(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The protagonist is the descendant of generations of uncompromising Chicago Republicans, a family which made its wealth through questionable means. After his own father is sent to prison for defiantly evading income taxes, Gance chooses a safe career within the system. Gance is a cautious young man.

His name itself is a compromise--Jackeson, for his mother’s family, and Gance, for his father’s. It is characteristic of Gance that he has refused to commit himself to a permanent love relationship, preferring instead a series of affairs with married women. His near-heroic attempt to be his own man comes to nothing when he finally sells out completely to the machine to become a United States senator in the pocket of a wealthy man. Still, Ward Just somehow manages to make Gance a sympathetic character.

The plot of JACK GANCE is engrossing. Just brings the characters to life with lean, fast-moving prose. This is a thoughtful book of complex issues, a realist’s work of fiction in which the world is not merely black and white, but many shades of gray. In taking this realistic approach to fiction, Just creates an antihero for the 1980’s--a man who rejects idealism for practicality.

The author obviously knows the political terrain of Chicago and of Washington well and renders them vividly. He shows how the quality of loyalty becomes perverted in the political arena, and how “diplomacy” becomes another term for selling out.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXV, January 15, 1989, p.835.

The Christian Science Monitor. January 4, 1989, p.13.

Kirkus Reviews. LVI, November 15, 1988, p.1630.

Library Journal. CXIV, January, 1989, p.102.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. January 15, 1989, p.2.

The New York Review of Books. XXXVI, June 15, 1989, p.12.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, January 1, 1989, p.1.

Newsweek. CXIII, January 16, 1989, p.57.

Publishers Weekly CCXXXIV, November 18, 1988, p.64.

The Washington Post Book World. XIX, January 29, 1989, p.3.