It's Big Ike Washington's turn. He's been the go to man for the black communities of South Carolina for the longest. It's not that Ike has that much power as mayor of small town Kilgo, it's that he has the ear of U.S. Senator Lander McCauley. That, combined with the congressional redistricting of the state, is enough to insure that Ike Washington will be the first black congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction.
How is a small town black mayor like Ike connected to such a powerful senator? Everyone in Kilgo knows that Ike has been McCauley's boy for years, but no one knows the price he's paid for that. Haunted by what he witnessed as a teen, Ike keeps his mouth shut. And that seems like a small price to pay in his quest to fulfill his political aspirations, but is it?
As a reporter, Dan Patragno has aspirations of his own. His immediate goal is to move from the homicide section to anything else at the Charleston Herald-Leader. His long-term goal is a position at the Washington Post. A story on Big Ike's Washington run for Congress may be just the thing Dan needs to get there. A story exposing Ike definitely is.
Bootlicker really makes you question just how far you're willing to go and how many secrets you'd be willing to cover up to get to where you want to be. At times, I felt sorry for Ike; at other times, I was repulsed by him. Here's why. The shame of selling out and the fear of repercussion kept him from telling his wife and his mother his secret and if you can't tell the person you're sleeping with your secrets (or the woman that raised you and probably knows you better than anyone), whom can you tell? On the other hand, how selfish, low down, trifling, conniving and greedy do you have to be to accept the favors and benefits that go with keeping said secret?
I can't remember where I first heard about Bootlicker, but the subject matter fascinated me, so when the author reached out to me, I immediately agreed to read it. It turns out that he was going to BEA too and, as luck would have it, we ended up standing in the registration line together and had a nice chat. A journalist turned communications specialist and professor, Bootlicker is his second novel. His first, Bella, is a prequel to Bootlicker, but as Steve told me in line, both books can stand alone. After reading Bootlicker, I can't wait to dive into Bella.
Published: September 2012
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from the author, opinions are my own.