Daniel Buckman, Author . St. Martin's $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-312-31462-0

In the tradition of Tim O'Brien and Larry Brown, Buckman (Water in Darkness; The Names of Rivers) traces the downward spiral of a blue-collar Vietnam vet as he struggles to cope with a legacy of violence. Walt Michalski's tragic sense of entrapment is established early in the novel; while hunting with his father, Big Walt, a macho, no-nonsense WWII veteran, Walt inadvertently shoots and kills his own son, 10-year-old Teddy. Walt's litany of disaster also includes a harrowing stint in Vietnam as well as a series of failed marriages and his ongoing difficulties working for his abrupt, bullying father. Walt finally bails on his troubles, abandoning his fourth wife, Patty, and running off to build a log cabin in a remote patch of woods in Illinois. His hope for isolation proves short-lived, though, when seedy teenage drug dealer Shirley Haursperger appears and bribes Walt to let him use the remote property to process methamphetamine. Shirley's scam soon attracts the attention of Dwight, a corrupt, brutish local cop, who brings in some trigger-happy locals when Shirley cuts him out of his kickback. In the edgy manhunt that follows, Walt's 30-year-old ex-army nephew, Tom Jane, tries to rescue his uncle. Buckman's characters range from alpha males to cringing weaklings, all consumed by the need to prove themselves. The narrow focus on testosterone-fueled conflict can be stifling, but Buckman broadens the narrative with vivid flashbacks to a return trip Walt makes to Vietnam with Tom. Walt's realization that he can't blame the war for "a lifetime of booze, three wives, and a dead son" comes as a welcome antidote to the bleak cycles of violence portrayed in this intense effort. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/01/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-312-42406-0
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4299-2352-1
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