Prince of Sin City by Gary Walton

Prince of Sin City by Gary Walton
2009 Finishing Line Press Georgetown, KY

This picaresque novel tells the story of Dennis Prince, a freelance news reporter, uncovering corruption in Newport, Kentucky during the late 1980s. At first Prince’s mission is to merely follow a stripper at the request of her boyfriend, Big Dick Hubris, but soon he’s caught up in a complex web of intrigue with roots far back in Newport’s history implicating some of the city’s own in the greatest crime of the century ?, the assassination of JFK.

Prince of Sin City is a farce, along the lines of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and A Confederacy of Dunces.

I don’t usually like funny books ?. I just don’t get it; although I do get that it’s funny to lack a sense of humor. If it had been anything other than a Kentucky book, I wouldn’t have gotten beyond the first few chapters. But I did continue and by the time I reached the end I was glad of it. I think many readers will enjoy this book, especially if you enjoyed the above-mentioned titles.

Walton assembles an interesting and varied cast of characters around Dennis Prince. Along with the unforgettable Big Dick Hubris, a retired wrestler turned bodyguard, there is the Countess; both characters are the sorts who survive at the edges of criminal society without actually being criminals themselves. The character Othello, a Howard man and a Harvard grad, represents the black community, literally and figuratively. There is also the rich and powerful set: Congressman McAlester, his daughter Bunny, the District Attorney Charles Degroot, and his family. It is Degroot’s death and lost memoir that are at the heart of this book.

There was a lot about Newport’s history of corruption, which is legendary and goes back to the Civil War. Walton includes accounts of the beginning stages of the crack epidemic in Cincinnati and Newport. He draws a connection between Newport’s politicians, the Mafia, and the white supremacists groups in their attempt to wage war against black gangs and turn a profit.

My favorite part of the novel was the reading of Degroot’s manuscript. This section was not farcical at all; it was a gripping account of the events leading up to and immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy. Around the same time that I was reading this book Erykah Badu released her video, Window Seat ?, in which she walks to the sight were Kennedy was killed and takes off her clothes. Badu’s video and this book highlighted that event as a turning point in this nations history, a traumatic event our society is still processing.

Walton calls the assassination the greatest crime of the century ?. I’m inclined to think of it in terms Malcolm X used, chickens coming home to roost ?, but still they come and still we are dealing with the ramifications. It’s a tribute to Walton’s writing that when he chose to be serious he kept me on the edge of my seat through the entire second act. I can appreciate why he structured his novel the way he did. The world we inherited is a farce.

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