Nineteen year-old Winston 'Tuff' Foshay - 320 pounds, new father to a baby boy he greets cheerfully with 'What up, littler nigger?', player-king of a motley crew in Spanish Harlem - is looking for a purpose in life, for the answer to his exasperated wife Yolanda's question, 'Winston, what you gonna do?' After narrowly escaping death - by fainting - in a drug deal gone bad, Tuff knows he needs to make some decisions, and soon. So when he is offered $20,000 to run for city council, he gamely embarks on one of the most outrageous campaigns in political history, one that changes both his vision of the world and his place in it.
The protagonist of this gritty urban tale, Winston Tuffy Foshay, is a grossly overweight burrito-gin guzzling foul-mouth delinquent of Spanish Harlem, New York. Surviving in New York's mean streets by hustling, selling dope and conning tourists, Winston is also a husband and a father. The son of a Black Power poet, he is determined to avoid his father's mistakes but doesn't know how. After killing a ferocious dog owned by his childhood Hispanic rivals turned policemen, Tuffy is so shaken that he resolves to find some higher purpose in life. He is persuaded to run for public office by his surrogate mother, Inez, a Japanese American and ex-communist, who offers him $15,000. He is helped by his best friend Fariq, a cripple whose foul language surpasses Tuffy's, and a middle-class African-American Jew, who, after Tuffy's father, is by far the most interesting character. Driven by an improbable plot, Tuff takes many Lenny Bruce-like potshots at New York city's ethnic groups and sexual tendencies. But the novel is saved by Beatty's prose, which combines a streetwise tone with surprisingly frequent allusions to Greek myths, classical literature and Hollywood movies. (Kirkus UK)