cover image Gone South

Gone South

Robert R. McCammon. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74306-2

McCammon has followed the popular and critical success of Boy's Life with a book that is much darker, but written with the same headlong narrative grip. Dan Lambert is a bitter Vietnam vet in Louisiana at the end of his rope: Agent Orange has condemned him to a slow death, he has split from his wife and now the bank wants to repossess his truck, his only hope of getting work. In a moment of blind madness he kills a bank loan officer and runs, followed by two of the unlikeliest bounty hunters you'll ever meet: Flint, who carries the half-formed head and arm of an unseparated twin brother in his side, and Pelvis, who makes a living impersonating guess who , but has a distinctly better self. As he runs, Lambert picks up another misfit, Arden, an otherwise lovely girl with a horribly disfiguring birthmark, who is seeking a legendary faith healer in the Gulf swamplands where Lambert tries to hide. Most of the book recalls an action-packed popular movie, with car chases, some evil dope runners, murderous alligators and an explosive climax involving a Vietnam-era patrol boat. It's a strong adventure yarn, but McCammon seems to want to bathe it in some sort of cosmic significance, and the attempt to give Flint legendary stature, as well as a mistily mystical windup at a wilderness hospital run by nuns (where Arden can be ``cured'') take some swallowing. Literary Guild alternate. (Oct.)