Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Helluva Guy

A Helluva Guy by A. K. Daniels
(Xlibris / 1-436-34937-0 / 978-1-436-34937-6 / September 2008 / 252 pages / $19.99 / Amazon $17.99)

Reviewed by Juliet Waldron for PODBRAM

When a Capitol City reporter is assigned to write a memorial piece on a deceased member of a prominent family, Harold Springer—Congressman, Senator, Ambassador, Secretary of Labor—he finds most of Springer’s associates are far more inclined to reminisce about a friend of his—the far less well-known MacAllister Davis. Davis is cut from different cloth than the privileged, (and, as it turns out,) spoiled frat boy Springer; in fact, “Mac” is the archetypical poor boy making good. As a football star, Mac gains entrance to prestigious Essex Hall College. The scholarship he’s earned isn’t sufficient to pay all the bills, so he covers the shortfall by assisting smugglers during Prohibition, an occupation with real danger. This is followed by a brief, bright career as a New Deal politician, and then, with the onset of The War, Mac enters the service in the OSS. Time and again, following each source, the narrator/reporter runs into stories about a brave and honorable Mac. These are in sharp contrast with the shocking, true story of the publicly much-lauded Harold Springer, who proves himself over and again to have been a real life rat, coasting, apparently into eternity, on his wealth and family connections. There is no doubt by the end of the book just who the “Helluva Guy” really is!

The differences between the backcountry and Capitol City are well drawn, and if you’re a Pennsylvania native of a certain age, you might even be able to figure out exactly who, in the 1930’s through WW2 politics, these players actually are. I especially liked the western PA scenes, which perfectly catch the rhythm of a small, rural buttoned-up community. If you’ve ever wanted to understand (or relive) life in The States between the wars, reading A Helluva Guy is an excellent way to get started. The characters are shrewdly observed; the writing has all the immediacy of an eyewitness. There’s a Great Gatsby feel to the story that I really enjoyed, as well as the author’s sharp, dry humor and laudable eye for period detail.

See Also: The Author's Website
The Kirkus Discoveries Review

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