The King Is Dead (Knopf), Austinite Jim Lewis‘s sterling novel of politics, race, fidelity, and regret, is a model of literary economy. In an epicworthy tale packed into a brisk 260 pages, Walter Selby, a top aide to Tennessee’s governor, wrestles with the dodgy ethics of political life and the toll it takes on his marriage; his breakdown—inevitable and violent—becomes a mystery for his son to crack. Lewis dredges up the dirty secrets behind his characters’ public faces, not gratuitously, but to reveal their true nature. This is grand fiction.