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Busch (Duel in the Sun, The Takeover) writes good, strong, storytelling prose, but this new novel--a massive California family tale of oil business, show business, and sex--moves slowly and with little apparent shape through a relatively short span of years. Most of the book, in fact, is mired in the 1934-1940 period, though the action begins in 1923, when rancher-king Hub Kinsale is again fighting off son Troy's dream of digging for off on the clan land. But then lusty old Hub is dead--stabbed by the Mexican gal whom he semi-raped--and sturdy, married Troy gets to dig to his heart's content; he and sister Millie (wed to a nice doc) leave the business side to brother Kyle, a cosmopolitan playboy who, while looking for the Perfect Wife, plays polo and dallies with married women. Oil is discovered, of course, lots of it, KinOil is created--and, by 1934, there's a family empire with Kyle as its troubled (who's disloyally liquidating stock? why is Troy's wife Luanna always making waves?) top-man. Kyle's new lifestyle receives intermittent focus: marriage to sexy, witty Alma; entertaining Hearst and Davies; racehorses; art-collecting. But the primary attention soon falls on Troy's son Cliff--his affairs with older women, his Jewish and Japanese pals (the Jew goes off to die in 1936 Spain), his work on the pipeline crew, his movie-star amours (including a Liz-Taylorish starlet with ""a masochistic satisfaction in having her breasts tormented""), his fledgling movie-producer career, and his troubleshooting for KinOil in Mexico, where malaria and kidnap/bombing saboteurs are at work. (Troy is killed in a bandido fracas.) And Busch eventually returns to Kyle, who is finally toppled from power via tricky competitors, embezzlement frame-ups, etc. Many of these episodes read well enough, but they never add up; continuity is further frittered by the awkward introduction of real-life figures, repetitious stockholder meetings, and ungainly hard-core sex. And, most crucially, none of the lead characters engages ongoing interest or sympathy. Less would have been more here: Busch's basic talents largely get lost in the attempt to fabricate an epic in the TV-miniseries manner.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster