Glass Mountain: A Novel

Glass Mountain: A Novel

by R. M. Koster


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A novel in the vein of Conrad and Le Carré: a man risks his life to save his soul.

When Carlos Fuertes looks in the mirror, he sees a dead man. Son of an assassinated Latin American president, Carlos found his calling in Vietnam going on lone raids north of the DMZ. Now he works out of Tijuana, Mexico, stealing children for the losing parties in divorce custody contests, his nerve and self-respect broken, a victim of terrifying hallucinations.

A phone call from the past offers a reprieve: an "op" is being mounted to kidnap a fugitive American financier from Central America. An authentic trial, Carlos decides, with authentic risk, is the only way back from death in life.

Through the grueling preparation stage and meticulous setup, Carlos begins to rediscover himself, even as he puts on the roles the operation requires. Only near its end, however, does he see his chance to repair his life fully.

Glass Mountain renders the details and tension of a covert military operation with riveting immediacy, then turns the excitement higher through a rescue and escape Carlos improvises on the fly. With mastery of form and language, R. M. Koster crafts an exhilarating novel on the classic American theme of redemption through violence—a fitting sequel to his acclaimed Tinieblas Trilogy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393341584
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/17/2001
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

R. M. Koster is the author of The Tinieblas Trilogy, comprising The Prince, The Dissertation, and Mandragon. He lives in Panama.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


    What he does is steal children."

    "Translation, please, Vincent."

    "Jack and Jill split up, she gets the kids. Or him, it doesn't matter,somebody loses. So maybe they're a sore loser. They get hold of Carlos,Carlos gets them their kids."

    "Kidnaps them."

    "Well, that depends a lot on your point of view. It was your kids, youmight call it repossession. Especially if you got yourself a judgment. Inanother state, you know, that award you custody."

    "I see a connection. It's a bit like what he did on his first tour."

    "You mean, bringing out pilots."

    "Yes. Don't you think so? Recovery. But a bit, let's say, tarnished. Is heproud of himself, do you think, doing what he does now?"

    "How the hell do I know?"

    "You served with him nearly a year on a long-range patrol team. Four orfive men together for weeks at a time, under stressful conditions. I assume youget to know each other quite well. You should be able to estimate his feelings."

    "Mr. Knox, about me, I don't mess inside people. This shrink at Bragg ... Theywere drafting civilian doctors, slapping things on their collars. Thisone had a leaf. Asked me all kinds of shit, my dreams and so forth, did Iever dream of making it with a guy. I said no, but there were probably guysinthe stockade who'd let him blow them for a couple of dollars. That's whatI think of messing inside people. What I know about Carlos is, first, he'sfrom somewhere down there, but you can't tell by how he looks or how hetalks English. Two, he knows the jungle like I used to know Newark. Guywith us, he gets himself a bad toothache about ninety klicks the wrong sideof the DMZ. We were in Newark, I'd find him a dentist. Carlos finds hima plant works better than novocaine, and the bum tooth just falls out in acouple days. Three, he doesn't gab a hell of a lot. Like, he won't come upand put your hand on his tit and tell you how he doesn't like himself.You want a profile on him, get someone else. My job was to find him."

    "How did you do it? We didn't even know he was in this hemisphere,Or even alive."

    "I got lucky. We had this guy on the team got hurt pretty bad. Not onpatrol or anything. Some dipshit ran him over with an APC. Black guynamed Sobers. Cut him in two. I mean, the tread got him right in the jointand mashed him like a bug from there to the knees. But not anything vital,so the doctors, they managed to save him. Half anyway. It was me, I'd ratherbe dead. He's in a VA hospital in Charleston. I looked him up and wentto see him, asked if he knew how to reach Carlos. He said no, then a coupledays later he called me. His mother had found a number for him."

    "In San Diego."

    "An answering service, ask for Carl Marengo. All I had to do then wascall some guys I know. Once I had a name."


    "That's the name he uses with the lawyers. He's got a Wyoming PI ticketunder it. I wouldn't be surprised he had other names. Or if his actual baseis over the border. I had more time, I'd have more information."

    "You have all we need. You did well, Vincent."

    "I got lucky."

    "It's beyond luck. That you found him at all is amazing. More, that youfound him as soon as you did. And even more so that he does what he'sdoing. Ape Thomas is psychic. He had that reputation, but I put no stockin it until I served with him. He jumped with the Brits at Arnhem, did youknow that? Liaison between them and the Eighty-second. The story was heknew before they took off that they'd be jumping on top of two panzer divisions.Mythology, thought I, but he had hunches like that in Southeast Asia.Now it's 'Get me that kid that Bobby Paley sent us, the one that raidedsolo north of the Zone!' says the Ape, or bellows, rather, in his charmingmanner. 'His poppa was president of one of those countries! He's going tobe my pathfinder platoon!'

    "I said, 'Yes sir!' of course. If you decide to take part in this exercise, Vincent—andI think I can persuade him to take you—don't ever, ever questionone of his orders. If he asks you something, by all means answer frankly.But don't question an order. He's perfectly capable of killing you on the spot,or making you wish he had. I said, 'Yes sir!' and after I assigned you tolook for Carlos, I took steps to locate others with similar skills. I thought itwould more likely take three years than three weeks—that is to say, if Carloswas findable, period. When we PCS'd back to the States, he stayed onover there, doing something or other for the Agency. No one has heard fromhim since the fall of Saigon. His brother pestered DOD for years. The Ape,on the other hand, knew he'd turn up. He's psychic."

    "What if Carlos doesn't want to go?"

    "That's the point I've been making. He's in recovery, getting things back.That's what Ape's mission is, though I don't know myself what or whothey're supposed to recover. Carlos does it for money. The mission pays well.Why shouldn't he go?"

    "It could be a mess, that's why. Ape Thomas, what I hear, is very good,but he's been out to stud for five, six years. And I don't care who's in charge,you take a team down there, it could be messy. You going?"

    "I'm staff, Vincent."

    "Yeah. Well, I'm not going either."

    "I'm sorry to hear that. Judging from your combat record and whatyou've done for us, you'd be a valuable addition."

    "Yeah. But I kind of lost my taste for being shot at. I'm not even sure Istill like shooting people. He could feel the same way."

    "I thought you didn't 'mess' with inner feelings. Are you suggesting thathe's lost his nerve?"

    "All I said is, maybe he won't want to."

    "What he wants doesn't matter. Stealing children does seem a comedownfrom three tours of operating in North Vietnam. If his nerve's gone bad, perhapsApe won't want him. But if Ape wants him ... Never, ever disappointthe Ape. We have fraud at least. Illegal entry into the U.S. I doubtCarlos files tax returns. Kidnapping here and there wouldn't surprise me.If all else fails, Mr. Keegan has friends in Mexico. He'll go. "

    "Mr. Knox, there's another thing I know about Carlos. He's not the kindof guy gets pushed around."

    "Come on, Vincent, I know him too. He was my platoon sergeant. Iwasn't always staff, believe it or not. If beg the man he was, he'll jump atour offer. If his nerve's gone bad, we'll explain, and he'll go crawling."

Excerpted from Glass Mountain by R. M. KOSTER. Copyright © 2001 by Richard M. Koster. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Glass Mountain 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Terrific Beach Read and Great Writing, too. Ah, we always want to pack exciting, fun reading for our summer trips to the beach. What we don¿t expect is that it will be beautifully constructed and written, fine literature if you will. Mr. Koster is incredibly talented and you will be amazed at the mesmerizing tale he has to tell. His other works of fiction, The Prince, The Dissertation (my favorite) and Mandragon, a triology; plus the deliciously strange Carmichael¿s Dog will hopefully be back in print as Glass Mountain brings a new public to his writing. The story of Glass Mountain is the redemption of Carlos Fuertes, the mixed-up, tortured son of an assassinated president of a Latin American country. Amazingly, Koster¿s wild and crazy imagination is coupled with an attention to detail that makes this seemingly fantastic tale of Carlos¿ healing plausible. He certainly has a wealth of information about what he is writing. As all readers of books full of action and adventure are want to do, I looked hard to trip Koster up. I couldn¿t. If you are tired of reading good stories with lousy writing, Glass Mountain is for you. The covert military operation that Carlos becomes involved in is worthy of Quiller¿s operations in the Adam Hall novels. No detail is too small for Koster. The journey of Carlos tells of his early years in Latin America, his most unusual service in that most unusual conflict in Vietnam, and his job stealing back children taken in custody battles. Then Koster ties it all up with a wam, bang operation that Tom Clancy will certainly envy. Oh yes, we get a love story thrown in for good measure. I urge you to read and enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A literary novel differs from one that is not literary. Tom Clancy tells a damn good story, his writing is all plot. A literary novel also tells a story but it goes further. It permits its reader to become its central character. It does this by letting the reader get inside the protagonist's mind, placing himself within. With a small amount of finagling here and there the reader can see the plot as a metaphoric presentation of some dilemma of his own. And lets him seek closure. A literary novel has requirements. Good writing! Character development! But it also may be a great story. That is what Koster does in 'Glass Mountain.' He gives us both. And that seems to be an objection of the reviewer from Publisher's Weekly. Apparently he or she thinks all fiction writing must fit one category or the other, either good writing or good plot. But not both. In other words, Clancy or Koster. (I mention Clancy simply because PW does. I enjoy his stories.) That is hogwash. Richard M. Koster has written a beautiful---even if harsh, rough, tough---novel that is certainly literary, and at the same time a fantastic adventure. Perhaps PW thinks that rude of him, this merging of classifications. But I don't care. I love good stories and I love good writing. Koster gives me both in 'Glass Mountain.' He is a 'writer's writer' and a wonderful story teller. I am in pig heaven. Koster's main character's decision to seek redemption comes to him suddenly. Just like in real life. Just like love. And his frequent changing a 'yes' into a 'no' is just like real life, too. It adds drama and uncertainty to the story, even at its lower levels, as his perceptions change as quickly as they form. Just like in real life. To denigrate Koster's style, as the PW reviewer does, a style by the way that I admire very much in Koster's writing, is simply filling up space for a reviewer with nothing of importance to say. 'Glass Mountain' is very, very good. The plot is good and the writing is good. No, they are both excellent. (You see, that's how the brain works! Jumping around. Changing.) You can have both worlds with Koster. Storytelling and literary writing. Buy and read this novel and have yourself a grand time with it. It is Koster's fifth and will lead you back to his first four. My two favorites are 'Mandragon' and 'Carmichael's Dog.' With 'Glass Mountain' now making its move down the stretch.