A three-course helping of politics, Texas style: coarse, self-made Jim Brackler tries to claw his way to the top over the dead body of his hated rival--wealthy, fair-haired Andrew Sebastian. Dessert comes first, as one (which one?) of the two 1988 senatorial candidates is rushed to the hospital mortally wounded. Then the appetizer: a glimpse of the rivals' first meeting as SMU football players in 1962. After Andrew pulls out of a big date with Tricia Farris because she won't go all the way, Jim gets her on the rebound and rapes her on the way home from the dance. Finally, the entrÃ‰e: The men square off repeatedly over political spoils and offices, first as possible heirs to crafty old Congressman John Masters (Andrew switches parties to run against Masters as a Republican; Jim schemes to position himself as Masters' Democratic successor; and Masters has an idea or two of his own), then as contenders in a special election called when Masters drops dead; and finally, in that senatorial/election. Despite repeated references to the implications of running on a national ticket in 1972, 1974, and 1988, the contests between Andrew and Jim are broadly conceived as soap opera: the date rape naturally makes Tricia frigid as Andrew's wife, and of course Amanda Rogers, the lobbyist Andrew chooses for sexual consolation, is going to ask for his vote on a crucial bill as they're in bed, then get subpoenaed and spill the beans to a congressional committee. First-novelist Allyn's rationale: ""What goes around, comes around."" High-calorie fiction that's more fun than a Lone Star barbecue.