Grass Roots

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

William Henry Lee IV’s life is definitely on track, and he approves of the destination. His family’s wealth allows him the option of pursuing a career in government service, and his natural talent has secured him an enviable reputation as chief of staff to a powerful and respected senator. In fact, Will Lee’s performance as the senator’s aide bids fair to assure that the senator will support his bid for the Senate in the next election. Furthermore, his personal life is most satisfactory indeed, in that he has persuaded an articulate and attractive woman to agree to become his bride within the same time frame.

Needless to say, trouble is just around the corner. First Lee is persuaded to act as defense counsel for a young man accused of a violent rape and murder with racial overtones. Then his boss is suddenly incapacitated, and Lee must accelerate his plans for a political career if he is to have one at all. Not only that, his sexual orientation is called into question when his campaign manager is revealed to be a practicing homosexual. Finally, his opponent proves to be a charismatic and well-financed television minister who has the support of a deadly white-supremacist organization called The Elect. The Elect not only supports Lee’s opponent but is willing to kill to ensure that Lee is not elected.

Woods’ earlier novel CHIEFS became a highly successful television miniseries and two of his later novels, UNDER THE LAKE and WHITE CARGO, are under development as feature films. The foregoing is essential information insofar as GRASS ROOTS is concerned in that the work has all the characteristics of good television drama. The action is quite often fast and furious, with the focus shifting from one well-defined character to another without losing the reader’s attention for a moment. GRASS ROOTS may not have the tawdry impact of FAVORITE SON, but it holds the reader’s interest and possesses a refreshing ability to surprise. More important, it is gratifying to see an author allow his characters to dictate the course of the work as opposed to pushing them about like pawns on a literary chessboard.