It is obvious that Robert Bidinotto—author of the three Hunter novels—was influenced by the late Ayn Rand, whose fiction (Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We the Living, Anthem) was influenced by Aristotle.
In the July 1968 issue of The Objectivist Rand wrote “[t]he most important principle of the esthetics of literature was formulated by Aristotle, who said that fiction is of greater philosophical importance than history, because ‘history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be’.” Rand added that “[a] novel is a long, fictional story about human beings and the events of their lives. The four essential attributes of a novel are: Theme—Plot—Characterization—Style.” (The latter won’t be discussed here because as Rand has written, “[t]he subject of style is so complex that it cannot be covered in a single [review].”)
It is against these attributes that the worth of fiction generally, and Bidinotto’s current Winner Takes All in particular, must be judged (without, in a review, deliberate or accidental spoilers).
Rand holds that “[a] theme is the summation of a novel’s abstract meaning” as for example “[t]he theme of Gone with the Wind is: ‘The impact of the Civil War on Southern society’.”
In today’s popular fiction “thriller” genre—politics, terrorism, journalism, crime, war, revolution, pestilence—even though interesting characters and exciting events abound, usually a clear, significant theme is either difficult to discern or entirely lacking. The novels of Robert Crais, Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum,Tom Clancy, et al., while entertaining and set in today’s dangerously tumultuous times, do not rest on a pervasive objectively important theme from which their plots and characterizations arise.
No so with Winner Takes All, whose theme is anchored in a profoundly important psychological and moral question that drives the book’s plot.
Rand on plot: “[T]he crucial attribute of a novel, the attribute which makes it a specific entity, a novel (as distinguished from a work of non-fiction): the plot. Since a novel is a story about people’s lives, it has to be presented in terms of action, i.e., in terms of events. A story in which nothing happens is not a story.”
Not so with Winner Takes All. So much happens in this page-turning novel—all growing from the book’s theme—that the requirement of action and events is met over and over again: multiple murders, fierce fights, unsolved crimes, double crossings, love affairs, financial machinations, political intrigues, intelligence agencies, confused identities, foreign affairs, and more.
Rand again: “Since the nature of an action is determined by the nature of the entities that act, the action of a novel has to proceed from and be consistent with the nature of its characters.”
In Winner Takes All, the author has populated his story with a diverse group of them, good guys and bad guys, straight-shooters and devious manipulators, strong patriots and weak bureaucrats, loyal friends and disloyal opportunists.
At the book’s center is vigilante Dylan Hunter, an enigma to some, adversary to others. But to those who count in his life, a hero.
Ayn Rand—a fan of Mike Hammer, and his creator Mickey Spillane—would have liked Winner Takes All.