FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by John Ives

FEAR IN A HANDFUL OF DUST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

T. S. Eliot (""I will show you fear in a handful of dust"") might have spent a passably entertaining evening with this survival novel--which borrows its title from ""The Waste Land."" Ives creates his own wasteland on the Arizona desert and casts his horrified characters adrift in it, naked as Adam (three men) and Eve (one woman) in 130° heat. How do they get there? Well, a Navajo who became deranged in Vietnam (by the atrocities he was ordered to commit) returns to the States and kills five men by abandoning them in the Mohave desert. On the recommendation of four psychiatrists, one a woman, he is kept in various California state mental hospitals for the criminally insane. The Indian is so incensed by his mind-probe treatment that he escapes, rounds up the four doctors, drives them 100 miles into the Arizona desert and leaves them without food, clothing, shelter, tools, or weapons--and he calls this an easy death, far easier than the soul-robbery he's had to undergo. The four shrinks indeed shrivel and turn to fried bacon, but through their leader's desert smarts (he's part Navajo) they learn how to avoid the sun on the fiat desert, create coolness, distill water out of hot rocks, snare rabbits and lizards, kill a peccary, make clothes and shoes--and survive for weeks while refusing to abandon a member with a broken leg. Once that creaky opening gambit is out of the way, Ives manages to forage a solid enough melodrama--with a strong lift at the fade.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Dutton