cover image A Violent ACT

A Violent ACT

Alec Wilkinson. Knopf Publishing Group, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41507-7

This oblique but absorbing narrative about violence and loss proceeds to a powerful, resonant conclusion. New Yorker writer Wilkinson ( Big Sugar ) artfully incorporates much reporting as he explores, in six subtly written sections , the 1986 murder in an unidentified Indiana town of probation officer Tom Gahl by an ``incorrigibly violent'' ex-convict, 40-year-old Mike Jackson. He first describes, in great detail, the shooting and Jackson's subsequent rampage as he escaped. He then turns to the widow, Nancy Gahl, and captures the onset of grief. He flashes back to profile Jackson, a ``too fragile'' boy who became a too angry man. Then he portrays the increasingly frustrating 11-day manhunt for Jackson in the Missouri town of Wright City, which was virtually haunted by the killer's specter. After describing Jackson's suicide as the FBI closed in, Wilkinson returns to limn the growth, over several years, of the Gahls' two young sons and Nancy's life as a widow. He likens her relentless memories to ``part of a turning wheel that brought each to the surface for a time, then submerged it.'' (Feb.)