The Fun Doesn't Last Long for Schemers in Two Novels; FICTION - BOOKS

Article excerpt

Two years ago, St. Louis novelist Scott Phillips gave us "The Adjustment," a thriller set in postwar Wichita, Kan., and narrated by a hero who's a schemer, a liar, a cheat and a man given to violence.

Phillips gives a vastly different time and place to his new thriller, "Rake," which unwinds in today's Paris. Still, "Rake" is narrated by a hero who's a cad, a bounder, a liar, a rou and a man given to spates of violence.

The new narrator is an actor who plays a doctor in a TV soap opera that is suddenly a smash in Europe. The actor spends his time in Paris promoting the program, trying to round up money for a movie he wants to make and enjoying his celebrity status.

As he puts it, "It's great, getting treated like something special. Free stuff, brazen women especially women who are normally demure but who get sexually aggressive when they see a celebrity preferred seating everywhere I go: Yeah, this is pretty much the life you imagine it is. And it's great." Great, that is, until he runs afoul of a lover's husband, and the violence begins.

Readers who are squeamish about sex and violence especially sex and violence carried out with a casual air may want to leave "Rake" on the bookstore shelf. But readers curious about how a writer can let a thoroughly nasty human being carry a story could do a lot worse than "Rake."

A bonus: Phillips lived for a long spell in Paris. His local color of The City of Light is ever so much brighter than was his local color of Wichita.

'Rake'

A novel by Scott Phillips

Published by Counterpoint, 256 pages, $25

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More local color comes from Ned Randle, who lives in Smithton, near Belleville, and works at a law office in St. Louis County. He got his law degree from St. Louis University. Fortunately, he also studied writing at Washington University, Webster University and Southwestern Illinois College. Randle seems to have paid attention in those writing classes, because his first novel, "Baxter's Friends," shows real promise.

Randle sets his terse tale in the St. …