NIGHT TRAIN by Todd Walton


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This may be the birth of a new genre--hippie/New Age romantic suspense. Unfortunately, what could be light entertainment featuring an original twist turns to lead in Walton's overzealous hands: the sentimentality is spread too thickly, the antihero heroes remain too unblemished, the New Age philosophizing tends to be trite. Charlie and Lily, hardened drifters, who each showed early flashes of pop-music genius but never had much real success, meet and are set fleeing for their lives. It seems Lily was something of a slave to Pearl, a grandly powerful and evil matriarch, who wants Lily's baby for her own and has innumerable thugs to send after it. But Lily and Charlie are falling madly, ""supportively;"" in love and having great sex besides; with the baby they form an ironclad family unit, one-dimensional on each side. The first half of the novel is a rather plodding chase adventure, a tepid Dog Soldiers, as Charlie, Lily and the baby travel up the California coast, hiding out with a representative sampling of 60's survivors--a pot farmer, a Vietnam vet dying of cancer from defoliants, etc. The second half picks up with a more epic, Star Wars-ish struggle for the survival of a utopian artistic community in Oregon. Lily, seen as the community's messiah because of her remarkable voice, must give the concert of her life to protect them all. She does, but a traitor swipes the baby, leading to a climactic appearance by Pearl, who jets in with the baby in hand, ready to cut a deal. Walton (Inside Moves, Forgotten Impulses) writes a smooth, polished story, but one with the wrong spirit--too serious, too unaware of how easily the 80's snicker at the excesses and stereotypes of the 60's. A sense of humor would have helped greatly--how else can one find entertainment in such wooden, grade-B movie material?

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Mercury--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)