The King of Kings County

( 1 )


A sweeping novel of our "suburban nation"

In The Huntsman, a first novel hailed by Esquire as "ambitious, rousing and entirely spectacular," Whitney Terrell introduced us to the streets and neighborhoods of Kansas City. Now he offers us the story of their creation. A stunning, intensely private portrait of one man's life and his city, The King of Kings County presents a dazzling fifty-year arc through the heart of the American dream.

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A sweeping novel of our "suburban nation"

In The Huntsman, a first novel hailed by Esquire as "ambitious, rousing and entirely spectacular," Whitney Terrell introduced us to the streets and neighborhoods of Kansas City. Now he offers us the story of their creation. A stunning, intensely private portrait of one man's life and his city, The King of Kings County presents a dazzling fifty-year arc through the heart of the American dream.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
This is Terrell's second novel, following a well-received debut in 2001 called The Huntsman , which also focused on Kansas City. With another novel this good, he'll put Kansas City on the literary map with Anne Tyler's Baltimore and William Kennedy's Albany. An immense amount of historical and financial research underpins The King of Kings County , and yet all that detail is gracefully integrated into a story that is essentially about fathers and sons, the way each generation creates or miscreates a home for the next one. By the time Jack finishes what begins as a stinging indictment of his father, he's making a quiet plea for his own forgiveness.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
In his second novel (after The Huntsman), Terrell uses the first person to tell the coming-of-age story of Jack Acheson. Jack's father, the colorful Alton Acheson, yearns to be one of Kansas City's (MO) real estate movers and shakers during a time of suburban expansion and schemes his way into land and property deals-often calling upon his son and wife to be fellow conspirators. While Jack's intelligence and healthy skepticism help keep him above the fray, he nevertheless falls for Geanie Bowen, granddaughter of his father's nemesis, who becomes a lifelong challenge. Terrell is an astute, sensitive, and funny writer with the ability to pull readers into the story even when geographic details and complexities threaten to overwhelm it. All the characters ring true, as does the analysis of a city deteriorating after white upper-middle-class residents flee to the suburbs, lured by the designs of unscrupulous real estate magnates. Highly recommended.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Terrell (The Huntsman, 2001) returns with a powerful story about the birth of the suburbs and the death of the American dream. Jack Acheson is a quietly observant kid, and if he's wise beyond his years, it's because he's blessed-or cursed-with a father who refuses to treat him like a child. Privy to the outsized dreams and underhanded dealings of Alton Acheson, Jack becomes his father's chronicler. His story begins with the birth of the Interstate Highway in the 1950s, and it spans the last decades of the 20th century. A student of Gilded Age titans, Alton has special regard for Thomas Durant, the man who built the Transcontinental Railroad and-more importantly-purchased the land aongside it. When he sees his own chance for greatness in the new highway, he forms an alliance with revered Kansas City developer Prudential Bowen to buy Kings County farmland on the cheap and turn it into luxury housing and shopping centers for the new American commuter. Alton is a confidence man par excellence-a brilliant huckster and an individual with absolute faith in himself. A big man with long, blond hair and a fondness for pastel suits, Alton is a blithely conspicuous loudmouth and a constant source of mortification for his adolescent son. He's also a spectacularly appealing character, able to turn nearly everyone around him-his son, his wife, his friends-into willing (if occasionally uneasy) accomplices. A clear-eyed visionary, Alton not only anticipates school desegregation and white flight, he depends on it. The fatal flaw in his scheme is not his amoral calculation, but his miscalculation: By the time bussing comes to Kansas City, Alton's already been forced to trade his rich suburban acres fortenement buildings in a dying metropolis. An honest and unsentimental post mortem for America's cities, this is also a moving and original coming-of-age story. A grand work of fiction, epic in scope and intimate in detail.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143037699
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 8/29/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 696,057
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Whitney Terrell was born and raised in Kansas City. His debut novel was a New York Times Notable Book. He is the New Letters writer in residence at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2005


    In Joel Wendland¿s interview with Russell Banks in the journal ¿Political Affairs: Marxist Thought Online¿, respected author Banks recommends Whitney Terrell¿s writing. Terrell¿s most recent novel, ¿The King of King¿s County¿ presents a fictional portrayal of the segregation of our major cities, nestled neatly in the well written story of a young man¿s experience growing up in Kansas City in the fifties and sixties. Terrell¿s novels embrace the thought of black writers such as Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois. His books are in the tradition of the novels of the ¿naturalists¿ of the first half of the twentieth century, such as Richard Wright¿s ¿Native Son¿. (For good chapters on the literary thought of DuBois and Wright, see Cedric Robinson¿s ¿Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition¿.) Parallels to Terrel¿s writing in American fiction include in particular the themes of class struggle of works like Theodore Dreiser¿s ¿American Tragedy¿, as well as the anti-racist socialism of novelists of the forties and fifties, such as John B. Sanford (nee Julian Shapiro)¿s ¿The People from Heaven¿, and Alfred Maund¿s ¿The Big Boxcar¿. Readers of the novel might find some quick historical background on the events that produced modern segregation and the desertion of America¿s inner cities helpful for understanding the story. A short article that helps to put the novel in its historical context is found in the Fannie Mae Foundation¿s publication, Winter 1999 Vol. 1 Issue 4. The article reports a survey that asked an independent association of urban scholars to rank the key influences shaping the American metropolis in the last fifty years. Their list: The Top Ten Influences on the American Metropolis of the Past 50 Years: 1. The 1956 Interstate Highway Act and the Dominance of the Automobile. 2.Federal Housing Administration Mortgage Financing and Subdivision Regulation. 3. De-Industrialization of Central Cities. 4. Federal Urban Renewal: Downtown Redevelopment and Public Housing Projects (1949 and subsequent Housing Acts). 5. Levittown (Federally Financed Mass-Produced Suburban Tract Houses). 6. Racial Segregation and Job Discrimination in Cities and Suburbs. 7. Enclosed Shopping Malls. 8. Sunbelt-Style Sprawl. 9. Air Conditioning. 10. Urban Riots of the 1960s. (Fannie Mae Foundation, 'The American Metropolis at Century's End') Many of these factors are fictionally illustrated in 'The King of King's County', and provide the set-up for the story. Recommended.

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