Big tobacco meets the boob tube in this incendiary satire from the bestselling author of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
Jefferson Tatum is a self-made man. Founder of Tatum Cigarette Company, he wrote the brand’s advertising jingle—“Tatums smoke mild like an innocent child”—and has been bringing home big money—and hunting huge bears—ever since. But this year his tobacco sales are down 3 percent thanks to the surgeon general’s cancer warnings. To make matters worse, Tatum’s forty-three-year-old son, Virgil, shows more interest in presiding over his unaccredited college and its undefeated football team than learning about the family business.
Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Tatum sets out to reinvigorate his company by transforming Acanthus College into a top-tier research institution. The school’s scientists will prove that food is more dangerous than cigarettes, making everyone so anxious they’ll start smoking again. But when Tatum hires a New York theater director turned Hollywood bigwig to produce a documentary about the research, nothing goes as planned. Secrets are unearthed, old loves are rekindled, and a TV director with a conscience (will wonders never cease?) threatens to expose the whole scam.