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As the novel opens, it's late 1929. The stock market has crashed, and America is in financial chaos. Averell "Uncle Dogsbody" Harriman, a giant praying mantis from ancient Atlantis disguised as one of the most powerful financiers of the twentieth century, comes to one of the youngest vice presidents at his investment firm, 30-something Wainscot Tosh (Prescott Bush), to ask him to help out with a project of his: setting up a new Republic of Texas, one where the rampant social decay that is crippling America will not be a problem. Wainscot moves to Houston with his wife and three children (Wain Jr., Wilbur (George), and Gwyneth), and puts Dogsbody's plan into action.
And it's mostly a rousing success. With big money and major clout behind the secession, it works. Texas is converted into a conservative paradise (police state). Wainscot founds Texas versions of his favorite schools, Phillips Academy in Andover and Yale University, for his children to attend.
Unfortunately for Dogsbody's plans, however, he also has a powerful rival from ancient Atlantis, Abraham Lincoln, former president of the United States, who these days lives at the bottom of a lake in Texas with his devil-water-cow Bessie. Throughout the novel Lincoln keeps sending various fishy minions out into the world to thwart Dogsbody's designs. As a result of Lincoln's fishy enmity, good loyal Texans are taught to hate fish and to report any suspicious fish activity, such as fish walking or talking, to the appropriate authorities.
In the early chapters we follow Wain's second son Wilbur, or "Puppy," through his first encounter with Uncle Dogsbody, who tells him about his royal bloodline, going back to the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and, beyond them, extraterrestrials; through his war experience, where his cowardice leads to the death of two crewmates, but daddy covers it up and gets him a DFC; to his growing involvement with the Texas Intelligence Agency in the late fifties.
After WWII, when the Toshes are newly married, Wilbur is cloned, and his son Wilbur Jr. (George W.) is the result. Unfortunately, the cloning doesn't work quite right, and Wilby, as he's called, is born simple and lazy and easily manipulated. In fact, brain implants eventually make it possible for his handlers to manipulate his actions by remote control. All Wilby wants to do in his life, really, is hang out with his friends and get drunk, do coke. Also as a result of the cloning problems he has no sex drive, and on his wedding night with Lynette Whiting (Laura Welch) (chosen for him by Abraham Lincoln, as part of his plot to overthrow the Toshes), he has to pop a special pill that Uncle Dogsbody gives him.
The two Wilbur Toshes lurch through the major events in the second half of the twentieth-century history of the US (transplanted here to Texas), mostly being manipulated by Uncle Dogsbody and Abraham Lincoln in their struggle to control the course of human history. The elder Wilbur is involved in the Bay of Pigs, the Dealey Plaza assassination and its coverup, Watergate and its coverup, Iran-Contra, the invasions of Panama and Iraq. The younger Wilbur avoids getting sent to Vietnam by getting into the Texas Air National Guard, but is soon grounded for refusing to take the flight physicalhe's afraid he'll be busted for cocaine use. He stumbles from business failure to business failure, always being bailed out of certain bankruptcy by his father's rich friends, and with help from Abraham Lincoln eventually steals the presidency.
We also develop the political satire on conservatism through a series of "documents" placed between chapters: news reports, memoirs, memoranda, court transcripts, crime reports, and so on.
At the millennium, December
31, 1999, just at the stroke of midnight, when President Wilbur Tosh (the
younger) is out on the balcony of the President's Mansion greeting the
millennium with his people, he goes limp, and almost falls over. Then
his wife Lynette bursts out the French doors onto the balcony, holding
presidential aide Randall Cutting at gunpoint: she has caught him running
the remote-control unit that makes her husband do his keepers' bidding,
and shut down the operation. Wilby lies face-down on the parapet, immobilized
by the collapse of his controls, while Uncle Dogsbody flies in and then
Abraham Lincoln leaps up out of the fountain on his devil-water-cow, and
the two ancient rivals do battle. Finally, Lynette pulls out a can of
bug spray and sprays it all over Dogsbody and Lincoln: the two wither
up and blow away, and so does the entire universe.
Documents: Interviews With Ordinary Texans (August, 1931)
1. Bloodline (Puppy, May 13, 1934)
Documents: Legends of Modern Texas (October 23, 1936); Aliens in Weatherford (January, 1937)
2. War Hero (Puppy, September 2, 1944)
Documents: Memoirs of the Director of the Department of Social Hygiene (August 1946)
3. Monster (Puppy, October 5, 1946)
Documents: Lincoln "Sightings" Reported Across State (February 29, 1948)
4. Family Man (Puppy, November 22, 1953)
Documents: Swimming Pools Closed Across the Nation (November 25, 1953)
5. Castrato (Puppy, November 22, 1960)
Documents: Padre Island Marine Institute wiretap (June 19-20, 1961); Two Feared Dead in "Anarchist Fracas" at Marine Institute (June 23, 1961)
6. Booths (Puppy, March 17, 1963)
Documents: Lincoln Monument Defaced (June 14, 1963); Teens Crash; One Dies (November 23, 1963)
7. Hit List (Puppy, February 22, 1967)
Documents: New Police Gear Causing Skin Problems and Mental Disturbances (September 19, 1967); Texas Department of Hygiene Offices Destroyed in Explosion (May 5, 1968)
8. National Guard (Wilby, June 13, 1969)
Documents: Internal Memo (May 14, 1972)
9. Break-in (Puppy, June 1, 1972)
Documents: Remains of 1684 Shipwreck Found (August 14, 1972)
10. Private Dick (Puppy, August 5, 1974)
Documents: Interview with Nicky Nelson (July 5, 1975)
11. Wedding Day (Wilby, November 5, 1977)
Documents: The History of the Scaly Shepherd Church (June, 1979)
12. John Bickle (Wilby, January 23, 1981)
Documents: President Ausprey Shot (March 30, 1981)
13. The War on Drugs (Puppy, January 4, 1984)
Documents: Texas Recognizes Mormon Independence (March 6, 1985)
14. God (Wilby, July 5, 1986)
Documents: Lynette in Fish Market (July 19, 1986)
15. Plane Crash (Puppy, October 5, 1986)
Documents: Skipjack LaTuna Greets His Captors (October 8, 1986)
16. Get Nogueira (Puppy, New Year's Eve, 1989)
Documents: A Fisherman's Story (June 14, 1990)
17. Graves (Puppy, May 4, 1990)
Documents: Remains of 1684 Shipwreck Found (June 18, 1990)
18. Maddie (Puppy, August 2, 1990)
Documents: Who Is The Neptune Continuum? (fall, 1990)
19. Stadium (Wilby, January 4, 1991)
Documents: Stadium Passes (January 17, 1991); Congress Watch (April 4, 1991); Business News (April 15, 16, 1991); Hoss Godot press conference, (November 2, 1991); Baptist Preacher M. J. Bin Lennon Found Dead (March 21, 1993)
20. Ballot (Wilby, November 5, 1996)
Documents: Remote Control (November 12, 1996)
21. Spot (Puppy, November 23, 1996)
Documents: Bodies Of "Bug Spray" Authors Found (December 24, 1997); McDonald's Cancels new Happy Meal Toy Line (February 6, 1998); Families of "Bug Spray" Authors to Sue McDonald's (February 15, 1998)
22. Bug Spray (Wilby, New Millennium's