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The King of Kings County Paperback – August 29, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Terrell’s debut novel, 2001’s The Huntsman, earned him comparisons with William Faulkner and Herman Melville. This second novel, which falls into the same "real estate" camp as Richard Ford’s Independence Day, Steven Millhauser’s Martin Dressler, and Jane Smiley’s Good Faith, continues to chart Kansas City on the literary map. Terrell successfully renders the drama of Americana, with its capitalistic aspirations, racial complexity, and familial rites amid the bunting and rolling stage of Kings County. Although his female characters are little more than passing scenery, and the story’s pace can be occasionally plodding, Terrell has still managed to delve into familiar lands and procure our own unfamiliar, throbbing soul, that meshwork of grand visions, petty cons, sons, fathers, and cheap land.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Set in the mid- and late twentieth century, Terrell's uneven second novel is narrated by Missourian Jack Acheson, who spent his formative years in the shadow of his father, Alton, a man singularly obsessed with building a suburban empire amid the cornfields of rural Kings County. Young Jack was both accomplice and witness to his father's dubious displays (Alton once shot a series of golf balls onto the sprawling property surrounding his boss' residence, after the man refused to return his calls). Alas, the majority of Alton's endeavors weren't nearly so benign: conspiring with the local crime family, using racial covenants to ghettoize the city's black community. Jack also kept company with a colorful group of friends, including green-eyed Geanie, the bright, brazen daughter of his father's boss. As time passes, Jack must face up to his father's legacy, manifested in the metropolitan nightmare his hometown has become. Kansas City native Terrell (The Huntsman) is at his best describing Jack's trials and tribulations, which are infinitely more interesting than his heartfelt but lecturing accounts of urban development and decay. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037699
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By duane walker on September 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't know what book this last guy is reviewing, but it's not the one I read. The book I read is about kid who grows up with a crazy father, whose school friends are mobsters, and whose girlfriend accidentally (on purpose?) does something terrible that changes all their lives. It's about high school football, and fathers and sons, and the pain of discovering that your father isn't all you thought he might be.

Yeah, it's about real estate, too -- but it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to defend the practices of suburban real estate developers as they are, accurately from my experience, described here. Block busting was a real thing. So was red lining. So were racial covenants. And those were about race -- developers used them to keep African-Americans out of white neighborhoods.

The previous post is the first person I've read who seemed to think it is "naïve"(!?) to criticize developers for using these racist methods -- except for the first post, or rant, on this site. Are these people serious? Or are they the same person, which is what it looks like to me.

What's good about this book is that it doesn't have a thesis. The characters -- both black and white -- don't agree about what's right and wrong. The narrator of this book, Jack Acheson, is funny and curious and tender. He's broken up by his love for his father and his city -- both the good things they do and the bad. And he doesn't insult the reader by describing this city as it ought to be, but rather as it really was.

Skip the politics. Read this book for the story. It's about imagination -- and that cuts across everything.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Marc Robinson on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Whitney Terrell's characters always exist in a context. In this novel, for every important character the reader knows that character's class, income, race, education and (usually) family. These frameworks help determine what the character thinks and how he acts. To me, at least, this is refreshing; for decades American writing hs been dominated by an interiority that has become monotonous. Many of our novelists' characters exist in a void. Money, for instance, is almost never mentioned, as if the pursuit of it didn't use up nearly half the waking hours of the average adult. Terrell is one of the few contemporary novelists who writes about human beings in something like the way they actually live.

To say that the characters reflect the way we live in this country is not to imply that they or the plot have the humdrum, quotidian quality that permeates most of our lives. The King of King's County is full of quirks and odd little twists. The characters are credible partly because they are set in an authentic, persuasive social context. This aspect of Terrell's writing sets him less with his contemporaries and more alongside the 19th-century novelists, with their wider canvases and larger and more varied casts of characters, and their concerns with social issues. This is not to criticize other modern novelists, but to point out that Terrell fills a gap in our literature that has gone unplugged too long.

In addition to a convincing narrative ground, the book is extremely well crafted. The plot is credible, evolving at a consistent rate, neither too fast nor too slow. The story is established in long scenes and perfectly joined chapters that are worked out in detail, but which rarely drag.
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By Kathy1055 on April 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Jack Acheson tells his story of growing up in Kansas City in the 1950's. His father, Alton Acheson, was always telling Jack about his hero, Tom Durant. Tom was the president of Union Pacific Railroad and made his fortune buying up undeveloped land cheap, then building the railroad on it. Alton saw the undeveloped land around the Kansas City area in the same way, but for future highways and suburban neighborhoods in Kings County, Kansas. A state line runs through Kansas City separating the two states and counties. Alton saw the need for future highways connecting through the two counties to make distance into the city quicker.. With an interstate, people could now move out of the city into suburbs in Kings County.

Alton did not have the money to back his ideas so he took them to the Bowen Company, (he was an "associate" of theirs). Prudential Bowen, the president of the company, had bought several acres of land in Kansas City, and had built a large shopping area and residential areas. Alton pitched his idea to Prudential then through orchestrated meetings and happenings, convincing the company and others to back him. He took Jack along with him on all his endeavors to be his cohort in manipulating or causing events to happen.

Alton was to work with Nick Garaciello, an employee of one of the investors. Nick had two children, Nikki, the daughter,and Lonnie, the son. Lonnie attended school with Jack. Alton and Nick were to go into Kings County and buy up farm lands so that they could have a thoroughfare for the highway and land for the suburbs. Nick and Alton would take their two families under the guise of picnics so they could survey the land and then approach the owners for a buyout.

Prudential Bowen's son, Henry, had a daughter named Geanie.
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