I guess the lockdown has really got to me! My most recent choice of books seems to be veering from the intolerable to the indigestible. The most recent example being G.M. Ford’ s “No Man’s Land.” 388 pages of illogical derring-do, irrational heists and infuriating punch lines. Timothy Driver an ex US Navy veteran with advanced degrees in all things aquatic and many things digital is languishing in the high security prison facility of Mesa Azul in Arizona. Conjured by a vicious imagination and fueled by the lure of capitalism, Mesa Azul is the brainchild of Randall Corporation. Unhinged by an existence that necessitates not just solitude but also demands tolerance to lights that are never turned off, Driver – convicted of murdering his wife as well as her paramour, both while having a romp in Driver’s bed – decides he needs some fresh air. Pulling off an incredible heist that involves a multitude of machine gun wielding reprobates and lifers, Driver holds the prison security hostage and threatens to lop off one hostage every six hours until such time a man named Frank Corso is delivered to him.
Making good on his promise, Driver and his lieutenant Cutter Kehoe, a gigantic man with an even more gigantic streak of sadism to boot, go on to facilitate a few good men to meet their maker. There is a scramble to locate the reclusive Corso before Driver succeeds in liberating 163 men from their human bondage. Convincing Corso that eating crabs for lunch, breakfast and dinner and idling away in his own boat is less of a priority than saving lives, law enforcement agencies finally coax Corso away from his personal diversion to the correctional facility at Mesa Azul.
Lest the reader tear his hair away wondering what connects Corso with Driver, Mr. Ford displays his benevolent side by revealing that Corso had written a book chronicling the former escapades of Corso. The author and the protagonist meet, greet, exchange pleasantries, punch lines and prospects before the unpredictable Driver and his crony Cutter whisk Corso away in an oil tanker. Yes, in a giant oil tanker full of diesel. Mode of protection against noxious fumes and flames – hazmat suits. Now that we are living in Dystopian times tormented by a virus, I am used to now accepting the fact that Hazmat suits are off the shelf commodities akin to Heinz Ketchup and Pringles crisps.
Bring into the fray the opportunistic Melanie Harris, the anchor of a bestselling show titled American Manhunt whose only objective is to aid and abet the hunting down of incorrigibles such as Cutter and Driver – the combination of names itself sounds eerily reprehensible – and her producer Marty (I even forgot what this character’s full name is), the reader is left nursing a headache which no amount of Aspirins can alleviate!
What the psychotic Driver and the demented Cutter do with the world in general and Corso in particular and whether their ambitions are put paid to by whoever dares to accost them forms the bulk of the plot. Murders. mayhem and melee are the expected collateral damages.
At the end of the book, I gave myself a pep talk to change my reading habits with utmost urgency, stringency and commitment. Lest I find myself stranded in a metaphorical “No Man’s Land!”