Books by Charles Gaines

SURVIVAL GAMES by Charles Gaines
Released: Aug. 1, 1997

An initially crisp and involving literary thriller, this first novel in 15 years by the author of, among others, Stay Hungry (not reviewed) and Dangler (1980) unfortunately devolves into a high- pitched and pretentious macho bloodbath. It begins when Bill Joyce and Dray(ton) Hurley, best buddies and designers of an adult pursuit-and-capture outdoor game that has made them rich, bring their wives—Clair and Portia, respectively- -to their hideaway in the New Hampshire woods for a holiday weekend of duck-hunting, drinking, and friendly one-upmanship. In fact, it begins promisingly, as Gaines expertly contrasts the well-born, contemplative Bill and the gruff extrovert Dray, and works into the narrative several subtle foreshadowings of the very real violence that awaits them and their women. The novel's lean energies begin to dissipate as its plot thickens, with the introduction of redneck townie Red Sizemore and his slow-witted cousin Bucky. Deliverance, the reader murmurs—and he'll soon begin muttering Straw Dogs, Rain Man, and Duel in the Sun, among other sardonic apostrophes, as the body count increases and the wit diminishes. Red, you see, has a passion for opera (and for all the Finer Things his hardscrabble life has denied him), along with the hots for Clair—who, during a prior solo visit to their cabin in the woods, had been irresistibly drawn to the burly Red, who now means to renew their mutual passion no matter what it takes. Okay, it isn't really that bad. Gaines does write economically and convincingly of the details and tactics of both hunting and being hunted, and may have been onto something (that, unfortunately, remains only half-developed) in his portrait of Clair, a former actress who still lives partially in a world of her own creation. But by the time the ambulances arrive, you'll be reaching for the nearest Barbara Pym. This is the kind of novel that rips your arm off and beats you over the head with it. Now if that's your pleasure. . . . Read full book review >
Released: March 19, 1994

A world-weary, middle-aged novelist (Dangler, 1980, etc.) and sportswriter retreats to the wilds of Nova Scotia to build a house and rebuild his family. In the summer of 1989, Gaines and his wife Patricia, a painter, were separated and talking divorce. After three children and 30 years of marriage, they had grown apart—victims, not unlike Scott and Zelda, of the bitch goddess of success: Charles's first novel had recently been made into a movie, and he and Patricia were jet-setting about the country, flirting with movie stars and growing increasingly estranged from each other and the simple life they had once shared in rural New Hampshire. Although Gaines sidesteps the issue of whether he and Patricia were actually unfaithful, he nevertheless draws a compelling portrait of two people bent on destroying their marriage. After Patricia bottoms out and gives away all her jewelry, including her wedding and engagement rings, to street-people in New York, she decides to give the marriage another chance. In 1990, the Gaineses purchased 160 acres in Nova Scotia; the following summer, Charles, Patricia, their three grown children, and a handful of friends returned to build, with their own hands, their ``family place.'' Weaving together details of construction and carpentry with personal revelations about marriage and midlife, the narrative works as both a factual account of housebuilding and a poetic testimony of love lost and found. Neither sappy nor self-indulgent, and as compelling as Tracy Kidder's House: a beautifully written memoir sure to win Gaines a new following. (First printing of 25,000) Read full book review >