Closer to The Long Night that unforgettable story of revenge, than anything he has written in twenty intervening years, The Velvet Horn revolves around the unforeseen repercussions of an impulsive act of passion in early youth- and the heavy price paid some fifteen years and more later. The five Cropleighs, orphaned and closely knit- four boys and an adored young sister, seek isolation and escape in the Cumberland hill country. But they cannot shut out the world of ambition, love, jealousy, gossip. The Civil War intrudes- and its aftermath finds a scarred country and scarred lives. Chiefly the story concerns Lucius, youthful, innocent fruit of an old passion- thinking himself the son of Joe Cree, killed by a falling giant of the forest. It concerns too Lucius' mother, wed in haste to Joe by her brothers, who have surprised her with a lover in a woodland secret glade. It concerns her brother, Jack, who finds solace in drink; and another brother, Dick, a doctor. It concerns Pete Legrand, whose money and success set him apart; and the Rutters, equally apart because of their ignorance and poverty. There are stories within stories, as the shuttle weaves back and forth, past and present, and sets the pattern of the whole. There are moments of superb writing- unforgettable descriptions- searching penetration of character and motive. That it does not quite sustain the heights is perhaps not unusual- but that it has heights makes it worth serious consideration.