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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
One reader of Eric Peterson’s novel, The Dining Car, describes perfectly the nature of its central character Horace Button - a celebrity editorialist on all things cultural but specifically gastronomical - as Falstaffian. Physically huge and attitudinally challenged, a drinker par excellence, Horace provides the gravitational focus around which this book and its dazzling characters revolve. Even the narrator of this story, a conscripted bartender for Horace’s uniquely chosen manner of transportation - a handsomely reconstituted, elegant, 1932 Pullman-built, private railroad car - cannot escape the black-hole entrapment of Horace’s over-sized personal charisma. Horace is a drunk. The most cultured, opinionated, ornery, bellicose, and anachronistic drunk one might ever be disinclined to meet. The reader likewise succumbs to such astronomical force with the ambivalent love-hate feelings shared and endured by every incidental character in the book. The saving grace? From the very inception of its gloriously slapstick, eye-popping introductory scene, The Dining Car promises and delivers nothing less than a Falstaffian feast of fun.
Do not, however, be misled by such a fun-filled promise. There are moments of genuine pathos embedded in Eric Peterson’s roller-coaster book, The Dining Car. Such an unredeemable character as Horace is duly bound to come with some satisfying surprises. And though this most definitely remains a character-driven book, dominated by a truly unforgettable “character-at-large,” prepare also to be pleasantly surprised by the masterful prose offered up here by the author, whose pacing, descriptions, dialogue and plotting are seamlessly and effortlessly impeccable, allowing one to fully concentrate his attention upon the fine, if most eccentric, gourmet dining experience of a lifetime.