This is the story of J. D. Wiswall, a sincere young man from a small town, who joins a state government agency in a data entry department comprised of quirky clerks. Quickly endearing himself to the diverse group in Unit 3, J. D. learns his coworkers have a pact to share the $10,000 prize if they win a cost-savings program for a suggestion that could save the government money, in turn helping them rise above their own personal struggles. A multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion is accidentally discovered by J. D.'s supervisor, the goof-off alcoholic Brent Baker. This lucrative discovery catches the attention of crotchety Governor Dwayne Bennett, a media-hungry demagogue, who turns the coworkers of Unit 3 into props for his selfish political reasons. The publicity surrounding the clerks piques the interest of a newspaper reporter, Esther Jean Stinson, whose investigative reporting threatens to reveal the governor's career-ending secret, as well as jeopardizes the prize that the clerks so desperately desire.
Along with J. D. and Brent, the lives of the amiable coworkers in Unit 3 are revealed. There is Rita Jackson, the kind matriarch of her large brood, who spends her time outside of work caring for her five struggling children and thirteen wily grandchildren. Then there's Deborah Martinez, a single mother to a felonious son, who struggles to keep her head above her sinking financial woes. There's also Conchino Gonzalez, a quiescent giant of Mexican and Japanese descent, who street races at night to relieve worries about his ailing grandfather in Japan. Finally, J. D. has dreams bigger than his small hometown can provide, and Brent wants nothing more than to drop the bureaucratic routine to become a rock star with his bar band.
A few blocks away from the agency that houses Unit 3, Governor Bennett, a smarmy politician who whizzes around the Governor's Mansion on a gold-plated wheelchair, parades the unwitting clerks in front of the local media in an attempt to raise his sagging poll numbers. But reporter Esther Jean sees through the governor's bald-faced motives and uncovers secrets not meant to be revealed. Will her revelations keep Unit 3 from receiving their elusive prize?
From award-winning writer Scott Semegran, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is an American, modern-day tale with working-class folks—part fable, part satire, and part comedy—revealing that camaraderie amongst kind-hearted friends wins the day over evil intentions.
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About the Author
Scott Semegran lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, four kids, two cats, and a dog. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English. He is a bestselling, award-winning writer and cartoonist. He can also bend metal with his mind and run really fast, if chased by a pack of wolves. Books by Scott Semegran include To Squeeze a Prairie Dog, Sammie & Budgie, Boys, The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood, The Spectacular Simon Burchwood, Modicum, Mr. Grieves and more. His short stories have appeared in literary journals like The Next One Literary Journal, Texas Tech University Honors College and more. His comic strips have appeared in the following newspapers: The Austin Student, The Funny Times, The Austin American-Statesman, Rocky Mountain Bullhorn, Seven Days, The University of Texas at Dallas Mercury, and The North Austin Bee.
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About the Author
Books by Scott Semegran
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Semegran's best book by far, funny and heartfelt. When I first read it was about some government employees, I was skeptical. But their time in and away from their office is fascinating. I found myself rooting for all of them, especially after getting sucked into the slimy world of the ruthless politician, Governor Bennett. If you're looking for a fun read, this book is for you. ARC provided by author and publisher for review. Thank you to Mutt Press for allowing me to get an early look at this wonderful book!
Interesting story I must admit I was a little put off by Semegran's cover for To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel, but I know to never judge a book by its cover. And I don't. I read, and I read. The story was good, has come interesting characters, and was blended with humor, satire and dramatics. Semegran tells the story of JD, and he's a likeable character, and mixed with the chemistry of his co-workers, the story comes to life. I like the premise of this story, and I look forward to reading more by this new author.
To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is an entertaining and heart-felt novel. It is hard to set aside, filled with humor, comradeship, and the keys, despite politics, to finding the connections that make life sweet even in the hard times. The title stems from a quote made by George Wilkins Kendall in the Texan Santa Fe Expedition - "If any animal has a system of laws regulating the body politic, it is certainly the prairie dog." And politics do play a roll, but only a minor one. Like all big, spiraling entities, the State of Texas, despite checks and balances, sometimes loses sight of efficiency in the pursuit of the workload of government. J. D. Wiswall is a young man coming straight to the seat of Texas government in Austin, Texas, population of 950,715, from the pastoral lands of Brady, Texas, population of 5,298 (2017 population figures). He brings with him a sense of artless innocence, a new job with benefits as a data entry clerk with the Texas Department of Unemployment and Benefits, a sports bag filled with pecan based treats from Brady - and his much adored bicycle. In Brady a bicycle is a perfectly adequate form of transportation. In Austin it is considered another form of suicide. Many of the things that make Austin and the Texas Hill Country a magnet for young adults of all backgrounds are present in this novel. The user friendly, convenient closeness of the University of Texas, County and State Government, downtown shopping and partying on 6th Street, museums and parks, restaurants of all ethnicities work to keep natives, students and visitors happy. J.D. is able to find an affordable place in Hyde Park not too far from work, and his three co-data keyers at the Department of Unemployment and Benefits are all helpful and instant friends. Deborah is a long term employee with Texas State in the data entry department, grey infiltrating the red in her hair. She is fully versed on the antique DOS system used by the state to keep track of the unemployed and their benefits. She is a touch maternal, a good teacher and very sweet. Deborah's son is a mixed up lazy kid in his thirties, still living with Mama and is, despite having a nice dependable car, usually unemployed. Rita has also been a state employee for many years, often bringing home-baked goodies for break times, keeps track of the workplace lottery tickets and talks often of her very busy children, most working night shifts, and her many grandchildren who spend much of their time at her home. Like Deborah, Rita dreams of retiring but she fears she would have to win the lottery to do so. Conchino is, like J.D., in his early twenties, and he doesn't speak if he can text. His passion is his 1999 Honda Prelude, mechanic-oriented chores and despite his shy and retiring personality, illegal road races. Conchino usually drives the ladies to and from work, as neither have a dependable vehicle. From day one the crew sail along comfortably. J.D. joins in the office Lottery system - donate what you can afford and split wins five ways - and they all are dreaming of ways to save the Texas government money in the system for the $10,000 reward which they would also split 5 ways. Unfortunately turning in their boss, Brent Baker doesn't seem kosher despite the fact that he is a millstone around their necks, usually beered up even in the daytime and a classic abuser of the perks of government employment with his two hour lunches out of his five or six hour work days. This
Not much of a plot, not much character development, not much of a denouement. Basically we are presented with four people working in mind numbing data entry state jobs. Zany developments and rich character development do not ensue...this book had potential ( how about more exposure of the girl reporter with the briefly mentioned Adam’s apple). In general my recommendation is take a pass on this book.