Master satirist Shearer, of Spinal Tap and Simpsons fame, debuts as a novelist with this droll tale of the modern Indian casino business.
Painting with the broadest strokes, Shearer takes us to an upstate New York town where nothing has happened for a long time. The plants have closed. Anyone with any ambition has split. Even Wal-Mart can’t be bothered to destroy one of the town’s plentiful meadows. But Gammage has a few aces in the persons of a school-district head of dubious credentials and morals; a youngish mayor “lost in a world where all the logical easy fixes have failed”; and a snake-oil salesman who could sell a rosary to Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Noting that a Connecticut town full of evidently non-Indian people has managed to get itself declared a tribe and thereby open a thriving casino, the good elders of Gammage make connections with a Vegas tycoon who may or may not be Mob-connected and a Bureau of Indian Affairs bureaucrat who fast-tracks Gammage into the Filaquonsett Nation. Gammage soon boasts a casino to rival any in Atlantic City, but things, of course, don’t work out quite as planned: The gods and humans alike conspire to ruin every local’s dreams, while skin-shedding, backstabbing, forked-tongue outsiders make a killing. Tossing off jokes (“the buzz in the room after Dr. Gardner finished his talk was electric enough to run Ed Begley Jr.’s house for a year”) and political zingers (Washington’s Reagan Office Building “was built as a monument to the Republican Party’s champion of small government, and forty thousand small governments would fit nicely inside it”), Shearer has a fine time lampooning just about every institution and piety modern America has to offer—even NPR.
A pleasing debut, even if the spectacle of Michael Eisner action figures chills the soul.