The Rake
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The Rake

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by William F. Buckley Jr.

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A prototypical child of the sixties, Senator Reuben Castle coasted through his early life on a cloud of easy charisma, leaving behind more skeletons than Arlington: a highly questionable Vietnam record, an abandoned wife, and worse. Now, two decades later, his greatest dream is within reach. But his personal history is about to become his political


A prototypical child of the sixties, Senator Reuben Castle coasted through his early life on a cloud of easy charisma, leaving behind more skeletons than Arlington: a highly questionable Vietnam record, an abandoned wife, and worse. Now, two decades later, his greatest dream is within reach. But his personal history is about to become his political epitaph—unless he takes the direst of measures to protect himself.

From William F. Buckley Jr.—nationally bestselling author and one of the keenest political minds of our time—comes an ingenious blending of satire and suspense, the riveting tale of an all-too-recognizable presidential candidate and the dark shadows cast behind him.

Editorial Reviews

New York Sun
“A penetrating meditation on change, complication, and life’s contingency”
Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Buckley’s wry humor often takes aim at the left...And descriptions throughout are pitch- perfect”
Publishers Weekly

Handsome, charismatic 1992 Democratic presidential candidate Ruben Castle is a former antiwar protester who now tacks to the center and is adept at taking both sides of an issue. He's also an inveterate womanizer with a scandal in his closet: a secret marriage to college sweetheart Henrietta, which he didn't bother terminating before wedding boozy ex-Miss America Priscilla, and which produced a son who now returns to haunt him. This story has the makings of an Arkansas trailer-trash saga, but conservative Buckley-über-pundit, Blackford Oakes yarner and social comentator (God and Man at Yale)-doesn't do tawdry. Characters are tepid rather than lurid, and the sex scenes convey the pertinent information ("he didn't know then that his ejaculate had burrowed down into her ovum") without unnecessary sleaze. An inner wonk reigns, whether Buckley is describing office politics at a student newspaper, punning about the Wilmot Proviso or ruminating on "whether Congress can retroactively usurp the President's authority in foreign affairs by denying him authority to conclude arrangements that he had made without any challenge to their constitutionality." Buckley's waspish wit sometimes scores-Ruben's handlers' intricate calculation of which commencement-address invitations to accept is hilarious-and like-minded readers will chortle over his satire of boomer politicians' mores. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
From the veteran political commentator and espionage novelist, a shallow tale of the unmasking of a bigamous presidential contender. In the fall of 1969, at the University of North Dakota, Reuben Castle is a BMOC, editor of the student newspaper and a leading protester against the Vietnam war. He and his girlfriend, the French-Canadian Henri(etta) Leborcier, lose their virginity in a duck blind. When Henri discovers she is pregnant, she takes Reuben to her hometown of Letellier, across the border, where they are married in secret by her old Catholic priest. Henri then leaves to have the baby in France, where her father lives, intending to return after the birth; she is shocked when Reuben ditches her, breaking off contact. The story skips around over the next 22 years. At his father's insistence, Reuben is drafted to Vietnam, where he cannily avoids combat assignments; he also avoids his father's funeral, though the military has returned him stateside. Reuben, clearly, is a heel. In time he becomes a rising political star, with an eye-catching marriage to a former Miss America and an effortless entry into the U.S. Senate. He is taken up by prescient kingmaker Harold Kaltenbach, shopping around for a viable Democrat to run for the White House in '92; he does not see Reuben's womanizing as a problem. You may be reminded here of another womanizing liberal Democrat getting set to run in '91, but this is no Primary Colors. His characters are stick figures, and Reuben's attempt to suppress evidence of his first marriage lacks suspense; a prologue has tipped us off to his use of arson. The last chance for drama disappears when Reuben's son Justin, now a student at Notre Dame and hot on hisfather's trail, refuses to confront him in person. The entertaining machinations of the Blackford Oates series (Last Call for Blackford Oates, 2005, etc.) are missing from this lackluster effort.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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The Rake
A Novel

Chapter One

Grand Forks, North Dakota, September 1969

Last Saturday, after the ardent petting—after the movie, after the snack, after the giggles—Henrietta came to terms with what she knew, now, was Reuben's grand design. He was delicately concrete about it: it would take place in a duck blind. Not—he said with scorn—not at the Hop See Lodge. That was the handy motel across the river, in Minnesota. Hop See was a single-story caravansary in its second decade of operation.

All that was required there of a patron was a driver's license and, of course, cash—fifteen dollars for twelve-hour access to a bedroom.

The Hop See also had conventional uses. Last November, during an overcrowded football weekend, Henri had booked a room there for Bruce Seringhaus, her young cousin. Bruce would share the room with another football fan, also in town for the game, from the University of Minnesota. The two would be strangers, but never mind. The other occupant would be duly registered with the University of North Dakota as a student from the visiting team's college looking for inexpensive lodging for the Saturday night, after the game.

Bruce was only eighteen, but he announced haughtily to his willowy twenty-year-old Canadian-born cousin that he was not willing to share "any old room" with "any old visitor" (never mind that he lived in shared quarters at his own university), "not even if he's a member of the football team. I'd rather sleep in the gym."

Henrietta soothed him by contributing half of the room's cost, allowing the stranger to be displaced. So Bruce had the HopSee room to himself, and he could have drowned his misery over the humiliation of his team's loss in solitude, except that he didn't drink.

Reuben scolded Henri for being extravagant, but she cut him off by saying she was certain he would have done the same thing if he had an eighteen-year-old cousin coming to town to see the big game without a place to stay. Reuben smiled indulgently and leaned over, in the common room, to give her a light kiss, spilling his curly blond hair over her blue eyes and slender nose.

So much for the Hop See. The idea of the duck blind in place of the motel appealed to her, though she felt a shaft of fear, and the dull pain of sin coveted, and acquiesced in.

Still, leave it to Reuben, dominant in all matters. He too was a senior, handsome, spare, and agile, at twenty-one a formidable figure in the student body. He lifted his head and smiled first with his eyes. Then his teeth flashed out. The grin was quick, mischievous. For Henrietta Leborcier it was captivating, a prologue to the momentous event, planned now for the following Saturday.

Reuben always had interesting ideas, she reminded herself as she sat across from him in the library. This one, Reuben confessed, had taken much of the summer to gestate. It was climactic, whatever else you might call the prospective surrender of your virginity. She looked up at him, his head bent over the book, his teeth gripping the eraser end of the pencil that dangled from his lips. A trace of a furrow could be seen on his forehead as he engaged the text. She crooked her finger, interlocked with his, and he looked over at her. He gave a wide-eyed smile, moving his book out of the way, as if removing anything that might stand between him and his Henrietta of the light brown hair, which framed her carelessly freckled oval face and blue eyes. He leaned over and, observing the solemn silence of the Chester Fritz Library, spoke in a whisper. They were seated in a corner of the large room, safely removed from the librarian's desk. Their requisitioned books were open on the table between them, and they each had one hand under the table, their handclasp shielded from casual view.

"Tell me more about the duck blind."

"Well sure, Henri!"

Reuben seemed not quite old enough to be a college student, let alone a senior. But his smile now managed a trace of cosmopolitan knowingness. He did not try to disguise his excitement over the plotted enterprise, just four days away, at Rico's father's duck blind.

Speaking in a husky whisper, he described the site. "The twin blinds are closed down except during duck season, and that runs from the end of September to sometime in November, maybe December. Rico—Eric—has been going out there with his dad ever since he was little, way before he could fire a gun, though he's pretty good at it now, he says. Says he got twelve ducks last season in two mornings of shooting. His dad owns one blind, his dad's law partner, Al Knudson, the adjoining blind. They go out together pretty often during the season. The blinds are shut down the day the duck season ends—Monsanto & Knudson aren't about to break the law, though they're good at letting their clients get away with it."

"Don't be cynical, Reuben."

"What else do you think lawyers are for? Maybe I'll become a lawyer. If I do, you can go ahead and break any law you want. Anyway, Rico's dad and Al Knudson go hunting often—they're there for sure at dawn on the first day of the season. Ahead of that first outing, they send Rico—he started doing this in high school—to clean up the blinds and do a little provisioning."

Henri nodded pensively, though her thoughts were not on hunting.

Yes, she said after a pause, apart from everything else planned for that night, she was curious to lay eyes on a duck blind. "I've never been in one before. As a matter of fact, I don't . . . shoot ducks. Not yet. Maybe," she smiled, and flexed her finger, "I'll take up duck hunting after Saturday. Saturday. It'll be just us?"

The Rake
A Novel
. Copyright © by William F. Buckley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

The legendary founder of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckley Jr. was the author of many celebrated nonfiction books, including God and Man at Yale, as well as the bestselling Blackford Oakes spy novels and Elvis in the Morning.

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