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WONDERDOG by Inman Majors


by Inman Majors

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-33138-X
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

This second outing from Majors (Swimming in Sky, 2000, not reviewed) is an aimless ramble through Alabama bars and byways in search of an elusive comic breeze.

Dev Degraw, a 33-year-old lawyer in Tuscaloosa, is in a long funk after his divorce (Polly has custody of their small daughter, Katie) and has gone two months without clients. Dev, in fact, is a bum, but a bum with two claims to fame: He’s the son of the current Governor and is still tight with his daddy; and way back when, he was a lousy child actor on a TV show called Bayou Dog (nepotism at work). This is an election year and Daddy Degraw is toying with the idea of a state lottery, something that would please big campaign contributor Skip Terry but upset the blacks who are a large part of his base. Oddly, the Governor uses his no-count son as an intermediary with both Skip and the black mayor of Birmingham; predictably, Dev screws up the two meetings, and that’s the end of the lottery issue. Bars are Dev’s natural habitat as he looks for a “beer-groggy sorority girl [who] will ask him . . . to ride her like the fine young pony that she is.” The best he can manage is a night in a trailer with a young redhead who has missing teeth; a more typical evening involves losing a bet that another barfly can’t eat a whole stick of butter. Maybe that proves we all share a “commonality of weirdness,” which could well pass for the novel’s message. Toward the end, there are two violent episodes. A young gun-toting black client, bitten by a dog at the track, kidnaps Dev after the lawyer fails to show up in court; later, at a Bayou Dog reunion, Dev and the great-grandson of the show’s wonderdog foil an attempt on the Governor’s life.

Strenuously zany, but the humor falls flat.