The Keys to Tulsa

Brian Fair Berkey, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $18.95 (398p) ISBN 978-0-87113-314-4
Berkey's manic and wildly raunchy debut novel is not likely to be warmly received by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. He takes us on a seven-day out-of-control grand tour of this Western city's extensive seamy side. Berkey leaves skid marks on Oral Roberts University and racist country clubs, and rampages through the red-light district with quick pit stops in striptease parlors and drug dens. The company is less than wholesome: hookers, heroin addicts, a murderer or two, extortionists, millionaire prairie preachers and yahoos galore. It's as if the cast of Taxi Driver were to invade the set of True Grit ; a sort of redneck film noire. And it succeeds smashingly. Richter Boudreau, the novel's central character, is the ultimate scamp. He's a wisecracking Berkeley graduate in deep trouble with gangsters and the police. Not the least of his concerns is that he owes a lot of money to a temperamental drug dealer involved in blackmailing some of Tulsa's leading citizens. Richter's love life--by turns absurdly romantic and unbelievably sleazy--only complicates the mess. One of the most fiendish characters is Richter's very own mother, a glorious manipulator bent on straightening out her errant son. Mixed up in the story is Richter's partner in vice, journalist George Brinkman, who is investigating the death of a topless dancer, the novel's main mystery. Berkey's only bad habit is his continual mockery of the characters' cornball accents. It's the one note of condescension in a novel of great sympathy and enjoyment. The keys to Berkey's Tulsa unlock a raucous and exciting world. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-671-70727-9
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