Monday, May 30, 2011

The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun by Paul Gallico

The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun
by Paul Gallico
Dell 0719
Copyright 1974

Nine and a half year-old Julian West is an innovated kid. He came up with his own little invention, a toy gun that shoots bubbles, and he is pretty excited about it. Shunned by his father, Julian sneaks out one night and with $150, he hops onto a Greyhound bus going to Washington to get a patent for his “bubble gun.” Well, the adventure begins and along the way we see it unfold through the eyes of the young boy.

The novel is subtitled An Odyssey of Innocence, and Paul Gallico beautifully captures that inevitable moment in life, when a young boy realizes that childhood is over and discovers what the world is really like. During Julian’s passage, he touches the lives of an odd assortment of characters. He meets up with two love-struck teenagers, a cat-and–mouse drama between the KGB and CIA, an immigrant musician looking forward to a new life in America, and there is even an unstable killer who attempts to hijack the bus. But its the bond between Julian and a disillusioned Vietnam veteran named Frank Marshall, that brings the reality of the existence of the unfair laws of human nature to him. Marshall takes to the kid, protecting and befriending him. Julian looks up to Marshall, who comes to symbolize many things in a world that can be both awe-inspiring and dangerous. And it is because of the trip and the time he spends with Marshall, that allows in the end, Julian’s relationship with his father to develop.

This is the second time that I read “The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun,” the first time was when it came out in 1974. The story of a nine year-old traveling alone across the country and some of the interactions between the characters, may be a bit unbelievable today. But I enjoyed it in 1974, and again in 2009. Paul Gallico was a remarkable writer. (If you ever read “The Snow Goose,” you'll know what I mean) It doesn’t matter that the novel was written 35 years ago, Gallico’s writing touches your heart and the maturing of Julian West will be long remembered.

“The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun” is a compelling story that takes us on a journey that is both heartwarming and inspiring.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Flashpoint by George La Fountaine

FlashPoint by George La Fountaine
Fawcett 2-3644-7
Copyright 1976

"But who in the hell can we trust to ask about it? We can't just walk into a bank and ask if this is counterfeit; they might be looking for numbers or something."

Ernie Wheeler and Bob Logan are best friends. They do everything together - eat, booze it up, lure the ladies to their bachelor pad-everything. They also work together, they are 1970s Border Patrol officers along the dry South Texas barren lands. Things are changing for them. The computer age is stepping in and they see the threat of their free-roaming job being replaced with one sitting behind a computer desk. They talk of chucking it all away and live high, but you need cash in the bank for that and they don't have any. Opportunity knocks one day when Logan discovers an old half buried jeep in a desert wash. Inside the jeep is a skeleton and $850,000 . The bills are dated back to the early 60s and since there is a rifle and other odd items in the jeep, Logan and Wheeler decide to secretly investigate into why it was there and who the bones belong to in the jeep. They later learn there is much more to this mystery than they ever thought. Deadly more....

Flashpoint is one of those fast paced thrillers that filled the book racks in the mid 70s. I had a hunger for them back then and this one slipped under my radar. I'm glad I caught up to the paperback. It contains all the ingredients for a violent, mysterious novel and as I was racing through it, I was always wondering on how it was going to end. It has a climatic finish which if you don't pay attention to the little clues that George La Fountaine provides throughout the novel, you might be very surprised. Logan and Wheeler are two well developed characters. They come off as semi-tough guys and show sympathy for the flight of the illegal immigrants. The only problem I had with them was they were a little too close of friends. A lot of interesting government intervention makes the mystery deepen. As the cover states, George La Fountaine wrote Two Minute Warning which was a huge success for him. For me, Flashpoint stands up right along side it.