PIANIST IN A BORDELLO is a novel about a liberal Democratic politician with the rather unlikely name of Richard Milhouse Nixon Youngblood. Since he is running for congress in Northern California, he has written an autobiography to address some of the questionable activities of his past.
Among them are his parents, two 1960s hippies, one of them the daughter of a conservative Republican senator and the other a mysterious student radical. As he grew to maturity he was suspended from Stanford University, shot by an ex-lover, joined the army, became a teacher, and collaborated with his father and the CIA. Nevertheless, with the confidence of an underdog, he ignores the advice of his campaign staff and publishes his sometimes hilarious, sometimes sordid autobiography.
The title of this book is taken from a quote by Harry Truman where he said that when he was growing up he didn’t know if he wanted to be a piano player in a bordello or a politician. Ultimately, he realized that there was no difference between those vocations. The plot sheds some light on this revelation, especially where electoral dirty tricks and corruption come in to play. The character of Mr. Youngblood seems too good to be true. He glides effortlessly past setbacks, especially with the somewhat magical appearances of his radical hippy dad who is under deep cover for the CIA. The rest of the characters are well developed and their appearances in the book add to the humor. Every love interest in Youngblood’s life is named Amanda, including Amanda Patricia Nixon who fantasizes about their marriage as a new age Dick and Pat Nixon. When Youngblood refuses to be part of the dream, Amanda Patricia takes her revenge. Names of other characters are equally off kilter, including his college friend (and hacker) Sacatchy and a rhyming lobbyist named Mickey McWhirr. When all of these varied elements are added together, the result is a hilarious story that shines a bright light on contemporary politics. One of the more interesting facts that runs through the plot is that the problems of the 70s, 80s and 90s are still with us. The Middle East remains a powder keg, candidates will do anything to gain office and people are still crazy at election time. This is a truly funny book with characters that go the extra mile when it comes to political mayhem.
PIANIST IN A BORDELLO is a well-written send-up of contemporary politics. In it, running for office seems less of a civic duty than an outright act of madness.