like one giant college campus. (Group beach houses are another.)

That minor error aside, NIGHT OF THE AVENGING BLOWFISH is a hilarious, joyful story of the miseries of bureaucracy and the difficulty of looking for love once you've started to overthink it. Doyle Coldiron is 41 and having a midlife crisis of massive proportions. He's in love with a divorced co-worker who won't consider remarriage, and his heart really isn't in protecting the President any more, although he stumbles onto a plot that requires his attention.

I originally picked this up at the Alexandria Public Library, because I loved the title; I read the book, loved it, and bought this copy when I happened to find it on the shelf at the Mystery Bookstore, years later.

I'm taking the afternoon off to see the Portland Sea Dogs play a day game, which is better than playing for an office softball team any day.

Five Random Songs

"Dial-a-Cliche," Morrissey. One of the weaker tracks off his first solo album, Viva Hate.

"Late Last Night," Split Enz. The Split Enz's version of a 1930s love song, with tight harmonies and a ukelele, morphing into a late 1970s-style electronic pop song. Too cute by half, but totally irresistible.

"Blue Angel," Roy Orbison. Birds wish they could fly like Roy Orbison's voice.

"It's Too Late," Carole King. I remember hearing this song on the radio on some family trip when I was little, no more than six or seven. Kathy and I knew almost all the words.

"Come, Let Us Go Back to God," the Soul Stirrers. From the awesome Ladykillers soundtrack.

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