SIX ANGELS AT MY BACK by John Bell Clayton
Kirkus Star


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Starred for distinction -- not for saleability, this extraordinary first novel marks a newcomer in the Faulkner-Hemingway tradition. In sparse, moving prose, Clayton tells a first person story of a poor white Florida ""cracker"" whose limitations kept him bound to a life of frustration and an inevitably tragic end which has its own nobility. Ed, who tells the story, his buddy Turkey, and Mas, who chose Turkey for a mate because he promised her more, eke out an existence on the ragged edge of nothingness in a shack on the Gulf of Mexico. Just over the horizon they see visions and dream of owning a sleek convertible, of doing the night clubs of Miami, of living in a mansion where the chandeliers drip pseudo diamonds. But Turkey's violent temper -- despite Ed's more moderate control -- keeps them moving from one shabby job to another, with intervals of getting bare subsistence from the mud flats at low tied. Mae is a gadfly. She spurs them on to momentary ambition. She helps them spend occasional small windfalls. She tantaizes Ed to almost betraying Turkey. She irritates them to the point of their getting themselves into really serious trouble in the hopes of a quick ""fortune"". And at the , when Ed recognizes the hopelessness of the impasse, the inevitability of a violent end, he chooses a way out that saves Turkey and Mae and marks finis for himself. Explosive material here, Handled with restraint, sensitivity, and a sort of tragic beauty. But it needs word-of-mouth enthusiasm.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1952
Publisher: Macmillan