cover image Never Die

Never Die

Barry Hannah. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $18.95 (152pp) ISBN 978-0-395-51560-0

Hannah ( Ray ; Airships ) targets the western genre with this outrageous, savage yet stillborn farce set in 1910, in a town named Nitburg. Idle gunslinger Fernando Mure resolves to burn the town to the ground, partly because it's corrupt, partly because the Chinese have moved in. After Judge Kyle Nitburg, who sold his first wife into slavery to Indians, hires a dwarf to smash Mure's kneecaps with a baseball bat, Fernando plots revenge with the help of his tubercular, dying girlfriend, Stella. An apocalyptic shoot-out is a fitting climax to this raunchy tale, clever without being funny, that lays bare a Wild West full of violence, cruelty, racism, morphine, booze, clap and coolies. Hannah populates his frenetic mythical frontier with grotesques, including twin sheriffs, a horny reverend who flies a biplane, a hermit, a homosexual opium-loving doctor given to ``visions of manly gunfire,'' a blind millionaire widow and assorted ornery killers. (Apr.)