Jake & Clara by David R. Stokes

Jake & Clara

Scandal, Politics, Hollywood, and Murder
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Stokes’ (How to Keep Calm and Carry On, 2014, etc.) crisp work of historical fiction animates the most sensational homicide trial in the criminal annals of Oklahoma.

It’s a familiar story. A middle-aged man falls in love with a much younger woman, and they carry on for years, until stronger passions, such as the desire for power and fame, conflict with what passes for love. It’s worth noting that the middle-aged man in this true story was “the Oil King of Oklahoma,” Jacob “Jake” Hamon, slated to be a member of President Warren Harding’s cabinet until his megalomania and other character failings derailed his ambitions and ended up costing him his life. Hamon was 37, and his paramour, Clara Smith, was just 17 when she came to his attention. Never mind that he was a prominent Republican and a married man with two children, Jake installs his mistress in a hotel suite in the Oklahoma town of Ardmore. Clara, for her part, is no wide-eyed ingénue , exploiting Hamon’s riches to pad her own purse. Eventually Jake’s megalomania kicks in, and he dumps Clara for political gain only to have her fatally shoot him. Stokes’ tightly paced narrative keeps humming even when it’s focused not just on the sensational crime, but all associated players as well. Especially impressive is the nuanced character development—there are no uniformly good or bad guys here; even Jake’s long-suffering wife exploits his death to raise her own social standing. Despite a lag in the action toward the end—when the story focuses on the aftermath of the shooting and Clara’s 15 minutes of fame—it’s a revealing exercise in the way public opinion can make or break one person’s fortunes. A relevant lesson in today’s hashtag-driven pop-culture world.

A potent, nearly perfect brew of politics, murder, mayhem, and mystery.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9969892-0-6
Page count: 348pp
Publisher: Critical Mass Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2016


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