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In his most ambitious fiction to date, Just (Nicholson at Large) takes on a 30-year account of the fortunes of the Rising family, owners of the Dement Intelligencer--the ""I""--a newspaper that is to its small Midwestern town what ""a dictionary is to the language."" Patriarch and fóunder Amos Rising has died in 1953, the novel's starting-gate, having worked out a careful conservative codicil to his will stipulating that none of his three sons and heirs--Charles, Mitch, and Tony--will be able independently to sell the paper ever. The second generation, though, does manage to be more open-minded and open to the ""lunatic prosperity"" threatening from Chicago: Dement develops and changes, the ""family trust"" of the paper growing shakier with each passing year. Come 1973, the ""I"" waits upon a third generation of Risings for its stewardship. Now it's Charles' daughter Dana who's in line, but she doesn't want the paper or Dement; she's a book editor in New York, a self-sufficient type (married to, then released from an ex-ambassador/ CIA man; a bumpy and directionless sub-plot) who returns at novel's end to Dement in order to witness the culmination of the paper's fate--a sale to a computer-wise newspaper conglomerate. Just's trouble here is that while he hits his corners beautifully, with solid, often lovely prose, the center of the book cakes and crumbles; his best characters are merely orbital, like Elliott Townsend, the Rising's family lawyer and Amos' old friend, a man of classical integrity and abiding values. The book is an act of homage, plainly, to old, rock-ribbed traditionalism and stubbornness, but authorial respect and affection make things too easy on the principal players; they loaf through their roles, just as readers will tend to loaf through this spottily effective big book--by a writer whose talent seems to be served best in smaller slices.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1978
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown