THE KING OF CARDS by Robert Ward


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 Back in Baltimore to pick up an honorary Ph.D. from his alma mater, Calvert College, novelist Tom Fallon recalls the wild year of 1965, when he wriggled out from under the patronage of elitist Professor Sylvester Spaulding and came under the spell of Jeremy Raines--con artist, lunatic, and entrepreneur--and the inmates of his communal house.... Jeremy is the inventor of the Identi-Card, a photo ID he markets to area colleges, with consistently maladroit results: the photos are misframed, or matched with the wrong names, or melted in the laminating machine. But charismatic Jeremy, ever in search of new funding, inveigles his loyal housemates--a Baltimore Brando, Eddie Eckel; health-food nut Babe McCallister; Sister Lulu Hardwell; and self-styled Beat poet Val Jackson--into shouldering his burdens and bailing him out of comic confrontations with Johns Hopkins president A. Taft Manley, Kodak front-man Alan Saxon-Hogg, and gangster Rudy Antonelli (not to mention such minor interlopers as crowbar-wielding Dan the Trucker, demanding that Sister Lulu, thrown out of the convent following an unlikely fling, return to his bed and board). As long as Ward (Red Baker, 1985, etc.) sticks to retailing Jeremy's shenanigans, Tom's affectionate reminiscences are often hilarious, but when he turns to the life lessons imparted by Tom's squabbling parents or his sophomoric rebellion against Dr. Spaulding or the kind of ``pure schematic bullshit'' that comes out in intense, run-on epiphanies or apothegms (``After only one maniacal afternoon with this madman, my entire emotional center had been displaced'')--then Ward, a generally successfully light humorist, gets stranded past his depth. And he gives short weight on his secondary characters--particularly his women, who do little more than change into a series of increasingly tight outfits for sex or photo ops. Affable and amusing, if, unlike the author, you don't take it too seriously.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-79568-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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