‘The Governor’s Lady: A Novel’
Fans of Robert “Bob” Inman’s novels have grown accustomed to his folksy style and small-town characters.
Whether it be a teenager facing a family crisis in “Dairy Queen Days,” a TV weatherman finding himself on the outside looking in with “Captain Saturday” or a roughneck group of rowdy orphans in “The Christmas Bus,” Inman’s characters have always had that idyllic Southern backdrop on which to lean.
Not so with Inman’s latest novel, “The Governor’s Lady,” a tale of political intrigue and struggle set in an unnamed Southern capital.
“The genesis of this story is in some of the Alabama politics I covered as a young journalist,” Inman said. “I’ve been following politics all of my life, and, at one time, I was the press secretary to Gov. Albert Brewer, the man who had served as lieutenant governor under Lurleen Wallace in Alabama.”
Because her husband, then-governor George Wallace, could not run for re-election in 1966, Lurleen Wallace ran for governor with almost everyone in the state understanding that she would be a puppet, with her husband pulling the strings.
Lurleen Wallace won the governorship of the state and was inaugurated in January 1967, but died after a long battle with cancer in May 1968. Her last public appearance was in January 1968, during her husband’s presidential campaign bid on the American Party ticket.
“In the case of Lurleen Wallace, her husband, George, was still running things,” Inman said. “In my story, Cooper wants to run things when she becomes governor.”
Like Lurleen Wallace, the fictional title character of “The Governor’s Lady,” Cooper Lanier, takes the oath of office when her husband, the former governor, makes a bid for the White House. There, the similarities end, as Cooper is very much her own person and takes directive in the governor’s mansion in the first days of her term.
“Right after she becomes governor, she has to deal with a rare Southern blizzard that paralyzes her home state,” Inman said. “Obviously, that means it’s not Florida, but it could be any other Southern state.”
In today’s world of non-stop political coverage and debate, Inman’s female protagonist is a very modern and relatable one. Her life has been immersed in politics at the state level, with her father, Cleve Spainhour, having been a two-term Southern governor, as was her husband, Pickett Lanier.
As Pickett readies himself for political challenges in the national arena, he finds it difficult to let go of the control he had as governor, particularly when his wife begins to show some gumption and policy ideas of her own making.
While all of this political intrigue is taking place, an investigative journalist, Wheeler Kincaid, is working overtime trying to fit the puzzle pieces together.
“Wheeler Kincaid is sort of a composite of all the journalists I’ve been around all of my life,” Inman said. “When you’re a fiction writer, you just store up stuff from your experiences and relationships.”
Longtime followers of Inman’s work will recall how many of his works ended up as stage productions, with several of their world premieres being presented by the now defunct Blowing Rock Stage Company.
Those premiere productions included “Crossroads,” “Dairy Queen Days” and “The Christmas Bus.” Inman also adapted several of Jan Karon’s popular books about the fictional town of Mitford for a special premiere stage production, titled “Journey to Mitford.”
For his latest work, Inman envisions “The Governor’s Lady” more as a movie than as a stage production.
“That will be up to the people in Hollywood, of course, but I see it more on the screen than I do on the stage,” Inman said. “I’ve already got it cast in my head with Sandra Bullock as Cooper and George Clooney as her husband. Whenever they’ve got some free time on their hands, I’m sure we can do business.”
“The Governor’s Lady” is published by John F. Blair, Publisher. It is available in hardback for $26.95. For more information, visit http://www.blairpub.com.