cover image Candlemoth


R.J. Ellory. Overlook, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59020-516-7

Originally published in the U.K. in 2003, Ellory’s searing first novel recounts how Daniel Ford came to be on death row in 1982 for beheading his best friend, Nathan Verney, a decade earlier. In 1952, when Ford and Verney were both six years old, they met by the side of a South Carolina lake, where Ford, a white boy, shared his ham sandwich with Verney, a black boy. Ten years later, a gang of racist bullies tested their friendship, which only emerged stronger than ever. Ford recalls his sexual awakening, the effects of the turmoil of the 1960s on his community, and the harsh choices the Vietnam War forced on him. A prose master, Ellory (A Quiet Vendetta) says of the prison staff’s home life, “They kiss their wives, and their wives look back at them, and in their eyes is that numb and indifferent awareness that the bread and cereal and eggs they ate were paid for by killing men.” The question of Ford’s guilt lends plenty of interest, but is almost incidental to the harrowing descriptions of life behind bars and the complex unfolding of a lifelong connection between friends. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)