by Al Dewlen ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 1981
The freshman year of an idealistic young member of the Texas House of Representatives--in a leisurely, folksy, grittily detailed comedy-drama that does a mite of preaching and lobbying along the way. The pure-hearted legislator here is Vietnam vet Dave Youngman: he's from Pity Creek in the cold, neglected upper Panhandle; he drives a beat-up pickup truck (refusing gifts from his banker/lawyer father-in-law). And Dave's first session down in ""tamponized"" Austin (hotbed of female politicos) is sure to be a pork-barrel-crazy one--because the State has just realized that it has a $3(apple) billion surplus to dispose of. What's more, Dave's on the Appropriations Committee, and his office-mate turns out to be hard-drinking, cynical old widower Emmitt Curry--who has recently become a mortal enemy of the Speaker of the House, smilysmooth Peck Oxnard (a gubernatorial aspirant). So Dave is soon courted from all sides: Peck makes him chairman of the Freshman Caucus; Emmitt helps him to get free of Peck's control, scuttling a corrupt parks bill; assorted bribes are offered; attractive lobbyist ""Smitty"" (whose favorite word is ""grunchy"") helps him to draft bills. But Dave insists on doing right--trying to save the surplus from being porkbarreled away, proposing a big tax cut, introducing bills on House-rules reform--and his noble, naive efforts naturally go awry . . . as he finds himself committed to support the ""systemized looting"" of the black/Chicano caucus. Furthermore, he feels guilty about adultery with Smitty, unstable wife Leah (also unfaithful, with the Speaker's son) takes bribes behind his back; and Dave conspires in a coverup when chum Emmitt dies in a massage parlor. So, finally, smeared but untainted, Dave makes a Big Speech in the House, confessing his sins (""I, after a mere five months among you, am up to my ears in rot"") and calling for Constitutional amendments to change the corruption-breeding House rules. Dewlen (Twilight of Honor, Next of Kin) doesn't quite manage to keep Dave from being an often-wearying, too-good-to-be-true prig. And some readers may be put off by the socio-political drift here (anti-welfare, anti-ERA, even anti-Willie Nelson) . . . while non-Texans won't really know how to evaluate Dave's reform ideas. But the earthy, day-to-day detailing of legislature life is juicy; the supporting cast is dandy, from the redneck Governor to Emmitt's savvy, fat soulmate Mama Lisa; and readers with a taste for political anglings may find this a genial, state-level counterpart to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981
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