A Texas Literary Classic
A TV western star quits his successful series and returns to Dallas to make a documentary film that reveals the truth about his home town. His quest forces him to learn if he is capable of using his six-gun for real as he moves from booze and radical politics in oil men´s palaces into the infamous Carousel Club and the underworld of arms and dope smuggling in a city ripe for the murder of a President.
In this, "his finest work may be his big novel of Texas in the late ´60s, Strange Peaches (published in 1972). Narrated by television and film star John Lee Wallace, the book depicts a tumultuous, hedonistic vision of Dallas at the tail-end of the sixties - one in which excess and innocence, an undertow of violence and unhappiness, and the shifting unease of a society unsure of itself finally comes to a head with the homegrown assassination of President Kennedy.
Wallace is an unemotional and nearly humorless protagonist, but it works to soften the noise inspired by the strippers, con men, billionaires, and assorted oddballs who frequent these pages. The star of an ultra-fabricated television show about the Old West called "Six Guns Across Texas," Wallace has taken a sabbatical from California to return to his home in Dallas, where he plans on making a ´real´ documentary about the city. Engaging his photojournalist friend Buster to help him with the footage, Wallace edges his way across town in a haze - like any good Hemingway character, Wallace engages in a different sort of drink every page or so - and stumbles his way into lavish parties, conservative breakfasts, and rubs shoulders with professional football players and Jack Ruby.
Strange Peaches is adept at creating a setting, characters, and a tone not easily forgotten, but perhaps the book´s greatest strengths are contained in the little vignettes that brilliantly fuse together the disparate lifestyles to which Wallace is privy. There´s the scene where the eccentric billionaire (is there any other type?) Big Earl begins an impromptu vocal performance "against a backdrop of frozen spinach " at the grocery store; Wallace´s friend/nemesis Franklin clubbing game birds to death with a stick at a right wing "hunt club"; our narrator´s mother reminiscing about a religious experience - "Honey, the most exciting thing happened the other night. I saw Jesus." It could work as pretty wicked satire, but as a counter-cultural rejoinder to everything happening around him, Wallace is too sympathetic and human and lost to come across as a know-it-all or the answer to the manifold problems presented in the book. Instead, he and his contemporaries staff a hallucinatory but oddly prescient version of a life caught between show-business artifice and an encroaching, often ugly reality. Where better to capture the extremes of a generation than within the jaws of the bigger-than-life Big D? "Texas is the reason," indeed."
By Adam S in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 8, 2011 3:23 PM; http://austinist.com/2011/02/08/mad_dogs_and_just_plain_madness_str.php
Don Graham, Texas Monthly
"When anybody asks me what Dallas was like during the time of the Kennedy assassination, I always refer them to one book: Edwin "Bud" Shrake´s STRANGE PEACHES."
New York Times Book Review
"A big novel, two parts anger to one part humor...fast and surefire. And Edwin Shrake´s narrative has been amply dosed with Dexadrine. There´s not an ounce of fat on it."
Kansas City Star
"A fine, bitter, sometimes savage but always controlled novel."