cover image Boneyards


Robert Campbell, R. Wright Campbell. Pocket Books, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70319-6

Best known for his humorous series featuring Chicago sewer inspector Jimmy Flannery (The Cat's Meow, etc.), Campbell here turns his considerable skills to the story of corrupt cop Ray Sharkey, a man whose entire life consists of doing the wrong things for the right reasons. The opening pages reveal that Sharkey is on the take and will be convicted and imprisoned for murder. However, the subsequent depiction of his self-destructive path to that point takes second place to a classic portrait of Chicago polities and political maneuvering. Sharkey began taking bribes to cover medical bills for his retarded daughter and, later, for his wife, who is dying of cancer in an expensive sanitarium; the black whore who has become his mistress adds to the financial burden. Even though he knows he is being set up as a fall guy in the politicized climate following the 1976 death of Mayor Richard Daley, Ray presses on, sure he can outsmart or outcharm his enemies. Adding to the book's appeal is this remarkable character's family, a fascinating microcosm of big-city Irish Catholic life. Darker than most of Campbell's work, this strong novel is nevertheless leavened with humor, notably a hilarious dissertation on the various uses of a famous 12-letter obscenity. (Nov.)