A satire that shines a spotlight on intolerance but offers little hope for change.

THE MISADVENTURES OF BUDDY JONES

In this novel by Margolis (The Myth of Dr. Kugelman, 2015, etc.), a self-proclaimed “redneck” travels to meet with a daughter whom he has not seen in 20 years and makes friends with an African-American Civil War buff.

Buddy Jones lives in Middleberg, a fictional town in Missouri. He enjoys drinking and demolition derbies, and he likes to have a firearm nearby “at all times.” As he’s grown older, he’s developed numerous ailments, including a “mule-stubborn back, bad knees, and a clogged heart.” Still, he still has plenty of vigor when spouting his racist and misogynist viewpoints. After splitting up with his girlfriend, Penny, he heads to Atlanta to meet with his estranged adult daughter, April, whom he hasn’t seen since she was 8. He hitches a ride with Floyd Washington, an exterminator and Civil War aficionado who’s traveling to visit the grave of his great-great-grandfather Ebenezer Washington, a slave who later fought in the 44th United States Colored Infantry. Buddy narrates ruefully, “It made me uncomfortable to travel with a black man, but what choice did I have?” During his journey, Buddy learns firsthand about the prejudice that black Americans face on a daily basis, as when a white highway patrol officer pulls Floyd over for no apparent reason. But will Buddy’s new experiences alter his bigoted worldview? Margolis makes a point of highlighting his main character’s lack of education, as when Buddy remarks that he’s not “sofisticatered.” The author also doesn’t hold back when demonstrating the degree of his protagonist’s bigotry; for example, Buddy refers to a turban-wearing waiter as “Alibaba” and a “camel jockey,” and calls Hollywood movie actors “left-wing faggot[s].” Buddy is also revealed to be a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. Margolis offers a poisonous caricature of blue-collar, right-wing, white-American masculinity. Some readers may balk at this stereotype, while others will delight in its savagery. For the most part, the author is an observant and skilled satirist. However, Buddy’s relentless racist tirades seem like overkill and ultimately make for a tiring read.

A satire that shines a spotlight on intolerance but offers little hope for change.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9912154-5-4

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2018

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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