Big Bang

Little, Brown. Jan. 2019. 624p. ISBN 9780316560238. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780316560221. F
OrangeReviewStarIt's the 1950s, brought back to life, treating well- and little-known adventures of virtually all the main players. Among them: spook/B-novelist Howard Hunt (always plotting), William S. Burroughs (shoots wife in head), Marilyn Monroe (sympathetic, conflicted), JFK (trystmaster, including a one-nighter with Monroe in Bing Crosby's mansion), Jackson Pollock (howls some lyrics from a Stones song written a decade later while painting a red door black), Richard M. Nixon (thinking himself president-elect, takes off on a lark to Tijuana postelection day), Montgomery Clift (face-shattering accident), Dr. Spock (institutionalizes wife), and Buster Hendrix (later Jimi, in the army). Plus many, many more. Refreshingly, but unusually since the 1700s, the author comes out of the text at times to comment. There's a small Pt. 2 that takes in the early Sixties, ending in a significant treatment of the Kennedy assassination in the penultimate chapter, not surprisingly coming to a conclusion quite different from the Warren Commission's.
VERDICT Bowman's posthumous novel is a masterpiece, certainly long but never tedious because of the rapid focus changes. For full effect, however, readers will need better than a passing knowledge of the political and social climate of the Fifties. [See Prepub Alert, 7/19/18.]

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