Frank Bonham Dallas Shaffer - Essay

Dallas Shaffer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The plot [of Chief], which includes a few improbable twists, essentially revolves around what happens when old treaties reveal that [an Indian] band owns a portion of the city where Chief lives. Despite the slangy language, lower-class milieu and rough characters, the lack of in-depth characterization makes this novel not much closer to reality than more conventional middle-class fare. But, like most of Bonham's other books … it's a fast-paced, smoothly written, lively read. (p. 120)

Dallas Shaffer, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the November, 1971 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co. A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1971), November, 1971.

[In Hey, Big Spender seventeen year old] Cool Hankins finds himself fronting for an old vagrant named Breathing Man who's inherited over half a million dollars and philanthropically assigned it all to what Cool dubiously calls a hard luck lottery. Cool is to be paid $100 a week to interview applicants at the Hope office, report each evening to the underground storm drain that is Breathing Man's summer home … and deliver … a suitable sum to the day's winner. But Cool becomes increasingly upset by the cases and the need to reject all but one each day; he's further discouraged when the hustlers and the nuts come to outnumber the "real heartbreakers."… Then Cool's aunt steps in and talks Breathing Man into setting up a chain of foster homes on the order of the one in which she herself has raised Cool and dozens of other abandoned waifs. In a way Aunt Josie's intervention is a relief for all, but it does make the whole enterprise even more of an essay, and the excitement that often turns Bonham's social service into fiction is not abundant here. Not a Dogtown event, then, but the characteristic light touch, nice people, and easy dialogue (which seems true without seeming to try) redeem. (p. 201)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1972 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), February 15, 1972.