by Edwin Shrake
978-0-9798391-1-5, Trade Paper
A TV western star quits his successful series and returns to Dallas to make a documentary film that reveals the truth about his home town. His quest forces him to learn if he is capable of using his six-gun for real as he moves from booze and radical politics in oil men´s palaces into the infamous Carousel Club and the underworld of arms and dope smuggling in a city ripe for the murder of a President.
In this, "his finest work may be his big novel of Texas in the late ´60s, Strange Peaches (published in 1972). Narrated by television and film star John Lee Wallace, the book depicts a tumultuous, hedonistic vision of Dallas at the tail-end of the sixties - one in which excess and innocence, an undertow of violence and unhappiness, and the shifting unease of a society unsure of itself finally comes to a head with the homegrown assassination of President Kennedy.
Strange Peaches is adept at creating a setting, characters, and a tone not easily forgotten, but perhaps the book´s greatest strengths are contained in the little vignettes that brilliantly fuse together the disparate lifestyles to which Wallace is privy. There´s the scene where the eccentric billionaire (is there any other type?) Big Earl begins an impromptu vocal performance "against a backdrop of frozen spinach " at the grocery store; Wallace´s friend/nemesis Franklin clubbing game birds to death with a stick at a right wing "hunt club"; our narrator´s mother reminiscing about a religious experience - "Honey, the most exciting thing happened the other night. I saw Jesus." It could work as pretty wicked satire, but as a counter-cultural rejoinder to everything happening around him, Wallace is too sympathetic and human and lost to come across as a know-it-all or the answer to the manifold problems presented in the book. Instead, he and his contemporaries staff a hallucinatory but oddly prescient version of a life caught between show-business artifice and an encroaching, often ugly reality.