In this debut novel, Ben Travis, a lowly state senator in Texas, has stumbled into the job of governor.
Travis’ predecessor died in a crash, and the line of succession wobbled down to him. But as ill-equipped as he is to take charge of the Lone Star State, the ardent conservative isn't at all shy about leading the fight for secession after discovering a dirty federal secret. A rancher whose luck at business rescued him from abject failure, Travis is a handler's nightmare but the common man's dream come true. He says what's on his mind, even when there's nothing there, doesn't mind offending the easily offended and thinks nothing of dropping in on power-mad liberal President Michael Leary unannounced. This after stumbling—and slipping and sliding—on a federal pipeline illicitly running beneath a state highway. Armed with an obscure state's rights agreement with Texas signed by President Lincoln, Travis rallies secessionists in the face of the disorganized, golf-distracted president's dirty tricks. The action culminates with federal troops on the Oklahoma-Texas border and Travis counting on a pilot named McKill to fly him past fighter planes to the White House. The supporting cast includes Damon Cole, a conservative black politics professor with thousand-dollar shoes and two-cent nerves; Adam Wexler, a computer geek who specializes in stealing historical documents; Walt Thompson, a hugely popular right-wing radio host; and Travis' daughter Paige, a leftist justice department worker whose fling with Wexler complicates matters a bit. In bringing a humane point of view to the pitched election-year conflict between liberals and conservatives, this novel couldn't be timelier. As a bonus, Smiley smoothly mixes in bits of history about Texas politics and culture.
A freewheeling political satire that does for politics what Texan Dan Jenkins' antic fictions did for golf and football. Smiley's first novel disproves the notion that conservatives can't be really funny.