This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

The Cleaning Crew

A debut political novel focuses on a revolution that intends to wrest power in Massachusetts from corrupt officials.

Best friends Matt Greenhill and Jeremy Boatman, both in their 60s, have no shortage of cantankerous complaints about politics in their native state of Massachusetts. Successful businessmen at the ends of their careers (Matt is already retired), they decide they simply can’t suffer the steady decline of their state anymore and pledge to do something about it. A few years earlier, Matt had drawn up a plan to take over the state and reform it, a plan based upon creating a group (they both resist the label “party”) from whose ranks they will replace existing politicians and bureaucrats. Membership in the group is largely nonpartisan, though everyone who joins must accept a nine-point platform of reform. The most controversial core ideas include enacting educational reform by diminishing the power of teachers’ unions, legalizing and therefore controlling drug and prostitution trades, and abolishing criminal gangs (while also disarming the police somehow). The grand plan requires a near total commandeering of government to work—Matt and Jeremy plan to control both houses of the legislature and the lion’s share of bureaucratic agencies. At first, the entrenched Democratic Party reacts dismissively (the attorney general immediately calls them Nazis), but as the group, which comes to be known as the “Cleaning Crew,” steadily grows in popularity, the establishment fights back with savage territoriality. Members of the Crew are indicted on fraudulent charges, sued for libel and slander by officials accused of corruption, find their offices broken into, and worse. Hayes, a Massachusetts native and lawyer, concocts a kind of political fantasy whereby a popular uprising is conducted by responsible experts beneficently motivated only by altruism. The idealism that drives the story is extraordinary; when challenged by a political editor, asking why the group should be taken seriously, Matt declares: “We will choose people with the expertise and know-how, and then we’ll provide them with the support, the funding, and the motivation to accomplish the change needed.” This is a lively, and often very funny, novel and will certainly appeal, in a cathartic way, to those who pine for a fresh political start. Its strength is certainly not its plausibility or the incessant proselytizing of its two protagonists; rather, the book’s principal virtue is its optimism regarding the power of democracy, unabashedly expressed.

This tale about a state’s political uprising will likely inspire both incredulity and smiling approval.

Pub Date: April 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-0388-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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