THE LAST NIGHT OF SUMMER by Erskine Caldwell


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This is a professional, familiarly confined novel about a Louisiana town during the last night of summer when ""so much heat has accumulated that something has to explode"". Explode it does, and there are two murders, rape (really necrophilia), a car wreck, a stab at adultery and a visit to a cat house-- all the heavy artillery. The novel builds from a deceptively static first chapter into a night of gathering violence that erupts into three thunderstorms, count them, and much mortal misconduct. I.e.- Brooks Ingraham, 48 is enjoined by his young secretary to spend the night with her. Through a phone mix-up, the affair is not consummated. While Brooks goes off to a professional establishment, the secretary sits in a car in a parking lot, and Brooks' wife goes off to the country club to get smashed. A runaway convict strangles and rapes the secretary- and Brooks eventually gets his, at home; his wife kills him with a broken gin bottle. Throughout, as in Faulkner's Dry September, the weather collects, then bursts, and it is excellently described. But almost every character speaks out of a false sense of what he ""knows from experience"", and Caldwell himself seems to have this kind of pride of knowing everything. Call it ""the Experience Syndrome"".

Publisher: arrar, Straus & Co.