(A big, touching, hilarious debut novel about loving, feud...)
A big, touching, hilarious debut novel about loving, feuding, fireworks--and your average extraordinary family whose home is the largest drive-in movie theatre in the world. It's the 1960s in Jacksonville, Florida (where the sixties are still the fifties), and some of America's last sweet moments of innocence are unfolding out on the coastal highway at the Flamingo Drive-In Theatre, owned and operated by the Lee family. Patriarch Hubert Lee has a spirit and ego to match the size of his drive-in: "The symbol of human power and aspiration, the stairway to heaven," he says, describing the gigantic screen tower. But his ego is at its most unforgiving in his dealings with Turner West. Turner owns the funeral home on land adjacent to the Flamingo and wants to put a cemetery on property that Hubert owns and will never, ever, under any circumstances sell!--his gleeful stubbornness spiking an already intense rivalry between them. So when Hubert's teenage son, Abe, develops his first full-blown adolescent crush, it makes perfect, devilish sense that the object of his desire should be Grace West, Turner's only daughter. Abe Lee--earnest, devoted to his family, keenly and happily observant--is the perfect narrator for this beguiling tale. Especially since his star-crossed love for Grace becomes common knowledge, and he's suddenly the focus of everyone's attention. That is, when their attention isn't focused on something else: the often ballistic flare-ups between the feuding fathers; the shenanigans of the two young, seductive female Flamingo employees; the calm radiance of Abe's mother (behind which the secrets of her heart are well hidden); Abe's sister, Louise, blossoming with alarming speed into a stunning, willful young woman; the preternatural wisdom of Pete Maws, the retired railroad worker who pulls his caboose onto the Flamingo grounds one day and stays; Judge Lester, breathtakingly graceful when he's towing the Flamingo's banner behind his small plane, breathtakingly clumsy when his feet are on the ground; the canine rantings of an insane, beloved dog named Frank; the annual Fourth of July pyrotechnic extravaganzas that the Flamingo is famous for, and with which the Lees and their magnificent enterprise will find a permanent--not to mention brilliantly lit--place in local lore. As Abe moves from adolescence toward adulthood--his love for Grace and his understanding of his family and his role in it maturing along with him--he leads us on a deliriously spirited tour of the hearts and minds, the dreams and desires, the foibles and eccentricities, of the whole Flamingo set. Along the way, we are reminded of who we were--and how we came to be who we are--with deep tenderness and insight, and glorious good cheer.
Bachelor in English, University Oklahoma, 1977. Master of Arts in English, University Oklahoma, 1979. Doctor of Philosophy in English, University Iowa, 1986.
Owner, operator numerous movie theaters, Oklahoma and Texas, 1966-1976.
Councilman, City of Iowa City, 1984-1988, 94-98.
Married Terry Ann Abbott, October 10, 1966 (divorced May 1971). 1 child, Timothy Gabriel. Married Ginger Russell, May 16, 1979.
Children: Benjamin Knight Russell, Jennifer Pearl.