by Neal Stephenson
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Sangamon Taylor's a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil - all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. Before long, Taylor's house is bombed, his every move followed, he's adopted by reservation Indians, moves onto the FBI's most wanted list, makes up with his girlfriend, and plays a starring role in the near-assassination of a presidential candidate. Closing the case with the aid of his burnout roomate, his tofu-eating comrades, three major networks, and a range of unconventional weaponry, Sangamon Taylor pulls off the most startling caper in Boston Harbor since the Tea Party. As he navigates this ecological thriller with hardboiled wit and the biggest outboard motor he can get his hands on, Taylor reveals himself as one of the last of the white-hatted good guys in a very toxic world
Pre-science fiction Stephenson
It's fiction, and it's about science, but it's not sci-fi and there are no Waterhouses or Shaftoes in need of guidance from Enoch Root (although Zodiac's Hank Boone is an obvious proto-Root character). Stephenson acknowledges the influence of James Crumley for Zodiac. Crumley breathed new life into the detective novel in the late 70s, with novels like _The Last Good Kiss_ (best quote: "When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Firebal Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.")
This is my favorite quote from Zodiac, one that should ring familiar to Cryptonomicon fans:
"Most of my colleagues go on backpacking trips when they have to do some thinking. I go to a good hardware store and head for the oiliest, dustiest corners. ... If they're really good, they don't hassle me. They let me wander around and think. Young hardware clerks have a lot of hubris. They think they can help you find anything.... Old hardware clerks have learned the hard way that nothing in a hardware store ever gets bought for its nominal purpose. You buy something that was designed to do one thing, and you use it for another."