CONTROL by Ken Jackson


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Like Necessary (1986), this second outing for Oklahoma investigative reporter Nathan Necessary is less for mystery readers than for fans of sentimental newsroom melodrama; and even that special audience may find the action here oppressively slow and talky. On assignment down in the southern tip of Oklahoma's Little Dixie, Nathan decides to go beyond mere reporting when he learns of secret plans by the racist mayor of Striptown to turn an upcoming black civil-rights march into a blood bath: with help from the local police chief, Nathan spreads a warning--and averts tragedy. Meanwhile, he falls hard for local femme fatale Nita Womack, the mayor's sometime mistress (who has her own race-related secrets). And, after Nita commits murder/suicide, Nathan looks further into the town's recent flurry of racist killings, survives a beating by Klan types. . .and finds some even more basic murder motives lurking behind the convenient veil of racial tension. Jackson does come up with a solid final twist; and there's potential interest in the portrait of Oklahoma race relations, along with some newspaper, ethics issues. But the credibility needed for seriously political suspense is repeatedly undermined by clichÉd melodrama and Nathan's overwrought, self-congratulatory narration--while the deadly pacing (heavy on local-dialect yakking and pressroom high jinks) will discourage most readers from moving on to the book's second, better half.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's