CROCODILE BLOOD by George Mandel


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Mandel's sixth novel, which spans some 20 years framed by the Korean and Vietnam Wars, portrays class and racial tensions in a Deep South community, and their culmination in an orgy of random violence. It's 1950. Majosee, a young Seminole, is gang-raped by five trashy white boys, then thrown to a crocodile in the Everglades; but the croc chooses to impregnate her (Southern gallantry?), and three months later Majosee (""hatching inside"") delivers a litter of six monsters, one of which later kills two people before being beheaded by the Indians. However, this is not a conventional horror novel; supernatural elements are kept to a minimum, and Majosee makes few reappearances. Mandel focuses instead on the dubious ethics of the power brokers in his Florida town: a sharp-tongued sheriff, a self-righteous judge, and preeminently Tate Fenneran, de facto boss of the county and rapacious land developer, who forces the acquittal of the rapists so he can use them in his fight with New Orleans mobsters. Narrator of the second half is Gabe Kogen, an epileptic Jewish artist, presumed to have special influence with Majosee after one chance (very chance) erotic encounter with her. Gabe's tone becomes strident with the arrival in town of racially mixed swamp people, who mug/rape/ murder at random, and drive poor Gabe to epileptic seizures with their bongo playing. Before they are routed, Gabe himself kills three of them. What's going on here? Why is life so cheap in Key County, where arson alone claims 600 lives? Is it the result of backwoods diabolism? Genetic mischief?. Environmental plunder? No anwers are forthcoming in this hysterical farrago, which seeks to project a Conradian vision of evil, but achieves nothing more than a long, bilious cry of ""there goes the neighborhood.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Arbor House