Wet Work is a novel about cocaine.

Christopher Buckley is best known as the author of bestselling political satire such as Thank You for Smoking and They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? But he has written a great deal else. He coauthored God Is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7½ Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth (1998), which is satire but nonpolitical. He also wrote two travelogues, a play, and four other books. One was a memoir of his famous father and mother, Losing Mum and Pup (2009). Another was a curious novel about cocaine entitled Wet Work that appeared in 1991.

In Wet Work, Buckley displays considerable knowledge of fine art and artists. He writes in great detail about weapons and other military matters, the business of cocaine production, and the nature of bureaucratic maneuvering at the highest level in the United States government. Presumably, the latter is the only subject with which he became familiar at first-hand (when he served as chief speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush in the 1980s). There is no record of his ever having become involved either in the military or in producing and selling cocaine.

Wet Work by Christopher Buckley (1991) 271 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)

A satirical novel about cocaine that morphs into a grim and unsettling story

In some ways, Wet Work is satirical. The dialogue among White House, Pentagon, Homeland Security, and Justice Department officials is hilarious. And Buckley shows off his special talent for naming characters in ways that are bound to produce laughter. Three thugs are named MacNamara, Bundy, and Rostow. (Alert for those too young to recognize these names: all three were high-level officials in John F. Kennedy’s Administration.) Hired killers Bundy and Rostow spend much of their time discussing what they read in the magazines they seem always to carry with them: Architectural Digest and House and Garden. But Wet Work is, nonetheless, a grim and unsettling story.

Three thugs named MacNamara, Bundy, and Rostow

Charley Buckley is a billionaire weapons dealer who is known in the United States as the respectable CEO of a major Pentagon contractor. He is a widower, and his son has died driving while drunk. When the granddaughter he is raising also dies, Charley goes unhinged. He’s convinced that Natasha did not voluntarily take the cocaine that killed her. Now, his life is dedicated to finding and murdering everyone and anyone who played a part in her death. Enter MacNamara, Bundy, and Rostow. Together with Charley’s bodyguard and friend, Felix, they set out to avenge Natasha. The story shifts from suburban Virginia, to New York, to Washington DC, and to the Peruvian Amazon. It’s a cockamamie tale, of course. But it hardly offers wall-to-wall laughter like so many of the author’s other novels.

For further reading

You might also care to take a look at My 17 favorite funny novels and Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.

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