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by Steve Amick

Pub Date: March 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-37736-4
Publisher: Pantheon

Jimmy Stewart and Ann Sheridan might have been the protagonists of this goofy postwar romance, the successor to Michigan resident Amick’s debut novel The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake (2005).

The book is framed by a brief “Prologue” and “Epilogue,” in which an elderly widow named Sal, en route to a nursing home, watches with amusement as family members stumble onto an arresting surprise stored in her attic. We’re then treated to a leisurely, very funny account of the partnership formed by Sal, immediately following World War II, with her Army officer husband “Chesty” Chesterton’s comrade Winton “Wink” Dutton, a promising cartoonist and illustrator (albeit burdened with a crippled right hand). Wink, discharged, has journeyed to Chicago to look in on Chesty’s young wife Sal, who’s trying to keep their family’s business—a failing camera shop—alive. Upon renting a room from Sal, Wink learns she’s been augmenting the family income by posing as a pinup girl—and, when Chesty’s anticipated return home does not occur, the two join forces to create a thriving cottage industry. With the collusion of Sal’s equally bosomy gal pal Reenie, they create visual delights for the pleasure of horny GIs everywhere, and everything seems swell—until the subject of an unauthorized photo brings trouble; censors harass the hapless “pornographers”; and the well-meaning innocents flee to Wink’s hometown and the muted promise of a new life. The novel is fun throughout, if a tad redundant, and will remind many of the small-town fictional delights offered by Garrison Keillor and Eric Kraft. Amick has a gift for creating atmospheres that are both comic and oddly threatening, and he’s adept at layering in nifty references to the period’s pop culture.

A charmer. Even the little old lady from Dubuque will like this one.