A BIG MAN, A FAST MAN by Benjamin Appel
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Benjamin Appel has written novels of political and sociological implications, dealing especially with those areas of the national scene which got their impetus from the New Deal. A Big Man, A Fast Man is the story of the rise of a labor leader and it is interesting both for the light it sheds on a much-maligned aspect of American life and for the technical device used in telling the story. Billy Lloyd, newly elected president of one of the country's largest unions, was implicated in the murder of Jim Tooker, the union's idealistic vice- president, and the suicide of the former president, Art Kincell. Though he was legally cleared he has hired public relations experts to create a more acceptable public image for him and the story is told in the first person through a series of interviews with the anonymous p.r. man. It's a record of a rise from poverty (his father was a miner) through channels suitable to his background. Billy was idealistic but he was also personally ambitious: he wanted to be the working- man's hero. But at various turns in his career and in his personal life he sold out though the choice was never clear-cut, and turned out to have more implications than at the time were apparent. He makes alliances with the enemy -- for the best reasons; and he rejects the girl who truly loved him mainly because her extreme political beliefs would damage his career. And even when he married Edy Kincell he could scarcely bear to acknowledge that, after all, she was the boss's daughter. In the end Billy has revealed more about himself than he intended and to a certain extent the pattern of his life becomes clear to him. But he can't quite face his own compromises and he insists ""...But don't you forget this. Billy Lloyd's one man who never forgot the rank and file"". It's a short novel but Appel has managed to convey convincingly a way of life fraught with perils (because, in this case, it's so tied up with good intentions) and he creates an authentic character who proves, finally, to be all too human.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1960
Publisher: Morrow