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First-time novelist Lamar (the memoir Bourgeois Blues, 1991) expertly lays down a dystopian view of America's future, particularly in matters of race. Melvin Hutchinson rides high at the center of the story's swirl of social critique, intrigue, and Beltway farce. Known to his right-wing supporters as ""Hang 'Em High Hutch,"" the African-American US Attorney General is on the verge of being named vice president. While the country debates whether the comatose sitting VP, Vin Ewell, should have his plug pulled, Hutch roams the corridors of power, easing his anxieties with shots of Jack Daniels, waiting for the call from President Troy McCracken. The Attorney General's reputation rests on his staunch pro-death-penalty judicial philosophy, and on his boot-camp approach to rehabilitating delinquent youth. Playing right into this hyper-Republican fantasy is Mavis Temple, host of TV's Mavis? show, a black media goddess who wants to televise public executions, broadcast live from--where else?--Texas, under the aegis of a new program called Elimination. Lamar weaves several subplots, all of which hinge on issues of race and paranoia, into the story of Hutch's rise toward power. The beefiest of these involves Emma Person, Hutch's photographer niece, who begins the book living with Mavis Temple's producer and ends up involved with a firebrand black nationalist. Some readers may find it difficult to swallow a flip in Hutch's character late in the story, as well as the author's take on the Bell Curve eugenics debate, but neither really drags down this relentless tale. Like rats caught in a maze that narrows to a single point, Lamar's characters collide in a shocking end as justice struggles to overcome a vast, lethal conspiracy. A compelling, controversial political thriller, part A Clockwork Orange, part The Manchurian Candidate.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown