Monday, August 9, 2010

The Whole Hog by Michael Kenyon

Michael Kenyon, in 1967, shows the American fixation with the Cold War Era.

His main character, Arthur Appleyard, is a swine nutritionist. When his experimental hogs start to act differently, he and his staff go on alert. Believing they may have found a new metabolic renewal for astronauts, they buckle down to study the results.

Arthur is approached by the FBI, encouraged to continue his work but keep it quiet and tell no one. When one of Arthur’s staff dies mysteriously in the lab, the police move in to protect the group. Which is now just Arthur and his pretty analyst, Liz Salucka . . . and, of course, the swine.

But when one of the swine, Humphrey - as in Bogart - is kidnapped, the experimental study is jeopardized. Arthur tries to puzzle out the mystery of who is real and who is a spy. He suspects someone in the department at the college where he works, but he can’t be sure.

Complicating and confusing to both Arthur and the investigation is a blooming romance between Arthur and Liz. Shy and unsure, he vacillates between the mystery of the swine and the mystery of his feelings. But after having confirmed the attraction between them, he forgets the Inspector’s instructions to stay together as she leaves to get paperwork.

A scream verifies the worst. Suddenly, Arthur is alone. Without his true love, he no longer cares about himself as he goes looking for the culprit.

Nothing motivates like a good whodunnit and Michael Kenyon, again, keeps his reader turning the page. His British take on American life is an eye opener. Remember, this is 1967. His sly references to the paunched people who drink Coca Cola were an astute observation ahead of its time. His references to deciding animal feed by its cost rather than its nutrition were prophetic. The idea that a supplement could make people last longer on jobs is downright scary when you think of the economic situation today. His narrative is not without political comment. Frequent references to the Space Race show his disdain for our priorities. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to show us ourselves.

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