AGATITE by Clay Reynolds


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Second-novelist Reynolds (The Vigil) returns to the godforsaken Texas town of Agatite for the predictable story of a drifter who kills a young girl, and of the county sheriff who puzzles out the mystery. Roy Breedlove grew up a high-school football hero in dreary, dusty Agatite, but left town in a big hurry in the late 60's when he got a local girl pregnant. He gradually became alcoholic; leading a drifting life of part-time jobs and bar fights and, as the novel reaches the present, of robbing banks and finance companies in small southwestern towns. Hitchhiking near Agatite one day, he meets Eileen Kennedy, a stranded motorist who recognizes Roy as one of the thugs who held up the finance company where she works; so he kills her and leaves her body hanging in an old outhouse, where it's found a month later by Sheriff Able Newsome, who begins to track the killer. The novel proceeds without really progressing, and instead of meeting and intertwining, the dual plots slam into each other with the jarring force of a ten-car collision when Roy and his gang are trapped holding up the bank in Agatite. In an endless, fireworks-for-fireworks'-sake shoot-out with Able and the townsfolk, 22 people are left dead, and Newsome walks into the bank, smoking gun in hand, to find his murderer dead on the floor. There are some interesting small-town cameos here (particularly the portraits of a greedy Agatite banker and of a farmer whose wife has run off), but this is gritty realism without a raison d'etre, so that it soon turns into self-parody: ""You know, Able. . .Soon's you found that gal hangin' in my crapper, I knowed somethin' bad was gonna happen. You reckon all this had to do with that? Findin' that gal, I mean?"" Yep.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's