A whimsical first novel celebrates its reprobate hero's eccentricities as he drifts from job to job, ducks parental responsibilities, and even steals from the dead. Judy Gass decided she adored her uncle on the day he dug up her father's lawn in order to present her with a supposedly bona fide dinosaur bone—and she continued to love him for the same mix of charm and destructiveness until the day he died. Using this postmortem ``apology'' to recount and account for his many misdeeds, the adult Judy recalls how carefree Uncle Rod always seemed compared to her own plodding, hard-working dad. A shy, lonely child, Roderick Gass was profoundly affected by his near- death experience as a soldier during WW II—an experience that convinced him life was too short to spend time punching the clock at a dead-end job. Instead, as his relatives shake their heads over his lost potential (he could have been a great sports announcer!), Rod returns to Seymour, Illinois, to drift cheerfully from one temporary career to another—reinventing himself as a bantamweight boxer, a Fuller Brush salesman, a purveyor of color TV converters, and finally a part-time janitor at the Van Allen School of Mortuary Science—carrying on a series of love affairs, gambling schemes, and shadier business deals on the side. As Rod and his brother age, it appears for a while that Rod may come out the winner, retaining his youthful zest long after Judy's dad resigns himself to a life of boredom—but Rod's house of cards finally collapses when he's caught red-handed stealing a necklace off a corpse at the mortuary. Revealed as a thief, an absentee dad (from a failed alliance in Florida), and an unapologetic fraud, Uncle Rod dies in prison, with only his niece Judy to sing his praises. Charming but slight, like its hero. Still, Holdefer's blithe humor hints at more substantial entertainment to come.
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