cover image Caveman Politics

Caveman Politics

Jay Atkinson. Breakaway Books, $22 (303pp) ISBN 978-1-55821-565-8

The blind dedication of an unforgettable cadre of ragtag, itinerant Cocoa Beach, Fla., jocks is transformed into a transcendent metaphor for life in this moving first novel. Convinced that his black teammate, Mike Melendez, a talented 27-year-old Trinidadian art student, has been falsely accused of raping the white girlfriend of a redneck biker, amateur rugby star Joe Dolan, a reporter for the Cocoa Beach Post-Gazette, seeks justice. Joe gets ensnarled with a slimy DA who is manipulating the judicial system for political gain. While vindicating Melendez, noble Joe also rescues a similarly innocent victim of the DA's plottings, a vagabond singer who believes he's Elvis. Unable to free himself from his internal demons, however, Joe hides behind his obsession with winning the Florida rugby championship and his impressive list of sexual conquests, avoiding his own bigotry and his considerable gifts as a writer. Ultimately, he loses a relationship with a woman he truly loves. Atkinson builds real suspense around Joe's inability to let go of his childhood pain and make a serious commitment. As probing as it is engaging, this tale keeps readers hoping that Joe can one day grow beyond the prison of his own Peter Pan slogan, ""The horror of nonexistence meant nothing when you were dancing under the Florida sun."" (Apr.)