An ambitious lawyer returns to his hometown to overthrow the local administration in Radford’s debut legal novel.
Attorney Daniel Riley is back in rural Goshen County, Georgia, after several years away, in the hope of becoming county commissioner. To do so, he’ll have to take down the long-serving incumbent, Leon Darby, who owns the massive tobacco company at the center of the county’s Woeconomy. It’s a position that gives Darby immense power—and inspires immense resentment among the local farmers. Daniel’s old high school debate teammate, the altruistic and newly wealthy lawyer Michael Drummond, thinks that Darby is vulnerable as a candidate. Daniel has always dreamed of holding office, but he’s tried and failed before, and his wife, Amber, is opposed to the idea of his trying again. Daniel soon finds that he may be more out of step with the conservative locals than he’d anticipated. Michael, who’s African-American, is ambivalent about the white Daniel’s return; he’s put in more work in the county than Daniel has, but the racism of the local electorate would make it difficult for him to successfully run. As the two men set to work, they not only confront an amoral, entrenched opponent with unanticipated resources—they also must deal with their own clashing personalities, which drove them apart years ago. Radford’s prose is light and descriptive, particularly when evoking the landscape of Goshen County, which features “miles and miles of farmland, seemingly never-ending fields of tall, ripening tobacco stalks, weeks from harvest, punctuated occasionally by a driveway or fence line. The stalks obscured the horizon in all directions, a rich green palette on either side of the grey line of road.” That said, the novel lacks subtlety in both its characterizations and its politics, although it does talk straightforwardly about race and how it affects every aspect of Goshen County life. It makes some points in heavy-handed ways, and some aspects of the plot drift into melodrama. Despite this, the story remains compelling, and the pages fly by.
An engaging, if sometimes-blunt, novel about race relations, arrogance, and local politics.