RADIO ACTIVITY by Bill Fitzhugh


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Fitzhugh (Heart Seizure, 2003, etc.) draws on his experience as a 1970s disc jockey for this likable suspenser that’s also a serious celebration of the glory days of rock.

Rick Shannon, a rock deejay, has just been laid off by his Bismarck, North Dakota, station after an ownership change—and, at middle-age, Rick wonders whether he’s got a future in a radio business characterized by standardized playlists and corporate encroachment (familiar complaints, but they bear repeating). Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and he accepts an offer from a small station in McRae, Mississippi, only to find that general manager Clay Stubblefield, a slippery good ol’ boy, has pulled a bait-and-switch: the new gig is program director, but Rick, no pushover, insists on keeping the late evening show he was promised. He’s replacing the legendary “Captain” Jack Carter and living in his trailer in the woods. But how come the Captain disappeared without taking his fabulous record collection (an opening teaser shows him being shot and buried)? Rick decides to play sleuth, helped by a tape the Captain had made of Clay bragging about sexual indiscretions and hinting at felonies. Was Jack, a notorious coke user, blackmailing people named on the tape? Presenting himself as a p.i., Rick tracks down a couple of Clay’s conquests and learns of arson, insurance fraud, and a second missing person. He also has a predictable fling with Traci, the sex kitten receptionist, while working hard at defining the station’s new classic rock format (rock fans will enjoy agreeing or disagreeing with his choices). Rick’s sleuthing gets a big push from Clay’s alienated wife Lori, who tells all she knows, and from a timely tornado that reveals a skull in the woods. It’s not long before the bad guys are rounded up and Rick is on his way to a better gig in Gulfport.

The suspense isn’t edge-of-the-seat, but it simmers nicely and dovetails surprisingly well with the world of jocks at the station.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-380-97759-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2004


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