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Posted January 2, 2010
It was with mixed feelings that I picked up 'No Quarter', the last book completed by Robert Asprin before his untimely death last May, at age 61. I have been a fan of Asprin's work since 1977, when I discovered 'The Cold Cash War'. He quickly became one of the few authors for whom I would search for something new every time I went into a bookstore. So, reading 'No Quarter' would be more than simply reading a new book by a favored author; it would also be my "good-bye" to him. The question, at that point, was would this be his valedictory, like Spencer Tracy in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?', or his ultimate embarrassment, like Peter Sellers in 'The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu'. Let me say right here that this is a book which he can be proud of.
As with most of Asprin's work over the last decade or so, 'No Quarter' was a collaborative writing effort. Eric Del Carlo and Teresa Patterson were his "partners in crime", as it were. I feel that is an appropriate way to describe their partnership because, unlike anything else written by Aspirin (that I know of), 'No Quarter' has no fantasy or science fiction elements in it. Set in New Orleans's famous French Quarter (Asprin's home for many, many years), it is a straight murder mystery (as a friend of mine put it "a hard-boiled mystery served over Easy"). Now, more books than I would care to count are set in New Orleans, both fiction and non-fiction, including "insider" books written, like this one, by residents of the French Quarter. With this specific work, however, I think that Asprin gave us a literary first. As with his creation of 'Thieves' World', the first "shared universe" specifically created for multiple authors to write within, Asprin has, for the first time (to my knowledge) set a book with no science fiction or fantasy elements in a world that he had first created for the setting of a fantasy series.
With his two books in his 'Dragon's series' (his last two books written before 'No Quarter' AND, interestingly enough, his first two books written in a LONG time without any co-authors), Asprin created the French Quarter settings which he then also used as the setting for 'No Quarter'. Minor characters from the background of the 'Dragon's series' also appear in 'No Quarter', including that of Maestro (a character Asprin based on himself) moving from a walk-on role in the Dragon's books to a lead role in 'No Quarter'. While we can't really know what Asprin had planned, if he had any ideas of intertwining the two, I do believe that this is the first time a non-genre (science fiction / fantasy / horror) book has shared a universe with a genre universe.
As for the book itself, I found it to be a very satisfying read. It uses first-person narrative structure, except that the narrative switches back and forth between two of the three main characters in succeeding chapters. The characters are very well developed and the mystery is compelling. The insider's view of The Quarter, of the places that only those who live there know, gives us a setting that is both familiar and unknown. The mystery itself gives you everything you need to know to work out whodunit, while, at the same time, keeping you from recognizing many of the clues so that the ending is surprising enough to reward the reader. I think that 'No Quarter' would be a worthy Edgar Award nominee.
All in all, I am very happy with this book and am looking forward to readin
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Posted May 11, 2011
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Posted January 14, 2014
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