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Richard Russo: Nobody’s Fool

Sully would be a loser in most other novels. He is an odd-job man, getting old. His wife has left him, he is having a sort of an affair with a married woman, he is estranged from his son and he is having running battles with many of his neighbours. Indeed, he only seems to be having a good relationship with his landlady and his best friend and he even has a fight with the latter. Despite all this, he is a thoroughly lovable rogue, full of wisecracks, who does not let the bastards grind him down, who, while apparently a loser, is, in reality a winner, while those apparently better off than him – his landlady’s crooked son, for example – are the real losers.

What makes this book a real joy, as in his next book, Straight Man, is the way the good guys, apparent losers all, keep their head above water and keep on smiling. As in Straight Man, the book is full of wonderful characters – Sully’s grandson, the aptly named Wacker, Sully’s mentally challenged friend, Rub, whose loyalty to Sully will go just so far, Beryl Peoples, his landlady, and, of course, the wicked-but-not-too-wicked Carl Roebuck and his wife Toby.

Unusually, this book was turned into an excellent film, with a brilliant performance by Paul Newman as Sully, but also with good performances from Jessica Tandy, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis. It cuts a lot from the book but still works. But read the book first!

Publishing history

First published 1993 by Random House