Kirkus Star


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Talented Max Crawford (Waltz Across Texas, The Backslider) now pockets you like a tick under the skin of a group of radicals in Palo Alto, circa 1972--and there you sit, drawing small draughts of horrifying blood. King Tyler is a radical lawyer from a rich, Left-leaning California family; like many of his friends--professors, lawyers, doctors--he rides the cusp between respectability in the State's eyes and doing mindless dirty work for crazies in the Movement. When a murderer in prison is romanticized by the Movement and then sprung from the Chino penitentiary (a guard is killed in the process), Tyler harbors him. But in the past he's done far worse; on orders from the Panthers (who use this bunch of white radicals like scullery maids, to clean up their dirt), he murdered a man and hacked him up to dispose of the body. Crawford's knife-like narrative makes it clear that Tyler and his friends are compromised beyond the point of guilt or caring about their actions anymore; the hermeticism of this college-town's radical politics is so robot-like that all actions spring out of premises long ago dusted free of moral categories. (In the local underground newspaper, the crossword puzzle has clues like ""One down: 'Overthrow of one class by another. . .,' ten letters."") But now an FBI informer in their ranks will have to be dealt with, and Tyler draws back; and this slight retreat into sanity seems to let Crawford--and us--inside. Outlined with ugly and very precise strokes, Crawford's cynical and cinderish portrait of political zombie-ism makes this a dyspeptic, fascinating, and starkly powerful book.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich