Fine Lines

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FINE LINES is the lightest sort of entertainment. Its mystery does not mystify. Its issues are at best quirky and mildly charming. Even though the state legislators of Oklahoma are being murdered one by one in quick succession, it is difficult for the reader to get too upset about that, because the narrator, One-eyed Mack, gives such a clear priority over the investigation to his wife’s acceptance in Chicago of the coveted Chocolate Fork award for her nationwide chain of drive-through convenience stores. Then there is the equally engaging problem of the multiple mummies of John Wilkes Booth, which just keep on piling up in the basement of the Museum of the Cherokee Strip. And certainly attention must be paid to the restaurant-grease-recycling and busfuel business owned by Mack’s own son. Eventually, the apparently serial murders are solved, but it is clear from the opening lines that the real interests of the novel are in gently spoofing American society, and in exploring, somewhat gingerly, the role of good and evil in public and private life.

In FINE LINES everyone from Hank Aaron to Isaac Stern makes a walk on appearance. Perhaps one of the most interesting characters in the book is the exceedingly rich Ross Perot-like figure, Jess Deaton. He returns to his hometown of Diamond Grove with suitcases full of money and a head full of ideas about how to improve life there. He creates a simplistic utopia where teachers make first- rate salaries, all students who finish high school are guaranteed a college education, and even the factory workers attend the Tuesday Book and Poetry Club meetings. It is an interesting idea that nearly puts the book in the category of science fiction and fantasy. FINE LINES is a great book to read on the plane, just as long as it is a short flight.