In this humorous novel, an undistinguished young man inadvertently becomes a crusader when he impulsively hijacks an Animal Regulation Department truck and frees the animals it’s carrying. Actions of others lead to his arrest, and a trial where, with the help of a dirty, rotten, but gratifying trick the hero is acquitted, and the case for Animal Rights is made. More
An undistinguished young man hijacks a county Animal Control Department truck and frees the animals it’s carrying.
Arnold Frieburg is deeply affected by the animal suffering he sees around him, and his conscience has prodded him into this attempt to relieve at least some small part of it. The act is completely unplanned, done on impulse.
But it commits him; he’s broken the law. Beyond that, though -- it felt good. Why not make it a crusade? He’ll be a sort of invisible avenger, rescuing animal victims by stealth and surprise. He enlists the help of his girlfriend, who enlists her landlady, who enlists a friend...and from here things get out of hand.
As he watches, Arnold’s intended low-profile campaign is taken over by a 1917-vintage revolutionary, a newspaper columnist sympathetic to the cause -- sometimes -- and a motorcycle gang led by a cousin of Godzilla’s. The gang’s search-and-destroy raid on the county dogpound gives Arnold the chance to fling a manifesto into the face of the establishment -- although their later naval engagement with the police on Dennison Park lake will put him in jail.
The Animal Regulation commissioner, a 30-year operative in the civil service/political arena, finds himself in the unaccustomed role of laughingstock as a series of trucks are hijacked. He doesn’t yet know Arnold, but he’d like to bury him.
The arrest at the park sets the stage; and to Arnold’s horror, it’s exactly that: a stage setting. His “friends” have engineered a show trial at which he is to put the establishment on trial for its treatment of animals. The biker gang leader now re-appears, transmogrified from leather into pinstripes, and becomes counsel for the defense.
While the legal process moves forward, other plots are playing out. Would-be sinister forces (embodied, luckily, in the person of a not-too-bright jailbird) may be trying to silence Arnold. Humane organizations are taking up the cause, which brings about the seemingly pre-destined meeting of Arnold’s biker/lawyer with the more-than-amply-sized Cat Lady. And the Animal Regulation commissioner’s secretary, plied with Rob Roys by the now-lovestruck newspaper columnist, is blowing a whistle.
The trial has aroused national attention; newspapers are editorializing, and demonstrators picket the courthouse. It’s the absolute opposite of everything Arnold ever intended. Like it or not, though, it is a platform for his ideas. In the course of the trial, the Animal Rights case is made, and opposing ideas are demolished under cross-examination by the defense.
It would be nice to see the case won on that basis, but this is fiction, not fantasy; so it’s won with a rotten, sneaky, underhanded trick that will leave animal lovers, anyway, thoroughly satisfied.
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