Denton's third novel (after Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede ) takes the overworked serial-killer concept and wrings from it a striking depiction of middle-American despair, betrayed innocence, and transcendent hope. Jimmy Blackburn is a roaming murderer with an idiosyncratic moral code: he kills only those he feels deserve to die. His victims include cheating auto mechanics, bullying bosses and a thieving encyclopedia salesman. In intervening chapters, Denton traces Blackburn's childhood in small-minded small-town Kansas, in a home haunted by an abusive father, a world prescribed by casual cruelties and repressive, untrustworthy authority. Denton doesn't settle for facile connections between Blackburn's early years and his criminal turn, playing his life off against some Norman Rockwell vision of an America that never was. He portrays Blackburn's childhood not as unusually bleak or cruel, but as an all-too-common experience, so it's the reality of a mundane world--not some exceptional horror--that produces Blackburn the killer. And Blackburn himself is no simplistic figure of evil; he retains a sympathetic innocence, a stubborn hope, throughout his doomed journey, and his end yields a surprising sense of redemption. Denton's hand never falters as he shows us an America of petty injustices and vanished dreams, where a sensitive Kansas boy can grow into a killer. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993 Release date: 02/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
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