Things Undone

Max Childers, Author Gibbs Smith Publishers $16.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-941711-10-4
When an 18-wheeler rear-ends his 1967 Pontiac and knocks him unconscious, Charles Fite has a mystical experience, hearing a voice that tells him he is God on earth and instructs him to start his own TV ministry. Released from the hospital, he hires Roy Bunch, a slovenly, alcoholic lawyer, to file a personal injury suit for a million dollars against the trucker who hit him. Pitted against Bunch is Trip Gant, an aggressively brilliant lawyer who's cursed with incurable constipation. Add to this the presiding judge of the case, T. Thurston Cope, who contemptuously refers to all non-Christians as ``jackals'' and is firmly on Gant's side, and we have a setting reminiscent of a Southern Gothic Inherit the Wind . Childers's narrative, however, revolves around Fite's slowly dissolving ego. When Bunch stumbles onto the fact that Fite has murdered a fellow evangelist, and asks for a mistrial, Fite pulls a .22 in the courtroom and kills Judge Cope, causing the crowd to riot and provoking a mental breakdown in Gant. Childers is so obsessed with portraying his central character, Fite--which he does vividly and convincingly--that he fails to exploit what should be the crucial drama of his book: the courtroom battle between the two lawyers. So although his premise (a corrupt judicial system dealing with the frightening consequences of insanity) is provocative, the execution is not up to the mark. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
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