The Silver Bear

By DEREK HAAS

How does a young writer get his first thriller published with a bang these days? First, you coauthor a sharp remake of a classic western movie, 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 version starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Next, you come up with a concept so high that it might give publishers and readers a nosebleed: An ace hit man hired (no spoiler here: it’s in the book jacket copy) to kill his own father. Then you do such a good job of bringing this high concept to life that early readers compare it favorably to Graham Greene, Lawrence Block, Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. The Silver Bear – which is what the Russians call a world-class hit man — is almost as good as they say it is. Sure, there are five or ten too many flashbacks to old cases or to childhood mistreatment and retribution, but some of them (like the time the killer, known as Columbus, murders a federal judge with Saran Wrap) have great power. And a lot of Columbus’s inner dialogue, though beautifully crafted, is also frequently pretentious. “I spin with a whirl part tornado and part grace, and before an inhale can become an exhale, I have a pistol up and raised in my hand…” Haas, who seems to have a Columbus series in mind, has another job to finish first — the screenplay of The Materese Circle, by another suspense explorer and pioneer named Robert Ludlum.