All Her Father's Guns
Written by James Warner
Synopsis: Cal Lyte, a gun-loving venture capitalist is tired of paying alimony to his ex-wife Tabytha. Plotting to blackmail her and derail her campaign for congress, he enlists the help of their daughter's boyfriend, British academic Reid Seyton to unearth some Lyte family secrets. But the results turn out to be more than anyone bargained for, in an escalating cycle of revelations that will leave nobody's life the same.
All Her Father's Guns is an immensely entertaining and brilliantly satirical work that takes shots at each side of the political fence, the academic/theoretical arena and a billion other areas in between. Though the story alternates between narration by Cal Lyte, the gun-crazy libertarian, and his daughter's English academic boyfriend Reid Seyton (not pronounced Satan), it truly is Cal's story to tell. What begins as a desire to end his ongoing (and expensive) alimony payments to his ex-wife soon unravels into a turbulent affair of betrayals, election campaigns, life-changing decisions and atypical therapy sessions.
Cal is one of the craziest characters I've ever read. He's extreme in every possible way. He doesn't simply enjoy guns, he obsesses over them and has a cache of them which would put many small armies to shame. He's not simply conservative, he's a very vocal and opinionated libertarian who makes his crazy right-winger ex-wife seem liberal in comparison. Then there's his insanely quick rush into a relationship with his Lacanian shrink Viorela, his religious beliefs that conveniently fall into line with his less than ethical business models, and the libertarian/gun-lover ranch that he's part owner of. As big and ridiculous and crazy as all these elements seem, they blend and conflict to create a character that is completely unpredictable and wholly enjoyable.
The supporting cast, his ex-wife, business colleagues, daughter Lyllyan, her boyfriend Reid, and his shrink/girlfriend Viorela, are all vibrant characters in their own right, but their main function, at least to me, was to offset Cal's opinions and theories with opposing schools of thoughts. His daughter is a straight-edge punk who works within the death row/appeal sector, and her boyfriend is a stuffy film theory grad student with liberal leanings. He has a business partner who was, essentially, a weapons dealer, his girlfriend is an extreme psychoanalyst with very strong opinions (that completely oppose all of Cal's) and his ex-wife is a perfect example of why, in Cal's opinion, the right-wingers are just as bad as the liberals. This rainbow of character types not only balance out the book so it isn't to extreme in one particular leaning or another, but it also provides the perfect position for James Warner to satirise all the various aspects equally and without prejudice. I'm sure that as an Australian with very little involvement in the whole American political sphere, there were some subtle nuances to the characters that I missed, but what I loved best was how this book showed that everyone, regardless of their education, political leaning, job, or age can be absolutely, positively, bat-shit crazy. And that when faced with a single issue, while all their reactions may vary greatly, the common element is that they all react, and they all have the capacity to be hurt.
At a mere 190 pages you'll race through this book in absolutely no time, and if you're interested in sleek, well-written satire then this is definitely the book for you.