Author: Alan Trustman

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 1, 2017)

Alan Trustman’s long and distinguished writing career began with his screenplays for films like The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, and these are but a few of his 15 movies made for both the large screen and television. At one time, he was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, but now works in other ventures including scribing novels. 

According to publicity for his debut novel, Pursuit of Happiness, his fiction” reads and moves with the same crime thriller speed as his movies.” That’s one way to put it. Another is to describe his style as taut, terse, tight no-nonsense action with little exposition or description. You could say Pursuit of Happiness is in the minimalist tradition of Ernest Hemingway.   Here’s a sample to demonstrate this point:

We sat. There were plenty of fish all about, some bigger than those we had seen before, all of them feeding, not quite a frenzy, but lots of fish, circling, swirling, all right to left, then all left to right, and then vanishing suddenly, fleeing. A shark, a huge one.

A great white. A ten footer. A thousand pounds.

Teeth. All I could see was teeth. Mouth open, swerving, coming toward us. Would he bite the bars?

No! He lost interest. Disappeared! Lucky us!” 

The novel is centered on government contract killer Burt Dixon who tells us his story in the first person. As a result, much of the time we know exactly what he is doing, kick by kick, breath by breath, and what he is thinking. He enters the stage by blowing away seven would-be robbers in a Boston restaurant which ignites a gang war in the city Dixon claims is the U.S. capital for contract killings. In short order, we meet other characters in his specialized circle including Boss Man, Bernstein, and Sinclair. Dixon is assigned the task of learning all about great white sharks in underwater cages off a luxury liner off the coast of Key West. Why? Beyond keeping Dixon out of Boston and out of trouble, the point isn’t immediately clear. At least, not until he is sent on a mission and the Middle East.

I’ve read reviews of Pursuit of Happiness comparing Trustman’s style to that of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. I understand that comparison. Pursuit of Happiness very much reads like an old fashioned spy story with a very tight focus on one main protagonist and not the multi-layer, multi-character epics we’ve become accustomed to in espionage yarns in recent years.    But, unlike Fleming, there’s no larger-than-life bad guy.  The missions, and they’re not of global, international consequences, are unrelated small scale operations. One scene containing all the pyrotechnics    in the book comes and goes in only a few pages. The conclusion is very surprising and is very human, considering the hard-nosed narrator we’ve come to know. 

In short,  The Pursuit of Happiness is a very fast-paced  thrill ride, especially in all the underwater scenes. It should appeal to readers who like down-to-earth, gritty, and very believable  espionage adventures.  I must admit, I’m not sure about the book’s title. There must be something ironic about it that eludes me completely.