cover image Dirty White Boys

Dirty White Boys

Stephen Hunter. Random House (NY), $21 (436pp) ISBN 978-0-679-43751-2

Often brilliant, and permeated by violence, Hunter's sixth thriller (after Point of Impact) details an escaped mad-dog killer's flight across the Southwest and a tortured state trooper's pursuit of him. Sadistic Lamar Pye is forced to break out of Oklahoma's McAlester State Penitentiary after he brutally murders a black inmate who tries to rape him. Pye takes with him his cousin, Odell, a retarded giant who obeys Pye's orders without question, and wimpy Richard Peed, an artist whose work has caught Pye's fancy. Pitted against this vicious trio and the slightly crazed woman who takes up with them is Sgt. Bud Pewtie of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, who suspects that his obsessive, troubled affair with the wife of his slain partner might have distracted him from an opportunity to end Pye's murderous spree early on. Pewtie mixes it up with the outlaws time and again until a final bloody face-off that threatens to tear his personal life apart. Throughout, Hunter cleverly humanizes Pye and his band in small ways that effectively counterpoint the horror of their actions, but these touches don't lessen the considerable tension he generates as his story clips through its twists and turns. Powerful and gripping, this could be Hunter's most popular novel yet. Movie rights to 20th Century Fox; Literary Guild selection. (Nov.)