Corrupt spies take center stage in Twilight at Mac's Place by Ross Thomas.

Ross Thomas was forty-one years old in 1967, when his first novel was published. He had already lived an eventful life. Thomas served in the infantry in the Philippines in World War II and later worked as a reporter and a public relations specialist, and, most famously, as a political campaign strategist in the labor union movement, in races for Governor and the US Senate, and in Nigeria. His novels reflect the breadth of his varied work experiences, taking readers into the realms of crime, politics, and espionage. Many of the most vividly drawn characters in his books reflect the ambivalent attitudes of the Cold War era. Most of them are corrupt. Even the good guys rarely hesitate to use questionable means to achieve their ends.

Twilight at Mac’s Place, published five years before Thomas’ death, brings together many of the themes that emerge in his earlier novels. It’s a murder mystery involving detectives, corrupt spies, and bent politicians. The book’s characters include a former L.A. homicide investigator turned actor and his estranged father, a corrupt former spy named Steadfast Haynes. Mac McCorkle and Michael Padillo, co-owners of the Mac’s Place saloon, enter for repeat performances after appearing in three previous Thomas novels. (Padillo had been an assassin for the CIA for many years.) Two aging senior CIA officers, a former reporter for Agence France-Presse, an ex-French Legionnaire turned thief, a high-priced criminal attorney, an heiress who once worked for the CIA in Laos, and a DC homicide detective round out the cast. Every one of these characters leaps from the page fully fleshed.


Twilight at Mac’s Place by Ross Thomas (1990) 324 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)


Twilight at Mac’s Place isn’t the very best of Thomas’ novels, but it’s head and shoulders over most of what other thriller writers produce. (The Cold War Swap, The Fools in Town Are on Our Side, and Missionary Stew take those honors, in my opinion.) He was simply one hell of a storyteller.

Before he passed away in 1995 at the age of sixty-nine, Ross Thomas wrote twenty mysteries and thrillers under his own name, sixteen of which are available for the Kindle. (I no longer read books on paper.) I’ve now read and reviewed all sixteen novels; you can access my reviews by typing “Ross Thomas” in the Search box in the upper-lefthand corner of the home page. He also wrote five novels about professional go-between Philip St. Ives under the name Oliver Bleeck. They’re in my to-read queue.

For further reading

I’ve listed and linked my reviews of all the Ross Thomas novels I’ve read here: Reviewing Ross Thomas – thrillers that stand the test of time.

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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).

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