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SALVATION BOULEVARD
by Larry Beinhart
Nation Books, September 2008
348 pages
$24.95
ISBN: 1568584113


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Carl Vanderveer is a born-again Christian, profoundly grateful for the faith that brought him back from the edge of the abyss. He has a lovely wife, and a daughter from a previous marriage; the family unit is a joy to him every day. He quit drinking, whoring around, and all that kind of thing. He belongs to a mega-church, the Cathedral of the Third Millennium, led by Pastor Paul Plowright. He believes that Pastor Plowright is the force that led him to Jesus.

Carl works for Emmanuel "Manny" Goldfarb, a Jewish lawyer who normally doesn’t take lost causes, or work pro bono. That changes. Manny is defending Ahmad Nazami, an Iranian-born Muslim accused of killing Nathaniel MacLeod, a professor of philosophy at the University of the Southwest. The motive? MacLeod was an apostate, or an atheist, depending on who’s telling the story. Nazami has confessed, but he claims the confession was tortured out of him.

Manny is killed, which relieves Carl of the technical burden of his employment. He feels compelled to continue the investigation, partly because he promised Manny he would, and partly because he believes that Nazami is being railroaded. This compulsion brings him directly in conflict with Pastor Plowright, the church, and his own wife. It also brings him into a relationship of sorts with MacLeod’s wife, who is a temptress with her own issues.

Vanderveer spends much of SALVATION BOULEVARD working out issues he thought were long-settled: the truth of his faith, the belief system under which he operates and the conflict between that faith and what he sees happening around him, the sanctity of his marriage, and so forth. It is an unsettling journey for him, and for the reader. His determination to pursue the case puts his family at risk, and brings him into alliances with people he would normally refuse to deal with.

SALVATION BOULEVARD is very well written. I can find minimal fault with the plot, the writing, the characters, the whole deal. And yet I still did not like this book. I felt that the writer had an agenda, and wasn’t hiding it all that well. I felt, particularly in the middle of the book, that I had had enough of Carl’s questions and issues - I really didn’t care whether or not he slept with Theresa, for instance - and just wanted the mystery to take the book back. I found the book to be depressing, both in content and tone. Yeah, I get the message and the political implications of what’s going on. I just want a decent story without all the angst. The writing is good enough, just not to my personal taste.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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