Mr. Texas

Knopf. Sept. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780593537374. $29. F
Any novel about politics in present-day Texas is almost certain to be about corruption, looniness, and knee-jerk reactionism. There’s no room for an idealist in the State House, with its 151 members ranked strictly in order of seniority. But an idealist is what Sonny Lamb—veteran, rancher, Texan for six generations back—is. A fixer got Sonny elected, judging him a naïf without ideas, amenable to being led. But Sonny turns out to have a mind of his own. He wants to introduce a bill to reclaim the water beneath the bone-dry soil so that ranchers like him don’t have to sell their spreads to pay their bills. But things don’t work that way in Texas: somebody pays for anything that gets passed, and nobody rocks the boat. Still, by the end of this novel, Sonny emerges victorious, making him maybe the first great semi-decent politician Texas has seen in decades.
VERDICT Wright’s (The End of October) latest is at its best when characterizing the animals in this political swamp; other times it borders on the formulaic. But he carries it off well in this work that compares with the political novels of Ward Just and Thomas Mallon.
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