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A flawed but mostly likable first novel--which is intermittently enlivened by some cheerful, genuinely dark satire. Amos Shellnut, ex-POW and survivor of the Bataan death-march, is left alone in his Arkansas town (circa 1957: Little Rock desegregation-crisis time) when wife Norma finally decides to strike out alone for Hollywood and possible fame. In reaction, Amos burns all his furniture, quits his job at the local flooring mill, sells bis house--and when he has just about hit rock bottom, he's persuaded to run for town sheriff. But the Sockwocks--Sumner County Chapter of the White Citizens Councils of Arkansas--are riding high, what with Governor Faubus and all; and they intend to put up Amos' slow-witted brother Leo as their puppet candidate. So Amos' own sputtery candidacy and campaign--anti-Sockwock and anti-Klan (one and the same)--needs all the help it can get; and his prime support is an odd troika consisting of Fletcher the mill-owner, the local newspaper editor, and a black man named Genesis Jones (whom Amos is obliged to introduce as a Filipino war-hero friend, Col. Fernando Lamas Quezon). Admittedly, though all this is frequently spirited in down-home style, it's also a tad pious, given to serious losses of momentum. And Lancaster hasn't a real notion of how to wrap the whole thing up. But his ear is as reliable as his political savvy, and the nice easy lope to the engaging regional storytelling here promises more--and even better--in the future.

Pub Date: July 20th, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row