TOURISTS by Richard B. Wright


Email this review


In Final Things (1980), Wright offered the serious, horrifying story of a normal man driven to revenge-murder. Here, with less success but sporadic creepiness, he presents a roughly similar tale as black-comedy: the narration, from his Mexican prison-cell, of prissy Canadian prep-school teacher Philip Bannister, who's been arrested for the murder--on Cozumel island--of his wife and two American tourists. With heavy echoes of (among other novels) Thomas Berger's Neighbors, Bannister recalls how he and earthy, unfaithful wife Joan (formerly married to poet Dwight Tushy) were aggressively befriended by Ted and Corky Hacker, cartoon Americans from Nebraska; how Ted cajoled, threatened, and teased the Bannisters into joining the Hackers in midnight swims, strip-poker board-games, suggestive picnics, and pot-smoking; how Ted even made a homosexual pass at Philip (who recoiled in horror); and how, after being robbed by Joan, treated to orgy-entertainment by Corky, and nearly killed by Ted, Philip finally reacted with lethal non-violence--when the other three got accidentally locked in an underground cavern. Unfortunately, this mock-nightmare is never quite funny enough to generate Berger-esque farce, never remotely real enough to produce genuine chills. But some of Phil's dry, bitter remarks (especially about prep-school life) are darkly amusing; his fond recollections of life with his two aged, eccentric aunts add a touch of tenderness; and the overall atmosphere--of sexual-repression-gone-sour--has a certain dank, nasty impact.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1984
Publisher: Walker