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This novel is primarily concerned with the effects of the civil rights movement in the South. It begins in 1932 when the Depression causes Powell Bradham, then governor of Muskogee, to lose power to the white trash upstart, Hoke Moody. For the duration of the novel, which leads up to 1963, Bradham will inwardly seethe and play Moody's game until his son Cary can assume the governorship thus restoring Muskogee to its rightful rulers. As a youth, Cary Bradham had two friends who were beneath his social level though they shared the common experience of the war - Burke Jessup and Houston Whitley. Jessup is an alienated Southerner who nevertheless returns to his home with his Northern wife to run a small newspaper. Whitley, a Negro, educates himself in the North and returns to Muskogee schoolteacher. He is cynical about his prospects but remains content to accept the fate of his race until the Jim Crow laws are unjustly enforced against an aged Negro woman. Whitley then becomes the leader of a bus boycott in his city and expands his protest until he is a national figure in the direct action movement called FREE. In Muskogee, Jessup supports him and is killed. Cary Bradham whose main concern is his political future opposes Whitley though he still feels entitled to his friendship. (Bradford loses no time, however, in cementing his friendship with Jessup's wife by making her his mistress.) In order to block Whitley's most massive campaign against the registration system, Powell Bradham imports an army of mercenary hoodlums and in the confrontation Whitley loses his life. Cary Bradham, appalled by his father's tactics and disillusioned by his motivations, lecides to sacrifice his mistress and run for governor to restore some kind of moderation to his state. By this time, however, it's difficult to accept Bradham's estimation of himself as a moral force. The book presents other obstacles too: one is the author's contention that the bus boycott began as a kind of accident and the other is his acceptance, as part of the book's factual fabric, of the myth of the excellence of Southern ""aristocracy."" It should now be clear that the basis for this enduring old hokum is very intangible indeed. However the novel's topicality is evident, and its selection by the iterary Guild will help to reenforce its marketable assets.

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1964
Publisher: Simon & Schuster