The King of Kings County
This extended saga of the Acheson family is recommended with one caveat: though this dramatic tale feels realistic, readers should not confuse its historical background with actual happenings in real estate development around Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950s. Jack, the son of Alton Acheson, relates his father’s schemes to seek wealth and social position. Even as a youngster, Jack considered himself to be a victim; he suffers embarrassment due to his con-man father’s practice of buying land for pennies, in comparison to its actual value. Jack first obtains his education in the business world by hearing about his father’s unethical land deals. Later, Jack defends those transactions in court as his father’s lawyer.
The novel incorporates Jack’s struggles in growing up amid football games and college parties into a sensual yet corrupt narrative. His infatuation with Geanie Bowen, granddaughter of a local land baron, runs throughout his recall of family life. Over time, Jack’s community becomes a society shaped by segregation, highway construction, and crooked heroes. The mafia is considered a successful business model.
This farcical tale contains insightful historical detail on inner city and suburban growth. The author has a crisp, captivating style, and he employs a shocking finale. But although readers will be drawn into the entertaining plot, they may feel cheated by the emotional closing, and withdraw any pity they might have had for Jack.