The Gay Place consists of three novels published under one cover. Each novel has a different cast of characters, but all are united by the appearance of Governor Arthur “Goddam” Fenstemaker (so called because of his frequent use of this oath). All are set in a state capital that is not named but that is clearly Austin, Texas. Although The Gay Place appears to be a political novel, its primary appeal lies in its presentation of the tensions in the private lives of its characters and the impact that Governor Fenstemaker, operating usually behind the scenes, has on all of them.
The animating feature of the first novel, The Flea Circus, is a bribe that a lobbyist offers to George Giffen, a member of the legislature. The lobbyist is actually put up to making the bribe by Alfred Rinemiller, another legislator. Giffen, an honest man, records the bribe offer and tells Governor Fenstemaker about it. Fenstemaker admires Roy Sherwood’s legislative skills and enlists him to uncover the truth about the bribe offer and avoid a scandal. Rinemiller attempts to extricate himself by maintaining that he also had been offered a bribe by the same lobbyist and even gives the story to Willie England, editor of a journal that Rinemiller helps support, so that his version of the scandal will be told first. Using the same kinds of manipulative skills that Fenstemaker admired in the legislature, Sherwood corners Rinemiller and coerces him into leaving town and ending the episode with a minimum of trouble.
In the second novel, Room Enough to Caper, the central character is Senator Neil Christiansen, whom Governor Fenstemaker has appointed to fill the term of a senator who died in office. Fenstemaker wants Christiansen to continue as senator, but Christiansen is unsure about whether he should run for election to a full term. He is concerned not...
(The entire section is 769 words.)