Like a skyrocket with no stars in it, this zany first novel about a wacked-out former Florida football star starts with a whoosh, only to fizzle out embarrassingly. Rex Dupree's story begins as just another comedy about a good old boy whose drinking and fooling around have got him into deep trouble, in this case with his wife, Sarah Lynn, Lolita-esque daughter Claire Ann, and longtime mistress Max. Author Nagel shows an eye for the inspired pomposity of certain southern rituals, such as horse-racing and Florida State football games, and the character of men like Dupree: ``Was he so different from the hundreds of other good-old north Florida men and boys of Autumn, that cadre of brothers you see...in cars and pickups plastered with Gator football stickers...With plenty of beer and barbecue... with the cute wife and kids taking the old man, his rank and boorish ways as what came with the territory, they paid their dues with boring jobs, living on the edge of a horizon over which there would someday come a ship to dump on them the big bucks.'' But just as the reader settles in to watch Dupree save his marriage, buy his daughter the promised Mustang, and comfort his mistress, the tale becomes a series of satiric set-pieces with Dupree's accountant, lawyer, an old doctor friend, the local minister, each one of whom stalls the book's momentum. By the time Dupree arrives at the story's climax, the author has run out of gas. There's a preposterous divorce-court scene with a judge who considers himself the savior of women and so strips Dupree of all his money and rights, but by then it's hard to care. A puzzling waste of a good start, this southern debut-tale collapses in a hurry once the author abandons character for caricature. Any comparison to the work of Harry Crews or Barry Hannah is strictly coincidental.
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