The wonderful villain at the heart of this debut thriller almost makes up for Richardson's awkward writing. Shakespeare McCann will do anythingDincluding committing murderDto get himself elected to Congress from the small Texas district of Cathedral Island, and every time he's on page the novel's energy level rises to a crackle. When the Republican incumbent dies in what looks like a hunting accident on the eve of a primary election, McCann, using an obscure loophole in Texas election laws, takes his place. Nobody thinks this darkest of horses has a chance, and watching him rape and pillage his way to the top should have been plenty of dirty fun. But the candidate against whom McCann directs his demonic gleeDa self-righteous local lawyer and community activist named Mitch DuttonDcomes across as a wimp. Even though his first meeting with McCann leaves him badly beaten in an alley, Dutton refuses to take his enemy seriously. Set up and sandbagged at every turn, he and his handlers are so slow to react to McCann's increasingly vicious threats that reader sympathy for their plight evaporates. It also doesn't help that Richardson often writes in short, jerky sentences that derail rather than propel the narrative. And somebody should have removed at least half of the always intrusive, often baffling, italic thoughts and phrases that litter too many pages. 125,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Feb.) FYI: Richardson, the son of veteran California politician H.L. Richardson, wrote the screenplays of Die Hard II, Bad Boys and The Money Train.
First novelist Richardson, a screenwriter and the son of California Senator H.L. Richardson, brings impressive credentials to the political thriller genre. Suave young corporate attorney Mitch Dutton is running for Congress in Texas against long-term Republican incumbent "Hurricane" Hammond. When Hammond dies on primary day, apparently of natural causes in a Virginia hunting accident, he is replaced by an unknown dark horse, Shakespeare McCann. "Shakes," as McCann calls himself, alternately beats up opponent Mitch in an alley and hands out free ice cream cones wrapped in red, white, and blue. He also relentlessly manipulates Mitch's wife, sets up the Dutton campaign again and again, and murders any friend or client of Dutton's who haplessly gets in his way. This roller-caster ride of a novel was bought by Ron Howard's production company, undoubtedly because it offers up one astonishing Machiavellian plot twist after another. Recommended.-Susan Zappia, Maricopa Cty. P.L., Phoenix
A wickedly sleazy small-town mano a mano political thriller pits a naive yuppie lawyer against a homicidal cracker in a vicious southern Texas race for the US Congress.
When the perennially elected, gratuitously corrupt, good-old- boy Congressman George "Hurricane" Hammond literally falls off his horse and dies of an all-too-convenient heart attack, his straw-dog Democratic rival, nice-guy attorney Mitch Dutton, wakes up to the possibility that he just might be Washington-bound. He's not exactly a cookie-cutter candidate, thoughhis marijuana- puffing wife Connie has strange friends; the couple is childlessand Mitch had anticipated a clean, honorable campaign. That last part changes when Shakespeare "Shakes" McCann, a white-haired scallywag with bad skin, determined to be in Hurricane Hammond's boots come November, enters the scene. In McCann, newcomer Richardson, who previously penned the film Die Hard II, has a delightful southern-fried snake-in-the-grass who so sincerely believes that the best man wins in politics that he eagerly murders, blackmails, and even seduces Mitch's wife to challenge his opponet's lead. Among the figures involved in this frequently hilarious duel to the death are Mitch's spineless spin doctor, Fitz Kolatch, who runs the campaign from an ex-brothel; loathsome newspaper reporter Hollice Waters; "gazillionarie" backer Vidor Kingman, and seductive campaign aide Rene Craven. These and other vile schemers, all out to buy, or at least rent, Mitch's idealistic soul, contrast wonderfully with the cheap hypocrisies of the brain- dead electorate of Cathedral Island, a pompous Texas seaside resort town that becomes the microcosm of a political system that, as Richardson describes it, furthers the careers only of the crazy, the homicidal, or the stupid.
Occasionally gory, darkly cynical, over-the-top political slam-dunk, with comic portrayals of campaign tricks so dirty it's amazing that they're legal.