The Naked Savages

Fred Mustard Stewart, Author Forge $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-86790-4
Stewart's third saga of the Savage family (following The Young Savages and The Magnificent Savages) takes the wealthy Old New York clan from 1897 and the Spanish-American War through the stock market crash of 1929. The main characters are a roster of period types: Johnny Savage, a rich Fifth Avenue banker; his Jewish wife, Rachel; the heartless bootlegger Cesare Savage, Rachel's son and Johnny's stepson; Johnny's daughter Brook Savage, a flapper; Gloria Gilmore, a Hollywood starlet. Supporting characters are often real people: Theodore Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan, D.W. Griffith, Ernest Hemingway, Chiang Kai-Shek, among others. Cesare takes center stage amid this large cast, as he blackmails members of his family and falls in with the gangster Arnold Rothstein. Johnny loses a leg in Cuba fighting alongside his friend Teddy Roosevelt; later he ""discovers"" Gloria and introduces her to Griffith. Brook is framed for murder when her rich husband shoots her Greenwich Village lover. Rachel's daughter, Beatrice Savage, a spinster social worker, marries an Italian Fascist, and Nick Savage, a young playboy, hangs out with Hemingway and finds himself in financial trouble. Stewart's settings, his sweeping aims, and his use of historical figures amount to little more than soap opera. The characters speak in clich s: when Cesare saves Nick from being kidnapped, Nick exclaims, ""What a swell brother I have!"" Stewart's authorial voice frequently breaks up the action with distracting explication: the Spanish-American War would ""lead eventually to Pearl Harbor and Vietnam."" A subplot involving Johnny's Chinese half-sister Julie Chin and her daughter Jasmine surfaces periodically with no real connection to other events. Nevertheless, the assortment of adultery, war, murder, organized crime, intrigue, glitter and gluttony swirl together to make a racy drama, not to mention a painless way to learn some American history. Agent, Peter Lampack. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 448 pages - 978-0-8125-6685-7
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