Boozing, ornery Harold Gravely was the best college football coach of his generation, but now, in his final season, he's a dinosaur, reveling in his past glory while losing every game. Fans and alumni clamor for his resignation. Diagnosed with lung cancer, Gravely, who's having an affair with his secretary, turns this death sentence to his tactical advantage. Yet he musters only fitful support from his wife, Rena, who's torn between love and anger, frustrated in their childless marriage and burdened with guilt over her unacknowledged role in a 30-year-old murder case involving Harold's former star player. Bradley, whose Tupelo Nights was well reviewed, stumbles with this maudlin tale whose larger-than-life hero would fit better in a made-for-TV movie. Two surprise twists (one of them improbable) jerk the story out of sentimentality, but they come too late. The resilient prose captures the football mystique, the locker-room banter, the bluster of an old fighter. (Sept.)
Thirty years ago football coach Harold Gravely won the national collegiate championship, but his recent teams have been losing ones, and now fans and alumni want him to resign or else be fired. When he is diagnosed as having lung cancer, Gravely opts to forego treatment. His impending death can then be used to shame his disgruntled fans, former players, university trustees, and even his wife into allowing him one final season. He may even be able to convince them he deserves a memorial statue. Such is the background of this mordant black comedy of deluded hopes and tenacious illusions, of misplaced values and misspent lives, of youthful follies and aged regrets. This is as funny as Peter Gent's football novels, but its humor is far more caustic.-- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.