Bad Guys

Elizabeth Arthur, Author Alfred A. Knopf $16.95 (261p) ISBN 978-0-394-55442-6
It's hard to know which part of this inventive novel to like the most: its charactersthe drifters, juvenile delinquents and generally bewildered outsiders who inhabit its Alaskan wilderness settingor the wilderness itself, the setting these people live in, which seems, in its way, to live in them. Spike Jones is a swaggering, lying ex-con who feels safest in jail. On a train to Anchorage, he talks with the fat and gentle Wesley Hannah, who is prompted by the ""world spirit'' to invite Spike to meet his daughter Amolia. In a dazed, haphazard way, moved by Spike's vague notions of vengeance and nostalgia, the three embark for Chenega, a state-run work camp for juvenile delinquents on an island off the Gulf of Alaska coast. On Chenega, the young director Linda, the counselors and the boys live out their daily dramas, until on the day Linda has the kids playing ``trust games,'' both groups meet in a comic-tragic accident. Arthur (Beyond the Mountain and Island Sojourn writes clean prose informed by a penetrating eye for place and a deep fondness for the characters who live as naturally in the story as the whales that play in the Gulf. (October 23)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1986
Release date: 10/01/1986
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