The Laying Out of Gussie Hoot

Margot Fraser, Author Southern Methodist University Press $17.95 (289p) ISBN 978-0-87074-317-7
Fraser puts her experience as a juvenile probation officer to droll, insightful and thoroughly enjoyable use in her first novel. Every morning in her kitchen, 72-year-old Gussie Hoot (Augusta Houghton) counts the cash--profits of her Texas cattle ranch--she keeps in her dead husband's fishing tackle box. Then one day in May, her son Bubba comes home for lunch to find Gussie dead, with a wound in her neck, and the money gone. After the funeral, with the townspeople in an uproar, the sheriff is led by Gussie's ``brand''--a Lone Star on each bill--to 16-year-old Jewell Ray Cantwell, who swears he hit Gussie in self-defense. Creating sympathy for both Cantwell and those out to avenge Gussie's death, Fraser gives us colorful, endearing characters doing their best to muddle through the routine and the extraordinary in daily life. Witnesses' testimony reveals a fuller account of Gussie's eccentricity and love of her money, ``the only thing which had never let her down, the only thing she could rely on . . . everything else in her life had turned out to be a disappointment.'' A brisk pace, humor and a sympathetic account of small-town life contribute to the impressive debut of this Southern writer. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
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