Screenwriter Gailey’s first novel owes a tip of the hat to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
Danny, a gentle giant with a tragic past that’s responsible for his mental challenges, lives in a tiny, bare room over a laundromat in Wyalusing, Pa. The business’s owner allows Danny to live there and pays him a small stipend for keeping the premises clean and handling day-to-day issues. It’s not a plush life, but Danny, whose parents died when he was a little boy, leaving him to the mercy of his vicious uncle, doesn’t ask for or expect much. And that’s a good thing, since Wyalusing holds some of the nastiest people ever to congregate in one place. The worst of the worst is a deputy named Mike Sokowski who, in terms of sheer evil, makes Charles Manson seem like a choirboy. Mike’s former girlfriend Mindy, waitress and all-around nice person, is friends with Danny; in fact, Mindy is about the only friend Danny has. Although Danny’s situation in life is through no fault of his own, adults in Wyalusing teach their children to ignore and even abuse the big man. Sokowski is at the front of that line, and one night, following a fight at a party that gets out of hand, he and a friend pay a visit to Mindy that results in her death, for which he frames Danny. What follows is a race to pin the crime on the innocent man by some of the most odious characters this side of the Evil Empire, including an extraneous drunken state police officer. Gailey writes visually, rendering the characters and action both vivid and alive. But his townsfolk behave so shamefully toward Danny, and the villain is so despicable, that the book often reads more like a fairy tale than a novel.
Gailey’s writing is the saving grace in this tale of good versus evil.