WINNER'S CIRCLE by Joseph Hayes


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Soap-opera and melodrama at the Kentucky Derby--with clichÉs and stereotypes running neck and neck. In between tedious broadcasts from an arch racetrack journalist, a knot of unengaging plots and underdeveloped subplots fight for space: the hot-cold love Story between Daddy-spoiled heiress Kimberly Cameron (whose beloved Starbright is a Derby contender) and trainer Clay Chalmers, a former Cameron employee who was fired for being drunkenly responsible for a horse's death; Clay's scrappy attempt to raise the dough to get his own dark horse Hotspur into the race; the insanely evil machinations of Clay's psycho brother Owen, who hates Clay and will do anything (murder, horse-napping, horse-drugging, arson) to make a fortune with his mistress' horse; plus erratic appearances by a cardboard supporting cast--an old dowager, a black, a Jew, a mobster, and Kimberly's aristocratic Dad (who's having a genteel romance with an Irish widow). True, at half the length, or in TV-movie format, all this might be passable commercial entertainment. But Hayes stretches and pads unconscionably--with labored evocations of races (a whole page of ""Christ, two, not one, two, smack in front, going down. Spur, both of us, oh, God, three now, no way around, oh, Christ. . . "") and sex ("". . . not yet, not yet. . . . oh God, Clay. . . more, but not yet, and more, again. . . oh, God. . .""); with laughably repetitious internal monologues; with outpourings from the visceral school of bad writing (""Clay felt a hot tenderness blaze sweetly in his guts. . . . Now a wild, crazy joy was sluicing through his veins""). And the often-interminable dialogue isn't much better, as Hayes attempts to write hip dirty talk for Kimberly and equally smutty journalist Janice--both of whom slide from 1970s ""Fuck off"" into 1950s ""Daddy-o."" There is one relatively distinctive touch here: a not-happy ending--as unlikable heroine Kimberly is quite rightly sent off to the loony bin. But otherwise this is overdone imitation-Irving Wallace, short on genuine Derby atmosphere, with a serviceable cornball-plot buried under excess, inept prose.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1980
Publisher: Delacorte