Robbins on religion Well, more or less. His new novel is the flat, plodding story of a '60s cult-leader who becomes an '80s...

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Robbins on religion Well, more or less. His new novel is the flat, plodding story of a '60s cult-leader who becomes an '80s TV-gospel star--but though the theme seems to be anti-Moral Majority, the central character is too wobbly to stand for anything in particular. This faceless, endlessly pot-smoking hero is C. Andrew Talbot, a.k.a. ""Preacher""--first seen as a c.o. medic in Vietnam, then as a semi-sincere California cult leader who deals drugs and has sex with his followers. But when a rival cult gets tough Preacher loses steam; and when the Manson murders make Jesus-freaks unpopular, Preacher switches to the gospel circuit--along with sidekicks Barbara Soong (a former Chinese-tong leader whom Preacher has rescued) and Joe Washington (a black buddy from Nam). Enter, then: super-rich Jake Randle, who catches Preacher's gospel act and chooses him to be the preacher-man for a consortium of rightwing types. Preacher, who waxes spiritual from time to time (his mom was religious), is reluctant at first. But: ""Was it not written that whatsoever he doeth shall prosper?"" So it's onward and upward with the cartoonily scurrilous Randle organization: a super-duper Texas church, a TV hookup, money rolling in, show-biz stars fawning. Moreover, Preacher weds Randle's daughter after getting her pregnant. Eventually, however, Preacher rebels against the rightwing commercialization of religion: he wants to get closer to ""the people""; he comes up with a small-church franchise idea; most outrageously, he insists on sharing the pulpit with black Joe. . . and on returning some of the bucks to the plain folks out there. Inevitably, then, Randle sets out to sabotage Preacher (especially since the marriage is now kaput) with photos of Preacher in bed with villainous entertainer Kim Hicks. . . but not before a final sermon in which Preacher gives it to TV religion: ""If what this church has done is not religious communism, I do not know the meaning of the word."" Not quite as dull as Memories of Another Day, not nearly as dirty or muddled as Goodbye, Janette, inferior in every way to the many other recent big-money-religion novels: Robbins of the blander sort--but guaranteed to sell no matter what.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1982

ISBN: 1452045534

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1982