The Hangman's Children:

Donald Hays, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $18.95 (425p) ISBN 978-0-87113-309-0
Hays's second novel (after The Dixie Association ) does not stick to the '60s situation with which it initially commands attention--Will the authorities catch up with a young man who has burnt his draft card?--but it never entirely loses its pull on the reader. Three major characters take turns telling the story: the young man, Jesse Lee Cantwell, his current girlfriend, Gloria Alice Dawn, and his father. All Arkansas and Missouri natives, the youngsters are otherwise typical of the middle-class rebels of the time; but not the father, Samuel Langhorne Maledon, a genial, cynical carnival con man who has never done much for his son (who was reared by a rich stepfather). Maledon's attempts now to save Jesse from the law are ingenious and entertaining, but halfway through the long, involved narrative he gives up, and the characters are dispersed. So is the story. The boy and the girl are authentic enough, but never more than familiar prototypes of the '60s, and their contributions are predictable and boring. Hays redeems his novel in the last chapters by bringing everyone together for the bloody Chicago Democratic Convention which he depicts with verve and seriousness. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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