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Book Review: The Putt at the End of the World

Dear Readers:

If you like golf and sex or putting and sex or Dave Barry and eight other prominant authors writing about golf, sex, putting, sex, golf gurus, sex, international espionage, sex, eco-terrorism, sex, computer magnates who want to rule the world, sex, virtual golf, sex, exploding golf balls, and sex, then you will certainly enjoy The Putt at the End of the World. Did Dr. Putt mention that if his readers are offended by sex, they should avoid this book like the yips? The volume is certainly not for the younger golfer or for the politically correct.

The nine-chapter book of 239 pages was written by nine authors in the following order: Les Standiford, Ridley Pearson, Tami Hoag, Lee K. Abbott, Tim O'Brian, Richard Bausch, Dave Barry, James W. Hall, and James Crumley. The joint effort was highly noncooperative. It was written in the fashion of one of those stories that is handed off to the next person, who then is faced with the daunting task of adding to whatever has been said up to that point. In a television interview, Barry and Standiford half-jokingly asserted that the objective of each author was to make things as difficult as possible for the following author to pick up and continue the story. Although each did present difficulties for the following author, all did manage to keep the ball in play. In many ways it is like a nine hole round. Most holes turn out very pleasant, with only a few strokes that are better forgotten. Miracles happen occasionally, and then there is the occasional shank or old forgotten hitch in the swing that suddenly re-enters and throws one's game into chaos. And just when one feels that the game is relatively simple, some new and unexpected misfortune strikes on the next hole and leaves one feeling that there never was so frustrating a game. Yet recovery is at least half the fun. So it is with this book.

Let us keep score on this literary round. Dr. Putt's scorecard shows a birdie on the first hole, when Standiford introduces a cast of wild and outrageous characters around which later authors can weave their tales. Alfonzo Zamora is an aging touring pro with failing eyesight, who once took bets on playing with a taped up soda bottle--hmmm. Rita Shaughnessy is one of the longest hitters on the women's tour, and also hits up on every male she finds attractive, as well as drugs and booze. The hero of the tale (if there is a hero) is Billy Sprague, whose pure swing was created by a legendary mentor who, just before passing away, gave Sprague one last bit of advice on what he must do to overcome his fatal flaw of collapsing when any bets are on the line.

The round continues with a strong second hole--another birdie--in the chapter authored by Ridley Pearson. All of these characters along with the world's most famous and powerful people are invited to play an opening round of golf in Scotland at a course created by computer magnate Phillip Bates--which rhymes with _____ _____. We learn that this outing may be the target of eco-terrorist Francois Le Tour, who is angered with the the environmental impact of Bates' creation. Counter-terrorism Agent Ned Gorman is joined by two British agents to create a team that is only slightly more competent than Keystone Cops. The plot thickens with two passion triangles, one involving Agents Gorman and Franklin vying for the affections of Agent Edna Zuckerman and the other involving Sprague, Zamora, and the voluptuous Rita Shaughnessy.

Tami Hoag continues the hot streak in the third chapter with another birdie. The oversexed and undercompetent agents bungle efforts to intercept Le Tour, the relationship between Billy and Rita continues to deepen, all with rather hilarious effect.

In the fourth chapter, Lee Abbott takes aim at golf psychologists and swing doctors, and scores par, at best. We meet Fernando "El Puma" Gaspara, who is willing to go to any length to "regain his former greatness." In his desperation he seeks guidance from El Doctor, who happens to employ Billy Sprague's former wife as his assistant, and Putt Fenno, who runs a golf school and sells a wide variety of teaching aids and golf related items, including a shirt that keeps score. At this point we have such a wide range of characters that the next author/player may be facing the number one handicap chapter/hole.

On this difficult fifth, author Tim O'Brian keeps his composure and nearly makes an eagle, but settles for a birdie. Rita bets her body in a golf match with Alfonzo, and Billy finds that he must make a putt to save the day. The chapter has an explosive ending, that Dr. Putt will leave to the reader's imagination.

Richard Bausch has the major characters meet in various states of undress as Rita wanders around in the buff perched precariously on the fourth floor ledge of the hotel in the rain. Billy professes true love for Rita and the conflict among the now not-so-secret agents increases. Bausch earns a par for increasing the confusion level.

Dave Barry is left with the task of dealing with the mess. He adds a jealous female element to the eco-terrorists as Le Tour lustingly observes Rita on the ledge. He turns the plot from simple eco-terrorism into a much more complicated plot to take over the world--which Dr. Putt does not want to spoil by attempting to explain. Le Tour assumes a new identity and Barry kills off a character to create problems for the next player/author. Barry earns a birdie for creative shot making.

On the eighth, James Hall adds Philip Bates to the now overly complex plot--the reader may remember that Bates is the computer magnate who has arranged this golf outing. When faced with complexity, Hall delivers more twists, beginning with a pun in the form of address that Agent Zuckerman--who we now learn is a double agent--uses to address Bates as he admiringly watches--in the buff (what else would one expect)--a digital version of himself play golf. Meanwhile Billy finds golfing perfection playing in the pitch dark and in the buff--of course. A few peripheral characters are eliminated, and Rita's relationship is tested by the sexual advances of Le Tour, who as you may remember is now posing as someone else. The chapter ends with the characters noting that the last hole is most certainly the number one handicap hole for the nine, given all the loose ends that must be somehow tied up. Another birdie.

James Crumley had the unenviable task of completing the round. He raises one character from the dead in order to eliminate a troublesome character. This merits a penalty stroke, thereby making the rest of the hole that much more difficult. Then begins one of the most strange rounds of golf Dr. Putt has ever encountered, as Bates, Rita, Billy, and Zamora tee it up. Dr. Putt would not reveal anymore that might spoil the fun for the reader, except to say that the final chapter/hole should be scored as an eagle, a net birdie with the penalty.

The book ends with a "ninteenth hole" chapter written by "anonymous." Fittingly, we see the spirits of the dead battle it out to create a good omen for the happy surviving characters. By the scorecard of Dr. Putt, the overall score for the nine chapter round is a rather strong six under par. The book is a good read that, like any nine hole round of golf, can be accomplished in an evening and should be undertaken only for purposes of amusement.

Dr. Putt

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