Rude Behavior

by Dan Jenkins

Published by Doubleday

448 pages, 1998

Buy it online


Lyrical Football

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards


You don't often hear "Dan Jenkins" and "lyrical" in the same sentence. After all, Jenkins' work is uniformly testosterone-laden and commercial. Filled with football, babes and mind-altering substances; Jenkins' books seem to be intended for fun and perhaps for film, but not for impressing the literati.

Yet in some ways, Jenkins' prose is masterly and his talent as a descriptionist hard to beat. An award-winning sportswriter as well as a bestselling novelist, Jenkins does not cradle his reader to a place and time so much as snap him there. For example, early in Rude Behavior, we're brought to a bar by Jenkins' well-loved anti-hero Billy Clyde Puckett.

As I might have expected, He's Not Here was one of those establishments where you were likely to find a few more whipdog salesmen than you would polo players. Splotchy gray industrial carpet with tales to tell. A few tables from the oilcloth family. Dark booths along two walls. A filling station clock. A cigarette machine, a small parquet floor in a corner for the Freds and Gingers, and an L-shaped bar with swivel stools and Naugahyde padding for the elbows of customers who needed to think it over awhile longer before they went home to cuss fight.

You can almost smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke, and hold the Cuban cigars, 'cause we don't do that here.

Barely a page later, we meet the bartender of this classy establishment: a character so well drawn that, from the moment we meet her, we know this won't be our last look.

I asked the bartender what her name was. She said she'd like it to be Michelle Pfeiffer, but she'd had to settle for Kelly Sue Woodley.

Her snug jeans suggested good legs. She had creamy skin, a sharp little nose, shrewd eyes of swimming-pool blue, and America hair. Amber waves of grain.

In Rude Behavior Jenkins revisits some of the characters that have served him so well in earlier novels, notably Semi-Tough and Life Its Ownself. The topic is -- once again -- football and the action centers mainly in west Texas, New York and California. This time Puckett finds himself wanting more from life than being a football-hero-turned-color-commentator and starting his own major league football team: with a little help from his deep-pocketed father-in-law and some pals that faithful readers will remember from previous books. Rude Behavior is a fun, unpredictable ride from one of the strongest sports-writing pens in the business. | January 1999


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.