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The Deadly Tools of Ignorance Hardcover – April 5, 2005
About the Author
Robert Elias teaches law and politics at the University of San Francisco. Hes the author and editor of six non-fiction books most recently, Baseball and the American Dream. He lives in Mill Valley, California.
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I'm certainly in the minority here, but I could not get excited about Robert Elias's "Deadly Tools of Ignorance."
It's a talky and slow-moving tale that requires not just suspension of disbelief, but eliminating it. Debs Kafka is a Luddite graduate student--he disdains figuring out his VCR, doesn't own a computer (yet somehow gets on the Internet "with the usual glitches" before leaving home), and drives a 60-year old Studebaker-- whose long-dormant baseball skills enable him to gain instantly a Major League Baseball contract, for example. He also has a gorgeous, brilliant European girlfriend who appears mainly to set up a couple of tepid sex scenes; other than that, her contribution to the plot is negligible.
Page after page of baseball lore and trivia (plus details about his stupendous performance in MLB games), interspersed with ruminations on the state of American academe, repeatedly bring what little detectivatin' action there is to a complete stop.
Elias simply has no ear for writing dialogue. Debs has a confrontation with a dolled-up student who's come to confess that no longer pines for him: ""I've had a lot of time to think this through. I've created a pretty fanciful dream life for you and me. I've fallen for you like a meteor dropping out of the sky. Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before it crashes. I came to see if I could stop that from happening," she says. And there's lots more of that stilted, wooden cadence.
Details go wrong, as well. The author refers to the Society of American Baseball Research as "the only e-mail network worth bothering with"--it's really an association site. Perhaps the author meant "forum"--but the site doesn't appear to have any. In a restaurant scene, Kafka orders an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, which (just a few paragraphs later), he apparently picks up in both hands and nibbles on.
But the climax is the real stinker: the many red herrings are discarded in the frantic race through the last few pages, as key information is breathlessly revealed to demonstrate that the real killer is...straight out of left field.
Disappointment all around.
At the same time, your girl friend has told you to kiss-off, and with no good-bye kiss. Then your major professor (and priest) gets murdered. (You know what's been happening with priests and little boys.) So you get a chance to start over, you take a chance and get a shot at your childhood dream, professional baseball.
Then you learn that the killer is now threatening to kill the star pitcher. Even worse, this dastardly fellow is planning this evil crime right in the final days of a tight pennant race. Can you imagine such a thing?
Well, it's certainly a good thing that your Ph.D. is (about to be) in criminology. Guess what happens now....