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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The nation in 1935 was, “from California to the New York island,” shattered--emotionally, financially, and spiritually. For quite a number of Americans, the two most important factors in their lives were the timing of the next meal and the location of the next bed. Nevertheless, despite the national misery, radio was becoming the mass-entertainment media and the morning newspaper remained an important ingredient in any American breakfast. Thus, when Betsy Throckmorton Winton returns to Texas after years in New York, she is confident that she and her husband Ted can profit financially and perform a community service by managing her father’s newspaper and radio station.

Allowing Betsy and Ted to manage the newspaper and radio station proves to be an ideal arrangement for Betsy’s financially prudent father, Ben. He has his beloved daughter at home, and he can devote his considerable energies to football--particularly to the fortunes of Texas Christian University. Betsy’s return is also an important feature in the life of Betsy’s high school sweetheart, Bob Walker, an up-and-coming sportswriter for a Dallas newspaper.L Betsy hits the ground running and is soon deep in an expose of what she terms the “Texas Murder Machine.” It appears that a Texas Ranger is luring unsuspecting transients into fake bank robberies so that he can murder them for the reward money offered by the Texas Banking Association. Betsy’s investigation, however, results in the death of her husband, and she must cope with that grief and the trials and tribulations of a renewed relationship with Bob Walker.

Dan Jenkins delights in the unexpected revelation (“she was either talking on the phone to her suicidal daughter, a struggling actress, or her suicidal son, who also wanted to be an actress”), and he is equally adept at creating believable and wholly hilarious characters who are thoroughly Texan. With the exception of Rita Mae Brown, few authors are as understanding of or as faithful to the details of Southern small-town life. With a literary whoop and a holler, Jenkins rampages through this boisterous novel with all the enthusiasm of a cowboy on Saturday night and with all the subtlety of a quarterback sneak.