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Reid, author of The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock (Heidelberg, 1974), has created the North Texas oil town of Deerinwater with a familiar authenticity--right down to its Greek revival county courthouse and fierce autumnal high-school football rivalries--but atmosphere alone isn't antidote enough for a plot as tangled and portentous as anything likely to be found in a TV soap opera. As the novel opens, it's 1971, and young Jared Ramey is returning to Deerinwater after some vaguely hippyish wanderings in California. He wants to mend fences with his father, Jerome, the town's powerful district attorney, and to see his five-year-old daughter, Elisa, and ex-wife, Haden, the beautiful but shallow oil-heiress. But it seems as if he probably should have never gotten off the bus--the very wheeze of the pneumatic brakes flips the lid on a Pandora's box filled with lust, greed and corruption. Jared learns that Haden is now sleeping with his old high-school buddy Bruce Mooty, a tough ex-con from the wrong side of town. Then, in an extremely improbable plot twist, he takes a job as deputy to Kickapoo County Sheriff Sam Book-out, and finds himself in the middle of a dirty and tiresomely drawn-out political war. Basically, Jared's father Jerome, as D.A., wants to indict Sam because Sam has been granting special favors to a female prisoner he's in love with. But Sam knows that Jerome has been padding his nest by stealing potentially oil-rich land from poor farmers. Enter Lofton Meeks, a corrupt, psychopathic Federal cop out to make a name for himself by exposing both Sam and Jerome. Finally (after much complicated maneuvering of characters and subplots), Jared kills Lofton in self-defense, forces Jerome and Sam to make up, graps Elisa and Haden and heads for California, having learned you can never go home again. Some good salt-of-the-earth minor characters, but overall a self-consciously literary novel (Jared uses the word ""redemption"" seriously in dialogue) filled with very familiar bickering, backstabbing Texans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Texas Monthly