Bing Crosby's Last Song

Lester Goran, Author Picador USA $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-19540-3
In 1968, a 49-year-old small-time attorney learns that his heart is failing and he has only months to live. That is where Goran (Tales from the Irish Club, etc.) begins his surprisingly merry picaresque novel about Daly ""Right"" Racklin and all the people he generously looks after in his Irish Pittsburgh neighborhood. The merriment is surprising because death is always so close. Daly's Uncle Finnerty lies in a coma; Dr. Richard I. Pierce (Doc Rest in Peace) has been waiting 20 years for his organs to fail; Michelle Shortall's body is slowly, fatally calcifying, turning her to stone (Daly has known Michelle since he committed adultery with her widowed aunt); Owney O'Doherty, one of Racklin's drinking buddies, dies sitting at the wheel of his Cadillac; even their neighborhood is threatened by the bulldozers of the ever-expanding University of Pittsburgh. Living in the shadow of his father, an attorney and local hero who fought all the good fights, Daly never pretends to live up to the nickname he has inherited from his dad. Indeed, Daly seems happier with the mantle of his Uncle Finnerty, who called himself the Wrong Racklin and sought ""an eighth deadly sin."" But when not drinking at one of his many haunts (where his cronies wax nostalgic for the time when ""Bing Crosby sang only for us on the haunted sidewalks of our youth""), Daly spends his days looking after those who can't look after themselves. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that he has earned the name Right, perhaps better than his father--even if he himself never realizes it. The substance of the book is not the plot but the stories the men swap over their drinks and the intricate relationships within a vibrant community dying before its time--all of it enveloped in an elegiac tenderness. Editor, George Witte; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-0-312-20398-6
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