Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Ishmael Reed

First published: 1969

Genre: Novel

Locale: Yellow Back Radio (a town in the Old West) and Washington, D.C.

Plot: Satire

Time: 1801–1809

The Loop Garoo Kid, a black circus cowboy, an American Hoo-Doo manifestation of Lucifer. His evil reputation, however, is unwarranted: He identifies himself as “the cosmic jester,” an eternal pleasure principle. A member of the divine family, he is now sought by the Christian God as the only one who can prevent the unhealthy domination of the eternal goddess, who appears variously as his former girlfriend Diane (the Roman goddess Diana) and the Virgin Mary.

Drag Gibson, a wealthy and powerful rancher, Loop Garoo's nemesis. He started with nothing, riding drag (hence his name, though it also implies transvestitism) for other cattlemen, but he amassed a fortune through his cunning and ruthlessness. Drag also is a supernatural character: The explorers Lewis and Clark appear near the middle of the novel and reveal that Drag has escaped from hell. His struggle with Loop Garoo is therefore a form of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Mustache Sal, Drag's wife, formerly Loop Garoo's girlfriend. Sal marries Drag in answer to a personal ad, motivated by the opportunity to inherit his wealth. She crawls before Loop on the night before her wedding, begging to have sex with him. Instead, Loop brands a hell's bat on her abdomen.

Chief Showcase, an American Indian, Drag's lackey. A cousin of Cochise, Showcase is the last surviving Crow Indian and so is kept by Drag as a literal “Showcase.” Although he plays the defeated primitive or noble savage before Drag, he first appears in a high-tech helicopter, rescuing Loop Garoo from Drag's minions. Chief Showcase is the first to recognize Loop as Lucifer, and he expresses the essential unity of the black and Native American causes and identities. His secret revenge on the white man is tobacco: With feigned civility, he offers a cigar to every enemy he encounters.

Field Marshall Theda Doompussy Blackwell, an army general. He is identified as President Thomas Jefferson's secretary of defense, though no such title existed in Jefferson's time. With Pete the Peek, he develops a plan to conquer the American West and set himself up as emperor. Theda is depicted as a stereotypical Pentagon hawk: He wheedles money from Congress through Pete the Peek and lavishes it on scientists (Harold Rateater and Dr. Coult) who develop new weapons for him.

Pete the Peek, a congressman, Theda's lover. He is called “The Peek” because he is a voyeur. Theda treats him as a stooge, apparently interested only in the federal appropriations Pete brings him.

Pope Innocent, putatively Loop Garoo's rival, to whom Drag appeals for help. Innocent recalls the days before Loop's estrangement from the Judeo-Christian God and pleads for him to return. The novel ends with Loop's reunion with Innocent on his ship bound for Europe. There were no popes named Innocent in the nineteenth century, so this character is one of the many anachronisms in the novel. He represents the ageless church as partner/nemesis of Loop Garoo, rather than a historical individual.

Categories: Characters