22-Nov by Bryan Woolley

22-Nov

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title refers to November 22, 1963--and the place is Dallas. But though Woolley includes italicized passages referring to the real-life events on that day (chiefly quotations from William Manchester's The Death of a President), his novel is not a dramatization of the JFK assassination but a montage of 30-some fictional Dallas characters--whose behavior on November 22 is apparently meant to epitomize the craziness of that particular city. And the result, though often vivid and readable (Woolley's earlier novels have established his gifts as an evocative regional writer), is an ironic, ultimately hollow freak-show which tends to cheapen the tragedy it's hooked onto. Woolley's Dallas is a boom-town where the lunatic fringe is the norm, where madmen (like the real-life General Walker) happily hang their hats: conspiracy-obsessed, paranoid millionaire J. L. Fisher, for example; or patriot Colonel Luther Bird, who believes he was forced into retirement because of Kennedy's ""communism."" Among the flaky others whom Woolley follows on Nov. 22: reporters Byron Hayes and Jack Callison (a seedy alcoholic with wife trouble); State Representative Warner Barnhill, who is shacked up at a hotel with exotic dancer-prostitute Sheila Towers; Mexican kitchen-man Luis at the Trade Mart (who, after the assassination, takes home the cooked steaks which were awaiting the Kennedys); Raymond Medley, a Secret Service man who helps to clear the motorcade route; actor Presley Evans, rehearsing Julius Caesar; Stacy Leafy, a Northerner whose son hears in school that Kennedy's death was ""the hand of God""; plus kooks who plan funeral parties to celebrate the assassination. . . and a few people who are drawn closer together by the violence. Occasionally these constantly rotating vignettes rise above the cheap, TV-movie-ish format--Where Were You When Kennedy Was Shot?--but Woolley's skill (and his clear distaste for Dallas) seems largely wasted on this merry-go-round exercise.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row