AMERICA’S BACK PORCH by Daniel Jeffreys


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Encounters with a grab-bag of oddball groups—good, bad, and ugly, from Masonic conspiracy theorists to Kentucky vampire troupes to fans of the wasp waist—tartly observed by New York Post correspondent Jeffreys.

Like the crackerjack investigative reporter he is, Jeffreys sails forth and immerses himself in his subjects, which here are a curious collection of the halt, the lame, and the seriously disturbed—with the occasional rare, worthy association of folks. They include the sorry situation of chain gangs in Alabama, a strait-laced judge in Emmett, Idaho (“I’m sure some of these folks are fornicators,” he says of fellow citizens sharing lunch at a restaurant. “If I get evidence of that, they go to the lock-up”), the burgeoning industry of hired assassins, and a festival called “Burning Man” (a post-Freudian, mythocentric excuse to drink, shoot guns, and do the kinds of things that would get you arrested in Emmett, Idaho). Jeffreys wields a sharp pen upon which he skewers the unrighteous, obnoxious, sinister, and dangerous (the only saintly crew are the Survivor’s Club, a support group of wives whose husbands have tried to kill them). And he returns with some hard new truths: “The presence of political extremists on the Internet has given the ideologically insane a sense of community. Now they have the courage to stand up and have their multiple personalities counted.” He also has a ready wit (“Copulation has become far too refined for New Yorkers”) and a rough but clear vision of the world (“In America, where there are scumbags there will be bounty hunters”). How comforting. And although Jeffreys isn’t above the gratuitous dig (“on first sight you notice Darryl has a weak chin and there is an outside chance Vick has been eating too many fries”), for the most part he simply lays these curios exquisitely bare for readers to judge.

Not a book to read when among strangers—they might well be the ones you’re reading about—but an appalling pleasure at any other time.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-88064-220-3
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000