In an era as politically mercurial as our own, even the most far-fetched events depicted here sound utterly plausible—except...

THE INNOCENT HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR

That title may be the biggest of this satiric thriller’s red herrings, since, as far as this book is concerned, there are no innocents in the political process.

A charismatic right-wing Republican populist with a hectoring anti-immigrant riff is running for president, and the only person who can slow his roll is a woman moderate with ties to the outgoing administration. No, this book is not about the 2016 presidential campaign. But the fact that even these aspects of the novel are in sync with current events validates its author’s credentials as a cagey veteran political operative. That description applies to crafty, cynical J.D. Callahan, who normally would find a million reasons to avoid going back home to New Orleans except that it happens to be the site of a wide-open GOP convention pitting his candidate, incumbent Vice President Hilda Smith, against Colorado Gov. Armstrong George, who’s running on a platform powered by anti-terror paranoia as exemplified by what J.D. characterizes as “the crazy train of his wacky New Bill of Rights.” Callahan’s efforts to match the Veep’s steely rationality against George’s xenophobic bluster are bumrushed by bombs scattered throughout Crescent City that panic the locals and scare some of the fence-sitting delegates into George’s rising column of support. As J.D. struggles to keep both his head and his client in the game, he’s also got to deal with vicious backbiting from within the Smith staff, somewhat irrational (and also improbable) suspicions from the FBI that J.D. himself is somehow responsible for the bombs, a sexy gossip columnist with informed knowledge of serious firearms, and a pair of estranged half siblings with dubious issues of their own, one a pardoned felon seeking his brother’s help for a run at state office, the other an ex–GI–turned–skinhead strip-club owner. These and other characterizations are as quirky as J.D.’s rueful, acerbic commentaries, which make up the best part of this fast-paced carnival of bile, guile, and blow-ups.

In an era as politically mercurial as our own, even the most far-fetched events depicted here sound utterly plausible—except for maybe one thing: moderate Republicans? Really? What are those?

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-49319-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more