THE MAN I NEVER WANTED TO BE by John Clayton

THE MAN I NEVER WANTED TO BE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Clayton (Radiance, stories, 1998) creates a character whose ideals of manly gentleness were formed in the '60s and maneuvers him into a quixotic standoff with a psychotic wife-beater: the result is a melodrama that's sometimes gripping but also message-driven and credibility-stretching. David Rosen, ex-antiwar activist, is now in his middle 40's and living in a house he built in rural Massachusetts, where he's a community college professor, father of one, and in the end-stages of a divorce. When, in New York, he bumps into gorgeous Gabriella Rossi--lover and comrade-activist from the good old days--he's smitten all over again (declares he: ""All my life l've been a lover . . . . Why do you have to look at a woman and groan?""). Gabriella is now director of a women's shelter in Boston, and David, on the alert for a new chance with her, of course says yes when she asks him to shelter young Kerry Latrice and her two-year-old at his house ""just for now--because this husband is off the wall . . . I'm afraid--she could be one of the murdered ones."" Sure enough, mad husband Chuck finds out where David's house is, attacks the front door with an ax, snaps up Kerry and baby, and leaves with threats aplenty against David's life. Never one to turn discreetly from the woes or faults of others (""It's so strange to me that I still want to help her""), David gets himself into not just one but two more bloody confrontations with psychotic Chuck before story's drawn-out end--all the while wondering what life may hold for him and Gabriella (since they parted, she's suffered an awful tragedy), helped along in his troubles and tasks by his good if hateful old friend (and Gabriella's ex) Gar Stone, a developer who walks, talks, and quacks like Donald Trump. Moments of real tension in the shootouts; otherwise, TV printed on paper.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
Page count: 230pp
Publisher: Permanent