Payback: time well spent with one of my favorite authors.
I always look forward to a new Johnny Spicer book. I enjoyed Payback so much I wanted to write this review!
HP Oliver has brought us an interesting character (Johnny Spicer) who lives in interesting times. Fewer and fewer of us remember the events of early 1942. February 1942 is the beginning of an interesting story, based on historical events. Johnny Spicer is now a Major in a Military Intelligence unit which is based at the Precidio Army Base in San Francisco. Spicer has been ordered to ensure strict military secrecy is maintained regarding an upcoming military event. The Army is very vague in the assignment—they figure if Spicer can figure it out, so might the enemy and Spicer needs to stop the enemy.
HP Oliver delivers a book that reads like a screen play. It is a book of conversations. As Spicer does his job, you sit in on his conversations, thinking, information collection, humor, concern, fears, the love of his lady—and the love of his country. Characters in the book, by being in the conversations, become real. When they were hurt I worried, when they died I was saddened by the loss.
In the Spring of 1942 the US was in transition. People were fearful, the military had no clear victories. Oliver‘s tale relates the transition from fear to courage. The unraveling of the puzzle Spicer is given is not only the story of tracking down enemy spies in the early days of WW II, but how everyday people felt about the bombing the coast of Southern California or the explosion at North American Aviation.
If the devil is in the detail—Mr. Oliver must be quite a rogue. While Payback is a work of fiction, the detail of California geography, cars, and airplanes, and war time preparation is wonderful and is further illustrated in the H.P. Oliver website. You don’t have to wonder what the airplane looked like—there is a picture on the website. It’s a little like being able to view the author’s notes and research—seeing pictures that inspired him to blend real history with the fiction that intrigues our imagination. Payback has beautiful women, fast cars, faster airplanes, spies, and good guys. It adds up time well spent with one of my favorite detectives.