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Miami, One Way/Razor Sharp

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Miami, One Way
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1986(?)
(hardback price: 8.95; 220 pages)

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Razor Sharp
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1987
(hardback price: ?; 248 pages)

The blurb on the backs:

Miami, One Way:
When Tony Florentino agrees to go to Miami to do a favour for his father's partner, Herb, he's thinking about a weekend of the good life. Herb's neice Bella has disappeared and Tony has to find her and reassure her worried mother. No problem.
However, a couple of days in Miami and Tony is not so optimistic. In the city's seedier joints and the exclusive up-market clubs, Tony and his suave and generous playboy friend, Peter, learn that the sweet-natured Bella has made some surprisingly ruthless enemies. Who is Chico? Where is Ivan, the owner of the club where Tony's enquiries arouse strong reactions? What is the connexion between lovely singer Julie, the powerful underworld figure Dante and the tough-talking José?
In a charmingly buoyant and self-confident style, Tony blunders on, determined to solve the mystery, but blissfully unaware of quite what powers lie behind it all. Not for one moment does he imagine that he may not be able to cope ... and when his life is threatened it is too late to discover that even friends cannot be trusted.

Razor Sharp:
Show business, superstars, five weeks in London all expenses paid. The dollar signs glow neon-bright in Tony Florentino's imagination. Things are looking up for the young New York talent agent. This is Tony's chance for the big time - and if his act, Danny Le Claire, is unreliable and snorts a little coke, the kid's just got to pull himself together.
Television series, record deals - Tony can handle it all, but he can't fast-track himself out of a dangerous tangle of events that mysteriously threatens him and his friends, like a night-time intruder and a brutal and ritualistic murder. Everyone in the show is kind of weird. One of them couldn't be a psychopathic killer ... could he?
The police have little evidence, but Tony is determined to know. One thing he should have watched out for: knives can be razor sharp.

opening lines:

Miami, One Way:
Buenaventura, a busy port on the Pacific coast of Colombia.

Razor Sharp:
'I see that the father of that girl got off,' Greta said, looking at me over the newspaper.

When the Morecambe-and-Wise-lite team of Mike & Bernie Winters split up in 1978, Bernie stayed around on British TV, launching a new double-act with a dog named Schnorbitz. You probably remember them. Mike Winters, on the other hand, left the country and turned up in Miami as a businessman. A decade later he followed Eric Morecambe into the novel-writing game with this pair of books.

The two novels feature the same protagonist - and associated minor characters - and presumably were intended as a launch for a series of such volumes, though as far as I'm aware, there were no more to come. I'd certainly be surprised if there were any, because, although there's nothing actively embarrassing about the books, the man's simply not a writer.

Mind you, I didn't read either of them all the way through (did my best, but couldn't manage it), and I'm no authority on the thriller genre. But even if I'd been promised some truly gripping plot-construction in the latter parts of the books, I still doubt that I'd want to finish. The first problem is that it's written in the first-person and our narrator-hero is an American; for an Englishman to get that voice right is a difficult trick to pull off, a challenge not dissimilar to doing a gender switch. Certainly it's a step further that Mr Winters is able to take.

And then there's the fact that the prose is so flat and uninspired that it's simply not worth the effort. You try it:

She looked like an angel. No, that's kind of sloppy. I'll have to describe her. This tall, five-foot six or seven, young lady in her early twenties came into the bar and stood looking around. She was wearing tight blue jeans, and I mean tight, but she had the figure to get away with it. Her waisted beige blouse matched her cowboy boots. My eyes eventually left her shape and took in her bronzed face which was framed by long-fair hair streaked by the sun with gold - it may have been from a bottle, but I'm a romantic. A straight nose, attractively a little long, a full red mouth and wide, sparkling blue eyes. (Miami, One Way, p.25)

You see what I mean? Dreary, clichéd, and offering no temptation to read any further. The odd metaphor or two might have provided some leavening, but you're not going to get one here. The best idea in either book is having the hero visit London and offering his thoughts on how it differs from America - given that he's an American character being written by an Englishman, it could be quite an intriguing concept. Surely you don't need me to tell you that it doesn't come off?

Mike Winters


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