Tony's Reviews > That Old Ace in the Hole : A Novel

That Old Ace in the Hole  by Annie Proulx
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Sep 30, 2009

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Read in September, 2009

Proulx, Annie. THAT OLD ACE IN THE HOLE. (2002). ***. A young man, Bob Dollar, is just out from college, but still doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life – other than the fact that he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps and work as a watchmaker. After taking a series of dull jobs, Bob decides that he wants a job with opportunities; one that will give him a chance to grab the brass ring, even if it starts him out at some lowly position. With risk-taking now as an option, he takes a job with Global Pork Rind, a company that raises hogs and processes them. They are looking for new sites to expand their operations to in the panhandle regions of Texas and Oklahoma. They need to find out which tracts of land are available and purchase them sub rosa, because who wants a pig farm near them. Bob’s job is to scout out the territory and find out what land might be available for purchase, at which point the company would send in a buyer. All of this has to be confidential. Bob’s cover is that he is a scout for a company that wants to build luxury homes in the region. He ends up renting an old ranch hand cabin, with no running water and no electricity, from LaVon Fronk, a local woman, whose hobby is local history. Through her he learns of the history of the small towns in the area and of the people who settled them and their current occupants. This thin plot device is Proulx’s opportunity to string together a series of character sketches about all of the denizens of the region as told by LaVon and verified by Bob. Although interesting, bawdy, original and intimate, these tales don’t really make a novel. We’ve seen this technique before – think of Chaucer and Bocaccio – but this book doesn’t measure up. The author really doesn’t concentrate on any one character long enough to make him/her believable and compelling.
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