Ambition, money, politics and women drive a voluminous Southern epic.
The money may be new but the format has echoes of Dallas as Majors (Fiction Writing/James Madison Univ.; Wonderdog, 2004, etc.) tackles the story of two over-reaching brothers, “rednecks with money,” in the late 1970s and early ’80s. The setting is Tennessee not Texas, and J.T. and Roland Cole are not polar opposites, like J.R. and Bobby, but their milieu of substantial homes, restless wives, financial plotting, drinking, keeping mistresses on the side and putting financial advancement above most everything else has a familiar and traditional feel to it. As the novel opens, younger brother Roland is running as the Democratic candidate for governor and hires experienced fixer Mike Teague to help him. The election is lost, but Teague stays on to assist with the brothers’ plan to hold the World’s Fair in their town of Glennville. Majors’ pleasure in his scenario makes for expansive and leisurely narration, thick with description and conversation, and larded with stylistic quirks: scenes presented as screenplay, curious grammar, even free verse. Characterization, however, is light (especially as regards the brothers), and for a social and financial saga there are surprisingly few events. After some machinations the fair does take place, but that achievement marks the highpoint of the brothers’ trajectory after which evidence of financial chicanery and accusations of fraud and influence peddling come to light.
The shape is mythic but the storytelling is hollow.