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Friday, September 27, 2013

Sweet Thunder by Ivan Doig

Sweet, the latest from Ivan Doig, Sweet Thunder. At the end of the last novel, Whistling Season, Morrie Morgan had made a bet on the 1919 World Series and won a bundle. He and his new bride, Grace Faraday, married and spent four months honeymooning in Europe, Eastern America before returning to Butte, via San Francisco. Morgan’s former employee, Sandy Sandison, Butte’s librarian and former rancher, has bestowed his mansion to the couple after his wife has died with the one provision he can still live there. So it is 1920, Grace has a new house, Morgan is unemployed, the two old curmudgeons, Hoop and Griff, from Graces former boarding house join them. Anaconda Mining is still king of Butte much to everyone’s regret.
Morrie becomes Pluvius, his nom de plume for the editorial voice of a new upstart newspaper to counter the pulp owned by Anaconda. It isn’t the first time Morrie has changed names, which gets him in trouble with Grace who moves back to the boardinghouse. His lost luggage finally arrived. Morrie has a gambling history from Chicago and has the mob looking for him. In addition he is mistaken for the local moonshiner, Highliner. Just trying to live a simple life, Morrie keeps getting deeper and deeper into it as the past slowly creeps back, the present confounds him, and the future, well that’s anyone’s guess.
The action of this novel takes place in literary settings a well-stocked library and a newsroom. The library serves all characters well fro the well read Morrie to the fledgling reading newsboy and everyone in between. There is even a celebration of Burns on January 25th. Latin quotes and constant references to classical literature abound to satiate any reader, especially a retired English teacher.
Perhaps the most despicable character in the book is Grace. In a book of villains and crooks and back stabbers, she is by far one of the most horrendous characters I have had the displeasure of meeting. She is Morrie’s weakness and very much undermines his otherwise admirable character. She is selfish, disloyal, and utterly shameless. There are no redeeming qualities about this woman. It is she who should be apologizing to Morrie instead of the other way around. She jumps to conclusions and is too judgmental to be worthy of Morrie. She makes Cutlass a more honorable character. She is one of those horrible women we get fooled by in life.

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