After last year's The Confessor, this is again a high-tension affair triggered by some thoroughly contemporary realities and told in a two-fisted, brass-knuckled prose. The scene is Texas, and the climate is ugly, although integration is an issue which so far has been dodged fairly successfully in Dowling, the richest school district in the South. Also adept in evading principles and policies is Stacey Barnett, a school superintendent; as his older, richer wife Kate says, he has never stood up to be counted. He is given the job in Dowling on the understanding that the status will remain quo. Once there he faces other problems as well (and a schoolboard which is four part conservative to three liberal). Diseased horsemeat has been sold, knowingly, to the school cafeterias; corner cutting on the school plants leads to a fatal accident; tax money has been misappropriated; and a visit to a Negro school reveals the low subsistence level there (preferable to Federal aid). Barnett however is in a real bind-- and indiscretion with the flagrantly attractive Charlene, also on the schoolboard, leaves him vulnerable to the leverage applied. But by the close, he is ready to scuttle himself and his marriage if necessary.... Some bluntly delivered home room truths, some (Q) sex, but a combatively, combustibly readable story from beginning to end.