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Kirkus ReviewsCornpone sweet, rags-to-riches-to-rags allegory of a dreamy Alabama deejay who invents every major radio programming innovation of the last three decades, staggers to the top of a sprawling Deep South FM music radio empire, and gives it up for love, family, and the simple life.
Second-novelist Keith (The Forever Season, 1995), an Alabama radio personality, sentimentalizes the rise of Jimmy Gill and his African-American electronics-whiz sidekick, Detroit Simmons, beginning with predictable childhood glimpses of Jimmy falling in love with his grandmother's cabinet-size Zenith tube radio, defying racial prohibitions to pal around with Simmons, and eventually encountering the drunks, misfits, and other socially marginal types at WROG-AM. Jimmy works his way on to the air; Detroit concocts gadgets that improve the station's operating efficiency. Because the FCC takes kindly to minority-owned stations, Jimmy and Detroit team up, with Detroit as nominal president, and use laundered drug money from no-good neighborhood juvenile delinquents Dwight and DeWayne George to buy a station. They build their holding into an FM radio chain on which they present a slower-paced, imaginative blend of rock, jazz, country, and folk music that conquers the airwaves. While Detroit is happy reinventing broadcast technology (he effortlessly knocks together a method of beaming radio signals via satellite), Jimmy falls for country music queen Cleo Michaels. He also starts popping pills as his radio empire becomes too large for him to handle. Venture capitalism transforms the nice, idealistic Jimmy into the mean, big-spending Mr. Gill, who's forced to account for these and darker sins when DeWayne George, now a professional hoodlum, tries to take everything away from him. A chastened Jimmy forsakes the world of big-time radio for a loving family and a backwoods station where he can play what he wants.
A trite melodrama buries what could have been a savvy insider tale.