OUTCROSS by Roger Longriff


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Some trappings of Big Commercial Fiction--international locales, gratuitous sex, lots of subplots--can't disguise the fact that this overpadded, vaguely unpleasant novel is, at the core, just an eccentric little British black-comedy. Matthew Carver, a non-rich but immensely influential horsebreeding expert from old-family Kentucky, is in England--visiting his estranged wife Mollie and his children (beautiful Clare, commune-dweller Liz, drug-dealer Jamie) and entering a deal to buy super-stud stallion Beausoleil as part of an international consortium. Matthew's prime responsibility in the deal, however, is not money but horse-care: he's in charge of finding the right farm for Beausoleil's stud career. So soon, after an unlovely run-in with Mollie, he's off to look over the Fox Hill farm in Virginia--where, upon arrival, he has sex-at-first-sight with Mrs. Rosa Phillipson (""He felt little fingers on his cock. . . . She was tight and hot""). Rosa, you see, is a member of the offbeat, fetid, amateur-showbiz family that inhabits Fox Hill, and has a husband confined to a nearby sanitorium--but she and Matthew are instantly inseparable. So, when Matthew chooses run-down Fox Hill for Beausoleil, some of his friends and enemies suspect that his judgment has been affected by lust--and this growing scandal (and the doomed Rosa/Matthew affair) is the essential subject of the next 200 or so pages, though Longriff throws in an assortment of unfulfilled side-shows: the evil doings of a lesbian secretary back in Kentucky; the social/sexual yearnings of a young super-rich Arab; the love life of Matthew's daughter Clare; and son Jamie's drug biz--which will become just one of Matthew's mounting headaches when he's eventually charged with $9 million worth of fraud and malpractice. Some solid enough horse-breeding detail, then (though inferior to Dick Francis), and a few nice bits of nasty social comedy--but, without a substantial plot or engaging central characters (Matthew's faceless, Rosa's cartoony), this is a minor diversion struggling to be a panoramic saga. . . with minimal success.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow