Fletcher Knebel Martin Levin - Essay

Martin Levin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Dark Horse" recalls those old Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper movies, where Mr. Smith or Mr. Deeds outsmart the corrupt hotshots of the System. The lifestyle here is different (the author has projected his plot four years ahead, into the climax of election year 1976), but the platitudes are familiar.

In Mr. Knebel's heavy-footed political comedy, the Jimmy Stewart role is taken by Eddie Quinn, an ex-trucker who is processed into instant Presidential timber when his party's candidate drops dead three weeks before the voting. If the bosses think they can manipulate Eddie, currently a New Jersey Turnpike Commissioner, they have another think coming—from the moment he throws away the predigested text of his acceptance speech, and comes out foresquare against "the elitists, the men from prestige universities, Wall Street lawyers, rich men's clubs." Commissioner Quinn is a "plain man" as his mother puts it, but he has picked up plenty of savvy out on those highways, along with the fumes. Some of his ideas are O.K., and some are as wild-eyed as campaign promises in real life.

Martin Levin, "Fiction: 'Dark Horse'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 23, 1972, p. 21.