GREENCASTLE by Lloyd Kropp


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Kropp's fourth novel (One Hundred Times to China, 1979, etc.): a standard, studiously sensitive coming-of-ager all about a spirited New Jersey teen-ager taking on a town without pity. It's 1952, Red Scare time. Joe McCarthy is whooping and hollering up on Capitol Hill, godless atheists are being hunted down in Korea, and even the torpid town of Greencastle is keeping one slow monstrous eye out for Commies and other such ""preverts., Fifteen-year-old Roger Cornell and his pals Dennis and Frank (all a little young for their age) have a harmless club where they read pulp magazines, worship H.P. Lovecraft and speak darkly about flying saucers and the Egyptian Book of the Dead--kids' stuff, really, but to the town, the Denizens of the Sacred Crypt (as the boys call themselves) are different. Vicious rumors spread--the Denizens are spies, queers, possibly intellectuals--and gradually witch-hunt hysteria grips Greencastle. Roger is savagely beaten at school; gentle, intellectual Norman Pangborn (the Denizens' best adult friend) has his bookstore vandalized; and local cops, reporters, and mothers' clubs rise up in anger. Hammered home again and again to Roger is the lesson that he cannot depend on adults: his favorite English teacher cruelly tells him how ""ordinary"" he is, and his father throughout suffers from an unexplained melancholia that renders him practically immobile. Finally, a strange, war-obsessed boy named Harry Fisher acts as a lightning rod for everyone's troubles and kills himself--and the shocked town returns to ""normal,"" with Roger a kind of hero for having weathered it all bravely. A busy plot, but little unexpected happens: innocence is lost and epiphanies grow on trees.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Freundlich