HARDCASTLE by John Yount


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Yount (The Trapper's Last Shot) writes a sturdily ingenious prose very well here--but whether it alone can prop up interest in an awfully familiar story is another matter. William Music, a Virginia boy who went West to work as an electric-company lineman but got hit by the Depression, hoboes home on a freight train, only dropping off now and then to forage for food. One of these forage stops is Switch County, Kentucky, where events conspire so that he is taken in by Mrs. Ella Bone and her grown son Regus (Regus Patoff Bone, named after the label on a bottle of patent medicine). Regus works as a mine guard for Hardcastle Coal Co., and he gets Music a job doing likewise. But Hardcastle Coal, a small mine, is non-unionized--and unionizers are on the horizon. It doesn't matter that the union with its eye on Hardcastle is small, Communist, and ineffectual; Hardcastle overreacts, throwing union-sympathetic miners out of their company-owned shacks. Mine guards Regus and Music don't fancy toting guns against strikers, so they quit; and when a Squatterstown develops, the two men even agree to haul supplies to the squatters. Violence follows--swift and inexorable. Impressively, Yount makes Music--and the surprising Regus--into very fleshy characters; the novelist is so deeply inside his heroes that they stay vivid even when the novel is idling in neutral--which, despite the vivid atmosphere, is the overall gear here. A highly professional novel, then, sometimes a resonant one--but the tale, though told with great skill and obvious pleasure, never really grips or excites or inspires much wonder.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1980
Publisher: Marek--dist. by Putnam