Email this review


In writing--and overwriting--this wildly funny and inventive prison caper, first-timer Lehman has taken to heart the old adage ""write of what you know""--according to the publisher, he's ""an inmate at a federal penitentiary"" doing time for ""aiding and abetting a bank robbery."" And thus bank robbery it is that (1) earns Lehman's super-con hero the prison handle of ""Mother Superior"" (for impersonating a nun during that heist), and (2) lands him in the McNeil Island (near Seattle) jail cell where he meets the novel's narrator, a con named ""Flat Store."" To Flat Store and his cellmates, Mother is a ""double-tough mother fucker,"" the baddest dude around, a con of instantly mythic qualities as he decks the joint's previously baddest dude and then uses CPR to save that con's life when he suffers a heart attack. Lehman's characterization of Mother, although wild and woolly, never wholly persuades, since this con is so demigod perfect he doesn't even have a tragic flaw; but through Flat Store's tangy slang, Lehman floods the prison goings-on with a sea of juicy slammer detail deep enough to float Mother's improbable ""getbacks."" Those revenge-driven super shell-games involve a series of intricate maneuvers whereby Mother & Co. co-opt a prison computer to predict race-track odds, bringing them enormous wealth; ruin a sadistic prison guard (with the Dickensian name of ""Creech""); and, through some clever blackmail, win freedom for all concerned--Mother's fellow inmates first, then Mother himself when he plays a final getback, taking down not only the prison warden but also the owner of the bank he robbed (to getback that bank for ruining his parents' lives). Overlong and overcomplicated, with Lehman huffing and puffing to inject every sentence, every scene, with hip-jive cleverness. But by the abundance of his energy, bright prison color, and comic turns, he manages to pull off an entertaining read--and a provocative fiction debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 1987
Publisher: Arbor House