Reviews - What do customers think about The Last Liberal Outlaw?
READ THIS if you care about America. Change starts at home. Sep 22, 2004
I've been waiting for Mike Palecek to finally get it right. I've read his other four novels, and enjoyed each one, but every time after finishing the book I felt a little bit cheated. I wanted something else to happen; I didnt want them to end when they did.
With "The Last Liberal Outlaw", Mike has created a novel that left me just as exhausted as the others, but this time I didn't feel as if the story was unfinished. I'll be waiting just as hungrily for his next book, but it won't be because I was not satisfied with this one. It'll be because I was satisfied!
Palecek is at his best when writing about small-town America. It's a place he clearly loves even as he pokes fun at its quirks and reveals the sickness that lies just below the surface. It's a place he knows, and he shares his knowledge in delightfully original ways even as he cries out for change. We haven't had a writer like this since Kurt Vonnegut was at his peak.
Several themes follow Mike Palecek from one book to the next, even though each novel stands alone. Any character or place that seems familiar from a previous book is revised, perhaps reinvented for the next. Palecek writes about sins large and small, and about redemption, with a decidedly Catholic viewpoint. He writes about injustice, about intolerance, about money, and about power. His world has violence; it's usually just below the surface, but it often erupts suddenly and in peculiar ways, perhaps even wresting control of the story away from the author. I felt that he maintained control of his vision in this novel. He guarded it with the strength of his own character and took his readers on a journey that never lost its focus. He used twists and surprises to develop the plot rather than allowing the plot to run away on its own. That's what makes this his best book.
Mike Palecek's characters are complex, multidimensional creations that are confused and confusing but somehow incredibly real. When suddenly one of them is driven to an action that seems out of character, we realize that we should have expected it from the start. People fulfill their destiny. Fate plays a large role for Mike Palecek.
A stereotype that recurs in Palecek's writing is the revolutionary priest. Often this character is paired with a roommate or twin having diametrically opposing views. Yet there tend to be more similarities between this pair than there are differences. The model is taken from what we think of as real life: the far left and far right have more in common with each other than with the center.
A setting that recurs in Palecek's writing is the prison. It's prominently featured in "KGB" and "Twins" as well as "The Last Liberal Outlaw" I know that Mike spent some time in federal prisons for resistance to the military; I hope that his experience was not long enough to be the basis for the extensive prison scenes that haunt his writing. I will say that this part of his writing is terrifyingly real.
Little people are trying to make a difference in Liberal, Iowa. Big money is trying to get bigger by creating a prison-based economy for the once-agricultural community. People who oppose the plan either die or go to prison, but somehow the cover-up is falling apart even as it nears the pinnacle of its success. Tom Blue is caught up in the crusade without ever planning it, and he manages to get himself accused of sedition for a column he prints as editor of the local paper. Is he "The Last Liberal Outlaw" of the title? You'll have to read this fine book to get the answer to that question. You'll learn a lot along the way, and you'll laugh out loud more than once; perhaps you'll cry, too.