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In 1973 I purchased this book for $.97 in a remainder bin at K-Mart. It is one of the most memorable books I have ever read, and I have read it at least five times. I was floored to find that it has been republished along with 3 other books by David Rhodes that I was not aware of. I have of course ordered them as well as a new copy of this. I literally love this book but I will not part with my precious hardback copy (not, alas, the original but one I paid a used book seller $30 for about 8 years ago) so having a paperback to share with friends will be a delight.
The Sledge family, a truly bizarre group of outlaws and misfits live at the dead end of a run-down neighborhood in Des Moines. Behind their house are the gates to an underground city. Anyone who approaches the gate is swallowed up and not seen again. Everyone in town knows about this, but no one mentions it. Now this might make it seem that this is some kind of horror story, but that is really only a sub-theme. The real story concerns the disintegration of the family into criminality and destructiveness, a disintegration which is opposed by the only sister, a blind girl and to some extent by the narrator, one of the younger brothers. I am a little vague because I have not read the book in a couple of years, although I intend to start my sixth reading shortly.
The Last Fair Deal Going Down is is richly plotted, superbly written and will remain with you for life. Please read and review it. I would love to hear others' comments on this extraordinary book.
(P.S. I have asked anyone I have ever met from Des Moines is they have ever heard of this book. I would have thought it might have achieved some fame or notoriety there since the city is really one of the main characters. So far no one I have asked had heard of it.)
There is nothing worse than finishing a book and feeling like your time has been wasted. Though I had high hopes for this book, The Last Fair Deal Going Down is ultimately guilty of this grave offense.
(As a warning, this review contains some spoilers, although in my opinion they are fairly minor, vague, and unsurprising ones.)
The Last Fair Deal Going Down is the story of the hardscrabble Sledge clan of Des Moines, Iowa. It is written as a first-person narration by Reuben Sledge, the youngest of the family's several children, ostensibly the text of a book-within-a-book which Reuben composes for his sister Nellie. Through one externally-imposed misfortune or self-inflicted tragedy after another, the Sledge clan is slowly diminished in number. Their standard means of committing their deceased family members' remains to the earth is to place the body in one of the junk cars which son Paul Sledge spends his time repairing and push the automotive coffin down into the underworld known as the City - a two-mile wide, miasma-enshrouded portal to which is conveniently located in the back yard of the Sledge family home.
The Last Fair Deal Going Down is thoroughly engrossing, and at times - such as the section depicting Reuben's older brother Will's obsessive stalking of a young woman from whom he rents a room, or the one recounting Reuben's terrified efforts to stave off autistic memory loss after suffering a head injury in a farming accident - Rhodes' writing is deeply, disturbingly effecting.
The problem with it is that it never reconciles the seeming incongruity of its premise as part Midwestern human interest hard-luck tale and part surrealist horror fable.Read more ›
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I would say that this is for readers that enjoy a dose of weird. It is well written and contains a very engrossing description of Des Moines. A couple of times you have to keep the focus when the author transitions from one story to another but in the end the whole book is satisfying. I am currently reading the second book, "The Easter House" (absolutely no connection with this one) and it is even better. Seems to me that Mr. Rhodes is a peculiar(in a good sense) writer, maybe a little gothic and definitely unashamed of being part of the middle of the country. And rightly so.
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