(Reviewed by Shannon Bloomstran MAR 16, 2003)
"What would you do if it was your mother?"That's the central theme running through Bill Fitzhugh's new mile-a-minute comedic novel. Personally, I can't ever see my own daughter running through all the machinations that Fitzhugh puts his motley cast of characters through, but that may be because she's not quite two. Right now, I can't even envision her being potty trained, but that's another story altogether.
The mother in Fitzhugh's novel is one Rose Tailor by all accounts a sweet old lady who like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz would be happy if she only had a heart. To be exact, she'd be happy if she only had a new heart. Her current model is no good and she's on the waiting list for a donor. Rose's son, Spence is one of a rare breed, a do-gooder lawyer who doesn't care if his clients can even pay. He just wants to do right by them. Don't let this too-good-to-be-true characterization fool you as we soon see a different side to Spence's character altogether. At the same time Rose is bumped to the top of the donor list, the president of the United States, a tan, but phlegmatic couch potato with a "muscular head of hair" needs one too.
In a move destined to send conspiracy theorists right through the roof, not one but two major politicos plan to kidnap (heart-nap?) the organ destined for Rose. Being a fine, all-American boy who just loves his Mom; Spence can't let this happen. He liberates both the heart and Rose, and forces his brother, along with a gay cop, and a woman who just happens to be beautiful, smart, sassy, and a third-year surgical resident to come along for the ride. They then set out on a journey from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City so someone can transplant the tell tale heart into dear old Mom.
Fitzhugh is an equal opportunity satirist as his jabs run the political spectrum. President Webster may be a dud, but consider the alternative; his main rival is Senator Patty Check, a woman "specifically unburdened by any ethical code" and with a name like that, you can imagine her priorities. Fitzhugh's cleverness doesn't end there as we also have a political commentator named Matt Christopher on a show called "Hard Heads" and Senator McSwain, who is trying desperately to ride herd on the campaign finance scam. Senator Check who is also vying for Rose's heart, sends two cyborg-esque double-secret CIA agents hot on the trail of Spence's band of merry pranksters. If she can prevent the president from getting it, he'll die, making her a shoo-in to be the next Chief Executive.
The novel is full of broadly drawn caricatures, so broad that it sometimes strains credulity. We meet the evil White house Chief of Staff Martin Brooks who believes "Christian men to whom God in His wisdom gave control of the property interests in this country are better and more deserving" than the rest of us. He comes complete with his own sycophantic minion. Spence's brother, Boyd, a bank vice president with what may or may not be repressed homosexual inklings is roped into the shenanigans early on. By the time the group gets to Utah, their kidnapped entourage has swelled to include a professional skateboarder, a married couple and their six kids, and an entire Mormon basketball team. At one point, "they could be seen walking down a road in the middle of nowhere as if searching for an Italian film director." Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Boyd's wife Connie has a full-fledged media experience, complete with a Rush Limbaugh-esque blow-hard and what may or may not be the kidnapping of a federal agent. The characters may seem over the top, but the situation really calls for nothing less.
Spring break is just around the corner. This satire/farce/road trip book would be perfect reading for you lucky ducks who get to loll around on the sandy beaches. Just be sure to buckle up and hold on, because Heart Seizure is quite a ride.
- Amazon readers rating: from 15 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Heart Seizure at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Pest Control (1997)
- The Organ Grinders (1998)
- Cross Dressing (2000)
- Fender Benders (2001)
- Heart Seizure (March 2003)
Rick Shannon series:
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- The official Web site for Bill Fitzhugh
- Mississippi Writers page on Bill Fitzhugh
- The Blue Moon interview with Bill Fitzhugh
- MysteryOne Bookstore interview with Bill Fitzhugh
- Curled Up review of Heart Seizure
- MostlyFiction.com review of Highway 61 Resurfaced
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About the Author:
Bill Fitzhugh was born in 1957 and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. Fitzhugh began writing professionally in high school, through a Junior Achievement Program, in which he wrote and narrated a series of radio programs tracing the history of various rock and roll bands. He started working the overnight shifts and after graduation he became the morning drive DJ at the station. Later, Bill attended Belhaven College, University of Southern Mississippi and then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington where he earned a degree in psychology. He collaborated on radio scripts with a friend and eventually moved to Los Angeles where has worked television and film.
He and his wife still live in Los Angeles, California.