THE MAN WHO MADE THE DEVIL GLAD by Donald McCaig

THE MAN WHO MADE THE DEVIL GLAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

McCaig displays the same evocative, deeply sympathetic understanding of modern rural life found in his last novel (Nop's Trials, 1984), but his plot--the story of a county sheriff who outwits a possibly psychopathic state trooper--is straight out of Smoky and the Bandit. Tucker County is high up in the mountains of West Virginia, and widower Cub Hamill is its Sheriff--until, not much at glad-handing voters, he loses the November election to his born-again deputy, Ben Puffenbarger. Cub's fairly content to work his farm and hunt for a wily coyote who's been butchering the local sheep, but when a small-time criminal named LeRoy Ritter is murdered, he begins to ask questions. This riles up State Trooper Jack Nicely, who, along with Puffenbarger, has been trying to pin the killing on LeRoy's girlfriend, Laura. When Cub begins probing too deeply, a drunken Nicely admits that he shot Ritter after the latter had gotten him hooked on cocaine, and then places a bomb in Cub's track. Cub discovers it at the last minute--and the chase is on. Up until this point, the plot has been a nearly poetic portrayal of Tucker County, lonely Cub, and his girlfriend, postmistress Maggie Stevenson, but now the story degenerates into the kind of flashy antics of good ol' boys having it out. There's a car chase in which Cub embarrasses Nicely by literally winching his own truck over a mountaintop, and a contrived, unbelievable finale wherein Cub entraps Nicely and a drag dealer from Memphis. ""You fought the law and the law won,"" says Cub. Despite a sure touch when it comes to Appalachia, McCaig veers into bathos and bravado, and the novel remains a minor, uncompelling effort from a talented writer.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Crown