cover image Wild Game

Wild Game

Frank Bergon, Author University of Nevada Press $22 (323p) ISBN 978-0-87417-257-7

Set down in plain language that mirrors the forbidding desert landscape of Nevada, this brooding, complex novel by Bergon (Shoshone Mike), professor of English at Vassar College, is based on a true crime. On New Year's Eve, 1982, Jack Irigaray, an idealistic Reno wildlife biologist struggling with alcoholism and a wife searching for self-realization in New Age occultism, is called out by a local game warden to assist in the investigation of Billy Crockett, a renegade trapper illegally operating in the remote Nevada high country. Caught red-handed, Billy, claiming self-defense, fatally shoots the warden and a hapless bystander. After forcing Jack at gunpoint to help dispose of the bodies, Billy wounds him and flees into the desert. The plot chronicles the nine-year pursuit, capture, conviction, escape and recapture of Billy, but this is highly allegorical. In the process, Bergon exposes questions of misplaced hero-worship and the clash of the vestigial Old West lone-wolf mentality with the contemporary neon-lit dice table civilization--all of this while Jack, trying to find his own salvation, plunges deeper into his addictions. As entertaining as it is disturbing, this postmodern tale of crime and punishment is a triumph of old-fashioned storytelling. (Apr.)