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Resurrection and elegy for the roust-'em-outta-their-beds antics of the antiwar hippies of the Sixties, designed as a thought-rousing, adult suspenser. Leading the pack is Gilbert Townsend, a magnetic, hip-talking scamp on the order of Dean Moriarty, nimble master of the hot-wired car and disguise artist with a genius for fading into daylight. With a mythic grasp of the back roads of America, ever-moving Gil is the Gingerbread Man whose ya-ya-ya-ya-can't-catch-me has kept him ahead of "the govs" since the Movement died. Now he's come into a dreamboat of a plan--the biggest antiwar ploy ever--that will also make him a multimillionaire. Starring for him in the role of patsy is Wendell "Jake" Jacobsen, a former war resister now dying of leukemia engendered by Army service on Yucca Flats during the earliest days of atomic testing. Jake thinks his nine-year-old Miriam also died of his irradiated genes. What's more, Jake's big love, Nora Sherman, a violist living in D.C., is also a cancer victim, though on crutches and still playing. Object of the ploy: finally to make clear to Congress, and all governments, the world- killing, cancerous catastrophe already present in the mishandling, spread, and unaccounted-for loss of nuclear materials. How? By exposing every member of Congress to low-level radiation during the President's State of the Union Address in the House of Representatives, via a dose of Plutonium 239 whiffed into the chamber by way of the ventilators--a kind of Jake's Last Stand. To make all this convincing, Johnson spells out the innards of the House to a fare-thee-well as the reader crawls through shafts unseen and dust unbreathed since 1860. A slow start builds to a rich mix of character and plot--and a big jump upward for second-novelist Johnson (Killing the Blues, 1987).

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1994
ISBN: 0-9637974-3-3
Page count: 330pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1993


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