DOG HORSE RAT by Christopher Davis


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A spare, understated novel--the tenth from Davis (Valley of the Shadow, 1988, etc.)--about the aftermath of a robbery and murder in backwoods New York. The time is the mid-70's, but things don't seem to have changed much for the West family for the past 50 years--except that Van has gone to Vietnam and come back disconnected and disturbed. Together with his kid brother Royal, he goes to rob the house of the wealthy Corbins and, when they're interrupted by the neighbor's son, shoots him dead. Roy is afraid that Van's talking about the killing to his family (who all more or less accept it) and his kidding about it to his friends will bring the law down on them, but nothing much happens, and life goes on: the brothers leave their wives (Van's Pauline and Roy's Louetta) at home and go to drink beer at the Antlers, take up with new girlfriends--part-Indian Janet Colby (whose affections they've shared) and college-student Pam--without exactly leaving Pauline and Lou, and put in their time at family gatherings. Some of these episodes are flat, but most of them--Roy's trip back to the scene of the crime, a bachelor party that turns ugly--crackle with an ominous undercurrent that doesn't come to the surface until after Van's left town and died in a Texas jail and Roy takes one last trip back to the Corbins'. Davis' austere prose treats his non-heroes unsparingly but without condescension as they shamble toward destruction.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0595091989
Publisher: Viking