C. E. Morgan: The Sport of Kings

sport

The latest addition to my website is C E Morgan‘s The Sport of Kings. This novel has already received lots of rave reviews, generally deservedly so. It is a first-class novel about sex, racial politics, horse racing, incest, South vs North (in the USA), families, the failure of the American Dream and the striving to be or get the best, at whatever cost, particularly if that cost is borne by others. We follow two families. The first is the Forges, a family that came over to Kentucky shortly after the Revolutionary War and which has since done very well for itself, owning lots of land. At that start of the novel, in the early 1950s, the patriarch, John Henry, is totally convinced of the inherent superiority of himself and his family and looks down on others, including the poor whites, African-Americans and women. He has one son, Henry, whom he intends to follow in his footsteps. Henry, however, is interested in breeding horses, a task John Henry considers fit for only white niggers. When John Henry dies, Henry gets his wish. Though his marriage is as unsuccessful as his father’s, he does have a daughter, Henrietta, who shares his love for horses. She also has a love for sex with virtually any man she can find. This includes Allmon Shaughnessy who represents the other side of the tracks. He had a white father, who had disappeared, when he was young and a black mother, who died of lupus. He had been in trouble, twice serving prison sentences, but had received training in horse grooming as part of a prison rehabilitation programme, so is hired by the Forges. When a filly is born who looks like being a champion racer, Henry makes a deal with Allmon which will get Allmon some money and a couple of the filly’s future foals, in return for keeping away from Henrietta. The filly does well. Allmon, Henrietta and Henry do not. This is a superbly written novel, full of passion, intensity, sex and horses which, while not quite the Great American Novel that has been suggested, is certainly a very fine novel and will propel Morgan to the forefront of US novelists.

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