Friday, July 16, 2010

The Gamble-T.P. Jones

From the author's website-

A hate crime story hits the local headlines, and then is picked up by The New York Times, when a museum exhibit honoring the oldest African-American citizen of Jackson is vandalized. Reiny Kopp – the museum director now but an activist and trickster in the 1960s – wants to respond by creating a new exhibit, the history of racism in the city, but the museum board orders him to remount the one that was vandalized. Looking for a third way, Mayor Eleanor “El” Plowman proposes that the city, which has very few black citizens, develop a program to encourage more blacks to move to Jackson. The reaction in the community is powerful and immediate.
Problems continue to accumulate in Jackson, Iowa. With the rising unemployment and stress on the budget, the city asks the public unions to take a 10 percent pay cut, an unprecedented proposal. The largest of the city unions responds by recruiting a new negotiator, Deuce Goetzinger, a man without negotiating experience but smart and tough, and Goetzinger counters the pay-cut proposal with one of his own, one so radical that it would change the power relationships in city hall should it ever be instituted. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game between Goetzinger and Aggie Klauer, the city’s negotiator.

Despite the harsh winter conditions, the city is constructing a dog track on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, taking advantage of a recently passed pari-mutuel law and rushing in order to have the first track built in the state. As Jackson’s old industrial base fades away, the city is staking its economic future on gambling and tourism. Given the high unemployment, Mayor El Plowman moves to make more of the track construction work available to local contractors, but like everything else she tries, this leads to consequences she would never have imagined, adding yet one more burden to the city in this, its year of troubles.

The dead of winter now, blizzards sweeping across the landscape in rapid succession, the conditions foretelling a massive spring flood mount up one after another.

I have to say, I struggled for a long time with this book. I am not sure why, it was interesting, the workings of small town politics was fascinating, and I liked some of the characters, especially Deuce, who was negotiating for the workers. A card player, he had a perfect poker face and manner for the job at hand.

I felt sorry for El, the mayor, who seemed out of her element some of the time. But she rallied when it counted, and in my mind, had some really good ideas, for the town,if not for the old timers, who resisted change.

Some of the writing seemed a little slow, but when it was exciting, it really captured me. It made me realize how the more things change, the more they stay the same! (but heroes always try to make the changes happen!)

I received this book from Christine at Phenix and Phenix for review. Thanks!


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