CALM HORSE, WILD NIGHT by Peter Zachary Cohen


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In logging country near the Canadian border, a smart old timber horse, Tug, and his 14-year-old working partner, Arley, get caught up in a smuggling scheme--involving two desperate teenagers--that provides a dramatic focus, this time, for Cohen's ruminative, multi-perspective storytelling. To win some plaudits for Tug (and, maybe, some customers for the family livestock), Arley sets him up for a special performance ""snaking"" logs at the country fair. Meanwhile a 19-year-old youth in a yellow cap, and his protesting sister, are ominously closing on the pair. She will intervene--first to alert Arley to Tug's post-performance disappearance, then to help him steal Tug back and, in the doing, queer her brother's smuggling deal. (To finance their ailing father's cancer treatment, Yellow Cap has arranged to haul a planeload of ""stuff"" from a deep-woods lake.) Tug, throughout, tends to be stolid; accepting. ""Life, as Tug had learned it from a calm mother and kind owners, was basically a matter of putting one foot in front of another."" The book's climax, for him, is getting a long-delayed drink of water. Arley, for his part, has to overcome his suspicion of the girl, come to terms with her yes-or-no directives, come to grips with the need to help her injured brother (possibly implicating Tug and himself), and, under extreme pressure, come through once more with Tug--via a delicate maneuver that saves the life of a snooping border patrolman. The shifting perspectives, along with the situation-specific detail, make this a stock melodrama with internal reverberations.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum