There's a great tradition of golf fiction, stretching from P.G. Wodehouse's Edwardian follies
to John Updike's narrative birdies and chip shots
. The Putt at the End of the World
is a worthy addition to the canon, in spite of the fact (or because of the fact) that it's a team effort. Nine authors, including such worthies as Dave Barry, Tami Hoag, Tim O'Brien, Lee K. Abbott, and Les Standiford, have contributed chapters to this farcical thriller. The premise, which is less wacky than it initially seems, involves a software tycoon named Phillip Bates, who's built a deluxe golf course north of Edinburgh. To kick things off he convenes a celebrity invitational, and draws not only a clutch of world-class hackers but several terrorists, counterterrorists, and what appear to be counter-counterterrorists. Clearly there's more at stake here than a mere 18 holes.
Slapped together by one author after another, the crazy plot is surprisingly consistent. Yet the contributors have made no effort to disguise their individual styles, which range from Barry's potty-mouthed slapstick to Richard Bausch's tonier stuff to James Crumley's pulp fiction. Indeed, this shift in tone is one of the book's great pleasures. So is the sex and satire, if not necessarily in that order. Still, the ultimate reason to read The Putt at the End of the World is for its strange-but-true evocation of the game itself. Here's Tim O'Brien's take on a ball with a mind of its own:
For the first thirty feet, the old Titlist did not touch the earth, heading for orbit, engines roaring, but then suddenly the rain and wind and fog forced a scrubbed mission. Gravity reasserted itself. By pure chance--a miracle, some would call it--the ball dropped heavily onto the green, not five feet from the cup.... It caught a sidehill slope. It wobbled off line for a second, then straightened out and continued its erratic pilgrimage toward destiny.
Fictionally speaking, at least, that's what we call a hole in one. --William Davies
From Publishers Weekly
Regrouping a few of Standiford's Naked Came the Manatee gang, this outrageously funny, multi-authored novel by (in order of tee times) Standiford, Ridley Pearson, Tami Hoag, Lee K. Abbott, Tim O'Brien, Richard Bausch, Dave Barry, James W. Hall and James Crumley is a treasure. The world's richest man, computer czar Phillip Bates, invites three exceptional but going-downhill golfers to play a celebrity pro-am on his brand-new course at ancient Rathgarve castle in Scotland. Lured by the serious cash Bates delivers, aging, vision-impaired senior tour member Alfonso Zamora; the incorrigible Rita Shaughnessy, a debauched, long-driving amazon from the LPGA; and Billy Sprague, an amateur champ with a gambling problem all fly to Scotland. Joining the trio is an impressive assortment of world leaders, celebrities and hotshots, but only Bates knows the reason for the decadent, mysterious tournament. Add to the mix an FBI agent who joins operatives in London to stop a terrorist with 20 kilos of Semtex explosive, and all manner of zany things start to happen. The plot to save the world meshes with the plan to party like crazy at the Bates castle, where Fidel Castro, Augusto Pinochet, Tony Blair, Al Gore, Mu'ammar Qaddafi, Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters, Hugh Downs, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Madonna, Bob Hope, the pope, Sean Connery, Dan Quayle and other celebs are on hand to witness an exhibition of carnal swing mechanics unrivaled since the orgy scene from Caligula. This droll, absurd fable is just mainstream enough to keep even the nongolfing masses, who don't know a mashie from a niblick, guffawing out loud.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.