A STEP IN THE RIVER by Francis I. Gwaltney


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This is his fifth Southern portrait and politics, sex and demogoguery are strong features here. Calvin Hall, an upright young farmer, gives up a life of good works (caring for a crippled, insane mother, educating a part Negro boy, etc.) to fly a cousin, John Frank, around the country in John's campaign to become governor. His opponent is a blood and thunder, sex and damnation orator, the Preacher Clutts. Calvin is a passive but disapproving observer at several fish fries, speeches, backstage quarrels and deals- but he does meet and fall in love with the equally high minded Anna, a newspaperwoman. Their affair proceeds predictably- but it is about the only thing that does in a campaign that appears to have no issues, no logic and no point except the battle between two ambitious personalities. By the close, latterday revelations of the past and presumed motivations of the cousins expose John Frank as just as much of a scoundrel as the preacher... In spite of lurid material and some striking scenes- the book is oddly flat and difficult for a non-Southerner to follow.

Publisher: Random House