CUTDOWN by John A. Miller


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 Rugged, gory, misanthropic tale of a Vietnam vet turned lawyer who can't keep himself away from sleazy characters and the trouble they bring. San Franciscan Claude McCutcheon, first seen as a naive soldier flummoxed by his girlfriend's pregnancy in ``Bethune, South Carolina'' (from Miller's story collection, Jackson Street, 1995), resembles the burned-out, hard-punching movie heroes Clint Eastwood used to play. Before we meet him, a dark prologue describes a Nazi POW's murderous escape from a Virginia internment camp and the obsessive but ultimately futile efforts of Prince George County Sheriff A.G. Farrell to recapture him. Thirty pages, and nearly fifty years later, McCutcheon, a bearded, cotton-shirt-and-blue-jeans loan wolf who spends more time working out in the gym than in a courtroom, swaggers into Berkeley's holding tank to extract Bobby Norton--a disreputable nightclub owner being held for questioning in the fatal shooting of lawyer Myron Hirsch, a zealous ``radical environmentalist'' who indulged in blackmail. At about this time, McCutcheon also draws the distant attentions of Margaret Stewart Tikkanen, the beautiful ice queen CEO of a phenomenally profitable northern California lumber company that had been the target of Hirsch's public and private scheming. McCutcheon's acidic dislike for phony mystics, bed-hopping Berkeley professors, liberals, and such grotesques as Feather Rainforest, a fearsomely fat ecoterrorist (and her whining, sociopathic son Wolf Walks Far) doesn't justify the cruel action-movie fates these figures meet here. Meantime, the lawyer himself takes as many blows as he gives, including a pistol-whipping and stabbing. Varying slightly from the formula, Miller follows the requisite slam-bang climax with a series of what-it-all-means meditations about the relationship between a soldier's duty and what survival demands. A tentative, turbulent, yet promising first novel that aspires, somewhat unsuccessfully, to a grand statement on personal destiny and military honor.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-671-56904-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997


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