September 10, 1979 12:00 PM

by William Kinsolving

Magnus Macpherson’s father is a preacher who makes marvelous Scotch, and after Magnus is wounded in the First World War he brings his inherited knowledge to the U.S. during Prohibition. First Magnus smuggles. Then, after he marries a rich Catholic girl in New York, he builds a still on a Long Island pig farm and launches an incredible career. Magnus is shot at by Al Capone’s boys, outbids the Bronfmans for a distillery in Canada, has a brush with gangster Bugsy Siegel out West. There are also a lot of parallels in this novel to Joe Kennedy’s life; Kennedy himself appears in it. This saga is big (516 pages), garish (full of sex and wily operators) and sprawling (72 years). It could be the Thorn Birds or The Far Pavilions of 1979. Most such best-sellers are written by women, but Kinsolving, a screenwriter and ex-actor, could break the stereotype. (Putnam, $12.50)

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