First published in 1978, Making Arrangements is my fourth novel. It was written out of twenty-five years of going to the races, and hanging out with punters, all of whom were addicted to thoroughbreds and the dreams they attached to them. It was also written as something comic to do during a particularly dark time in my life, and I found that living with its composition seven days a week for six months was a considerable help. The effort was worth it; the book became its own kind of success, as a hyperbolic testament to the tattered glories of racing at a small track and to that nearly insane drive to make a profitable dream come true which is, I would guess, found in the majority of us.
There are two basic horse racing stories: an untried but much loved thoroughbred horse eventually runs in the Derby (National Velvet); and then there are the one or two or more broke and winless punters who know of a horse that can, (and no doubt will, according to them) beat the horse everyone else thinks will win.
Making Arrangements is about Harry and Basil and their search for funds to lay a wager on Constantinople (by Constant Stan out of Noble Opal) to beat Transcanada, a fine gelding owned by the proprietor of Granville Downs. The quest for the grail is narrated by the legless Emil Lime and played out with the help of hookers Lennie and Brucie and the horse-worshippers who live at the St. Augustine Hotel. It´s about hocking Basil´s wife´s hi-fi system, the mysterious kidnapping of an industrialist, a paradise drug with no side effects or hangovers, the sex championship of the world, more money than Harry and Basil might ever have hoped for and, finally, the race, its result and its sad but heartwarming aftermath.
It´s a story full of hope, wonder, laughter, and tears. It´s about the sustaining verities of a religion at whose base is a dogma accessible to all, and presiding over it is an all-knowing but elusive god who tantalizingly offers, but doesn´t reveal, the answer to eternal financial bliss.
Columnist Denny Boyd in the Vancouver Sun wrote that "Robert Harlow understands horse players, their indestructible dreams, their Byzantine schemes...Harlow´s prose rings with the authentic click of mutuel machines and the clatter of hooves passing the quarter pole."
The "Making Arrangements" cover
photo courtesy of Slava Shabrov.
© Robert Harlow 2001 - 2012