AMERICAN HERO

The creator of the Tony Cassella p.i. stories (Foreign Exchange, etc.) turns to political satire with a breathtakingly nasty premise: Operation Desert Storm was not only staged for TV but was a piece of Hollywood entertainment drafted and choreographed by filmmakers. Joe Broz, of Universal Security (U.Sec.), is offered a perilously off-the-books job by dazzling Hollywood star Maggie Krebs: lay the groundwork for a $750,000 breach-of-contract suit against RepCo, the talent agency that owns both her and hot director John Lincoln Beagle, by finding out the real reason—not the illness the agency's selling- -that Beagle was abruptly pulled off and the project aborted. Hopelessly smitten with Maggie, Joe (``I'm an authentic American hero. Really'') signs on, only to find that U.Sec. is already in the game- -and not kidding around: they've bugged Maggie's place, they're tailing Joe, they're willing to kill Beagle's inoffensive librarian when Joe lures him into a meeting. What kind of movie would justify such fanaticism? A war movie, as we've already realized—a movie whose concept brainsick Machiavellian Lee Atwater drafted on his deathbed as just the ticket to resuscitate George Bush's faltering image. As Bush and Jim Baker trade gorgeously plausible malapropisms (``Talk about nitty-gritty and cutting through to the nuts of the matter. When Lee Atwater is passing, it's hardball''), Joe maneuvers to get the goods on RepCo head David Hartman and U.Sec.'s Melvin Taylor, Joe's boss, so that even if he can't avert the war, he can help Maggie get her hands on that golden parachute. Joe's plots against the totalitarian conspirators wind down to routine melodrama. The real smart bombs here are Beinhart's diabolical vignettes of the totalitarian alliance of the Oval Office and the entertainment industry (``Who are we going to war with?'' ``I don't know. It's just in development''). Think of a left-wing P.J. O'Rourke, or a Stanley Kubrick production of 1984. What a terrific movie this book is never, ever going to make.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-47276-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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