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All the Right Circles


All the Right Circles

Award-winning author John Russell (FAVORITE SONS) has constructed a new, multilayered novel delving into the realms of legal practice, high finance, sex, drugs and haunting family secrets.

In ALL THE RIGHT CIRCLES, we meet Jack Callahan, who would appear to most to be a successful lawyer in Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital city. From a youth on the wrong side of Raleigh’s Beltway, he married well --- his wife, Pren Bloodworth, is one of Raleigh’s elite --- and has garnered a glittering clientele, notably the family that owns the Criterion, an independent newspaper. So what’s wrong with this picture? To begin with, Jack Callahan used to be Jacob Gold, named after his Jewish father, but after his parents split, his mother Nora thought it would be “fun” to take away the stigma of a Jewish surname. The original name appears on his birth certificate, though, part of the “memory box” that Callahan is taking to Nora, who is ensconced (not for the first time) in a rehab facility after downing a jar of allergy pills. That’s another secret: Nora has a substance abuse problem.

"...[a] multilayered novel delving into the realms of legal practice, high finance, sex, drugs and haunting family secrets."

Entangled in the ownership of the Criterion lurks another carefully guarded piece of family lore: the part played by ancestors in the infamous Wilmington Massacre of 1898, when blacks were slaughtered in the streets to quell the effects of the Reconstruction era that was giving them too much power for white comfort.

As the newspaper is being stalked for a takeover and Callahan is smeared in the press for a brief, lurid affair with his secretary when his marriage with Pren is tanking, something happens that makes it even more crucial that he take a look at where he is heading: his teen daughter, Robin, overdoses on alcohol, barely escaping with her life. Is this a wake-up call for the conflicted, confused, lovelorn but basically dutiful Callahan? He begins to draw his little family together, and considers that maybe it’s time to finally follow the mystical advice of Lowry --- part yardman, part Lumbee sage --- and take a road trip.

Russell, whose earlier work received positive attention from such outlets as the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Charlotte Observer, is an intelligent, practiced writer who navigates smoothly from street slang, to serious moral issues, to psychological complexities and historical fact. The reader will watch his central character spinning a web --- of plans, maneuvers, what-ifs --- that becomes his personal prison. Amusingly, the women in Callahan’s life know far more about him than he knows about himself --- even his substance-addicted mother, who is still capable of surprisingly sharp insight. The setting will delight Tar Heel readers with its down-home vignettes: reverberations of the Wilmington Massacre; North Wilkesboro and the stock car scene; Chapel Hill’s forward-thinking liberalism; and a little touch of Opie, Andy and Mayberry.

While ALL THE RIGHT CIRCLES at times seems to be about someone running in circles, there is a sense that Jack Callahan gradually will make the right moves and find the straight path.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on November 8, 2019

All the Right Circles
by John Russell

  • Publication Date: October 15, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Rare Bird Books
  • ISBN-10: 1644280426
  • ISBN-13: 9781644280423