Monday, May 23, 2011

11.10 The Main by Trevanian

The Main (1976) by Trevanian

As a younger man I went through a big Trevanian phase. I thought The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction were great and I think I read Shibumi a several times. I didn't realize it at the time but those books were really intended to be satires or parodies of the genres that they were written in. I took them quite seriously though. The Main had a much different tone though. Trevanian seems almost reverential about lost Montreal in this book - the immigrants, the cops and the rough underbelly of St. Laurent.

The novel is all that much more enjoyable because of it's slow pacing and deep character development. It is a shame that he never wrote more books in this setting.

In an interview Trevanian says, "...I had brewing...a cycle of five novels set in Montreal (home of the French/Indian side of my family). These novels were to deal with various segments of that fascinating, multi-cultural world, and each of these novels would be written in a different genre: a love story, a story of revenge, a roman policier, a tale of struggle to success at the cost of humanity, a mystery story. Many of the characters would be recurring — a lead in one novel turning up as a walk-on in another. And each of the novels were to be named for the section of the city in which the principal events occurred."


OlmanFeelyus said...

Awesome. Going back to the classics! I almost picked this book up at Welch's but my on-deck shelf was too full. Glad to hear it was good. I'll have to keep an eye out for it. Is that the cover you read?

What makes you think the other Trevanian books were parody? I always just assumed that was the mode of the manly 70s action bestseller.

Lantzvillager said...

He says so. It's an interesting set of circumstances that I never knew about. You can go to to see what he says about the other books but for The Eiger Sanction:

"In the event, (Trevanian) got the idea of writing a quick little spoof on the then-popular super-spy/action genre. (He did this having seen only two films within this genre and having read only a third of one of Ian Fleming's books — all he could manage before boredom weighted his eyelids.) He tossed the spoof manuscript over the transom of ten or so publishers whose names he had copied out of some sort of manual for would-be writers. He received total silence from about half these publishers, and rejections from the rest, save for two, one of which was Crown Publishers. They wanted to do the book.

The realization that his little caprice might actually fall under the eyes of educated people gave Trevanian pause, and he rewrote the entire thing, having decided that here was an opportunity to blend spoof and acrid wit with socially — and politically — responsible messages. The resultant book was The Eiger Sanction, in which he blended tongue-in-cheek derring-do, a raft of characters with hokum Restoration names (Randy Nickers, Cherry Pitt, Yurasis Dragon, etc.), realistic scenes of Grade Six mountain climbing (a sport that had long interested him) and the necessary task of ridiculing and diminishing the CIA. (This was the late 1960s, remember, and the Bay of Pigs-sort of CIA bungling was the one thing most likely to bring the world to atomic disaster.)

The book became an international bestseller. But to Trevanian's discomfort, even embarrassment, it was only recognized as a spoof by critics in Holland and Norway. Elsewhere, particularly in America, it was swallowed as a straight example of the genre."

OlmanFeelyus said...

Wow. I guess I swallowed it too! Makes me want to check them out again. I'm always a bit skeptical about the author who takes himself too seriously and there is a whiff of that here, but perhaps he is just that good.