The Last Fair Deal Going Down
by David Rhodes
Reuben Sledge has set out to write his story. “This is my book, written as a
chronicle of myself hidden within the grayness of a story of the people and of
the City itself. . . . To reach where I am now you must read it. I must write it
in order to go on. That is to say I must write it in order to survive.”
Survival has been the Sledge way since Reuben’s father first moved to Des Moines. Yet the family seems cursed, and one by one, they are slipping away. First Reuben’s oldest brother is hanged for the murder of his wife. Then another brother is committed to the asylum for spying on the woman he loves. But it’s the rape and disgrace of his beloved sister Nellie that drives Reuben into a despair so deep that he sets himself in opposition to the people of Des Moines. Into the depths of this depression wanders Tabor, lovely and vulnerable, who revives Reuben and sets him alive with the promise of her love.
Beneath it all hangs the City, “not a city like Des Moines itself, but an inner City of Des Moines . . . or a lower City. No one has ever gotten out of the City.” The City has claimed each of his dead relatives, and when Reuben learns that Tabor has descended into the City, he determines, in a moment of panic, to enter himself and bring her out. Thus begins the novel’s second act, a harrowing journey through the horrors of the City and among its inhabitants, a ghastly assemblage of dwellers who’ve crafted new lives for themselves in the underworld.
Originally published in 1972, Rhodes has crafted a powerful debut that is as much a lament for a generation slipping away as it is the careful telling of our common ancestry.
Read an excerpt from The Last Fair Deal Going Down (you will be transferred to Milkweed Editions)
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