OLD POWDER MAN by Joan Williams
Kirkus Star


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This is the second novel by the author of (the very different) The Morning and the Evening, much admired when it appeared in 1962. It is the life story of Frank Wynn, a Southern man with little education who decides to leave his mark in the world and be able, some day, to retire with enough money and respect to sleep as late as he wishes in the morning. Frank becomes a dynamite salesman. Slowly, never with excessive ambition, always with dogged determination, he builds up his own healthy business. He gets in on some of the federal dam-building projects. He pays his creditors on time. He cuts out a big expense by shooting his own dynamite. But he is busy, selfish and obtuse. His first wife leaves him; his second shuts him out when he fails to come home for the birth of their daughter Laurel. After some years, it is too late for all of them. The lines of communication are rusted from disuse. Emotions embarrass. And, they are each guilty or innocent. At one point, Frank confides in his best friend: ""I certainly thought I had done everything in the world a man could do."" The friend replies, ""You have. Did it all alone, too."" This is as blunt as Miss Williams gets. The book crystallizes during and after Frank's death. The point of view has been Laurel's. The theme is love by consanguinity and in spite of brutal gaps in life styles; touch quickly or it is too late to touch at all. Old Powder Man is a thoroughly satisfying, painstakingly complete novel, moving, warm and quite lovely.

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World