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The King of Cards
     

The King of Cards

by Robert Ward
 

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Ward once again explores the alchemy of stubborn yearnings and unrealized dreams amidst the well-tended rowhouses of his native city. There's a mounting fury in Tommy Fallon's heart in the fall of 1965. He's finally found his life's calling - thanks to the inspiration of Professor Extraordinaire Sylvester Spaulding. Young Tom wants to be lifted on the wings of

Overview

Ward once again explores the alchemy of stubborn yearnings and unrealized dreams amidst the well-tended rowhouses of his native city. There's a mounting fury in Tommy Fallon's heart in the fall of 1965. He's finally found his life's calling - thanks to the inspiration of Professor Extraordinaire Sylvester Spaulding. Young Tom wants to be lifted on the wings of genius, to ascend to a clean, well-lighted place where cultured people talk about deep things. But how can this college boy learn anything about life or art while living in his family's house of pain? Pop Fallon's youthful dreams of becoming a painter were dashed by the Depression and his own internal demons; he rarely comes out of the inner sanctum of His Holy Toilet, where he's long been lost to the rituals of obsessive/compulsive behavior. Mom Fallon - beaten down by the vast resentment her husband harbors against her and all the other "Baltimorons" - is so starved for love that she enters the Miss Kissable Lips contest at the local radio station. Tom realizes he needs a refuge: a quiet, modest room of his own. There he won't have to see the defeat in his parents' eyes. There he'll follow Dr. Spaulding's lead by living inside the books that seem to be keeping his spirit alive. The King of Cards is the story of how Tom is saved from becoming a myopic, dispassionate snob when he answers an ad for off-campus housing. In the remarkable person of Jeremy Raines - World-Class Confidence Man with a Streak of Idealism, and Pied Piper to a ragtag band of followers - Tom finds a sense of adventure that is positively euphoric.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ward, best known for Cattle Annie and Little Britches but most admired for the somber proletarian novel Red Baker , has worked in Hollywood for years; as with Richard Price, scriptwriting seems not to have affected his prose style. In fact, style is not his strong suit; his writing is energetic and emotional but often clumsy, and his attitude toward his characters is unmodishly intense. What comes across powerfully in this novel, as in Red Baker , is Ward's passionate belief in seemingly unpromising material, which leaves the reader carried away (sometimes unwittingly) by the sheer creative energy involved. Once again the scene is Ward's native Baltimore and the hero Tom Fallon, a '60s youth grappling with literature at a minor college and a miserable home life. He falls in with Jeremy Raines, a hippie genius with a scheme to sell photographic student ID cards to America's colleges, and the story tracks Fallon's struggle between his desire to be a good student and his attraction to the heady involvement in Life (including sex, booze and drugs) that Raines and his clan offer. Though the novel is awkwardly framed by Fallon's return visit to his college for an honorary degree celebrating his success as a writer, the vital excesses of the '60s are wonderfully evoked, and there are some hilarious and touching scenes, as well as some melodramatic and highly implausible ones. Despite its faults, the book's pulsing vitality--as in the novels of Thomas Wolfe, a writer of similar faults and virtues--carries the day. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Successful novelist Tom Fallon returns to his hometown, Baltimore, to receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater. During the trip, he reflects on his college days. The bulk of the novel is a flashback to 1965, when Fallon lived with a group of beatniks in a communal house presided over by Jeremy Raines, the ``King of Cards.'' Raines and his crew are partners in an ID card venture, but their lack of business sense leads them into disaster. Fallon, meanwhile, struggles with his identity--is he working class, beatnik, or serious student? Unfortunately, Ward's narrative also struggles for identity. Seemingly unsure of the tone he should take, Ward shifts from a beat prose to more standard English. These shifts don't work, and the novel's unevenness, even if intentional, makes it unengaging reading. There may be demand from fans of Ward's Red Baker ( LJ 5/1/85), however.-- David Dodd, Benicia P.L., Cal.
Digby Diehl
A sweet, deftly written novel that reminds you of Conroy, Kesey, and Salinger all at once. -- Playboy Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440555077
Publisher:
Adams Media
Publication date:
03/11/2014
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are Saying About This

Beth Henley
The King of Cards is a wild poem that unravels as a flying carpet ride over the wash and wacky hills of sexual delights, intellectual longings, and raw familiar runes. I laughed so hard at one point that I fell off the couch, and yet two pages I was weeping into wads of tissue.

Meet the Author

ROBERT WARD is the author of eight novels, including Shedding Skin; Four Kinds of Rain, which was nominated for the Hammett Award and was a New York Times Notable Book; and Red Baker, which won the PEN West Award for Best Novel. A former writer and producer of Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and New York Undercover.

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