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Salvation Boulevard: A Novel Hardcover – September 9, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Best known for American Hero (1994), the jaunty political novel that became the film Wag the Dog, Beinhart offers something less jaunty but definitely more ambitious in this splendid religious legal thriller. When Ahmad Nazami, a Muslim scholarship student at the University of the Southwest, confesses under duress to the murder of Nathaniel MacLeod, an atheist philosophy professor, PI Carl Van Wagener, a born-again Christian, agrees to help Manny Goldfarb, a celebrated Jewish defense lawyer, prove Nazami's innocence. Van Wagener, a member of charismatic pastor Paul Plowright's Cathedral of the Third Millennium, is soon on the trail of a missing manuscript MacLeod wrote disproving God's existence. In a beautifully understated author's note, Beinhart lays out the factual basis for his provocative morality tale and invites readers to visit his Web site, which includes a forum for an ongoing dialogue about religion, irreligion, faith, belief, and their intersections with politics, war, money, life, and death. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

Beinhart tells the tale of recovered alcoholic Carl Van Wagener, a man torn between the comfort of belonging to his evangelical megachurch and his respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. He is an ordinary man, a cop turned private investigator, and he is ill-equipped to confront the logical, theological, and philosophical dilemmas that arise when he is asked to investigate the murder charge against a Muslim student arrested for killing a local professor who questioned the existence of God. But pressure from within his megachurch—and from his true-believing wife—to drop the case, force him to question faith, religion, marriage, and even the beneficent God who will welcome him into a Christian-only heaven. Beinhart does a fine job describing the treacly paradise of the Church of the Third Millennium and a finer job ratcheting up the pressure on his fragile hero. A few plot elements seem over the top—e.g., “privatizing” a university’s endowment—but Beinhart adds notes showing that George Bush did exactly that. Deep-dyed evangelicals will be angered, but many others will be unable to put this one down. --Thomas Gaughan

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Edition edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,932,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Kall VINE VOICE on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Yep. This is one of those can't put it down once you start it novels. The author, who wrote the book the movie Wag The Dog, was adapted from, has come out with a sure winner that kept me up waaay past my bedtime.

Beinhart is a very savvy political observer in the real world, writing for huffingtonpost, opednews and other political sites. But he is brilliant when it comes to weaving stories that are built upon the politics, the characters and issues of the day.

Salvation Boulevard is a mystery and a.... not a thriller, though it has plenty of thrilling moments, not an adventure, though the story takes you on quite a ride... I'm not sure exactly how you'd categorize it. A theopolitical action story?

Beinhart walks you into the world of the evangelical right wing megachurch, into the mind of its members and its leaders and he creates a very believable collection of characters who learn to love, hate or despise.

Even if you're not interested in politics, there's a great story here. I understand it's been optioned to be made into a movie and that's not at all surprising. It should be put on the screen and when it is, it will be a hit I'll be sure to watch.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kay Kelly on April 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, I must acknowledge that I've never had any contact with evangelical Christians. So I can't judge whether the author's portrayal of their beliefs is accurate and fair. I intend to check out the discussion he encouraged at his website, but I haven't found time to do it yet.

Given a story of murder and mayhem, I hope for surprises. Here, I was only truly surprised by one plot development, which takes place less than midway through the book. I'm not saying I anticipated all the specifics. But the characters I expected (from the way they'd been portrayed all along) to be guilty of wrongdoing were in fact guilty of wrongdoing.

Early on, we're told a minor character has insisted on something's being worded in a certain way, rejecting another possibility. I kept waiting for that to have some plot relevance, but it never does.

Finally, while I can understand the author's wanting to end the story the way he did, the denouement was too long and dragged-out for my taste.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mary Thomas Watts on September 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
You probably won't find Larry Beinhart signing copies of his new novel, SALVATION BOULEVARD, at a mega-church near you. That's because Beinhart takes American right-wing Christianity by the scruff of the neck and shakes the tar out of it in this rip-roaring, disturbing post-9/11 tale of deception, greed, xenophobia, faith, doubt, apostasy and murder.
Carl, a former cop, his wife, Gwen, and his adolescent daughter from a previous marriage, Angie, belong to the Cathedral of the Third Millennium, a 6,400-member fundamentalist mega-church built of glass and steel and shepherded by the Rev. Paul Plowright. (Give you one guess who the bad guy is.)
Renouncing drugs, alcohol, casual sex and thinking for himself, Carl gives Plowright credit for saving his life and Jesus the glory for saving his soul. Harboring nary a doubt (uncertainty is for the faithless), Carl abides, for a time, in the love of God, family and the flock at CTM.
But abiding time starts ticking down when Carl is hired to investigate a murder that leads him into temptations of the flesh and the spirit. Here's how Carl describes his situation, "Look, I'm a Christian working for a Jewish lawyer who's working for an Islamic kid to find out who really killed the atheist. It's America, right?"
Beinhart, whose previous novels include WAG THE DOG and THE LIBRARIAN, both must-read page-turners for political junkies, takes aim this time at scoundrels behind stained glass windows who've had it coming.
For a high-speed excursion of America's search for meaning in these strange times, take SALVATION BOULEVARD. Beinhart will have you hollering "Amen!"
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Erica F. Obey on October 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here's a book for all of us who missed a subway stop trying to finish Crime and Punishment, and have been looking to repeat the experience ever since. Beinhart, too, melds a meditation on religion into a novel of nail-biting suspense. More importantly, to those of us who see red when we hear the word fundamentalist, Beinhart creates a believable protagonist who allows us to understand why people turn to megachurches -- a feat I would have have honestly said was impossible. Who says a novel of ideas can't be fun?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia C.C. on March 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most over-the-top, heavy-handed, smack-you-in-the-head-with-a-brick books that I've ever read. Here is the thinking behind it. Author despises evangelical Christians, so he creates a fictional story with- you guessed it- evangelical Christians being alternatively evil, murderous, stupid, close-minded, irrational, hypocritical, etc etc etc. Every single one of them (except a woman who converts to atheism) falls into one of these categories. Conversely, people from other religions, including atheism (a religion of sorts), are all on the whiter end of the gray spectrum. And the author seems to have convinced himself that he has written some sort of biting, trenchant social commentary. Puleeeeze.

I've got to admit that some trappings of evangelical Christianity appear funny to the point of absurdity (yes, mega-churches included). Not a big fan myself, being a practicing Buddhist. But this ridiculous attack serves only to highlight the close-minded character of the author himself, and not the negative aspects of his fictionally-created evangelical religion.
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