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Published by Alfred A. Knopf, October 1986

It's hard to know which part of this inventive novel to like the most: it's characters - the drifters, juvenile delinquents, and generally bewildered outsiders who inhabit its Alaskan setting - or the wilderness itself, the setting these people live in, which seems, in a way, to live in them.

Publisher's Weekly, Sept. 5, 1986

One might accurately call Arthur a 'landscape novelist", akin to a landscape painter, for in all her novels she expertly yet sensitively charts the rugged terrain her characters inhabit as well as the more fragile contours of their souls...(Bad Guys) surrealistically depicts both physical and psychological survival in a world whose absurdity rings uncomfortably true. A tour de force.

Booklist, Sept. 1986

When the two swift and steady narratives in this heartfelt novel of the Pacific Northwest come together, all hell breaks loose. The tragicomical result manages to separate the good guys from the bad, and to instill a well-earned and welcome moral - that cooperation and kindness matter more than mere survival.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1986

Arthur's characters are very good indeed...This is an oddly funny book and one that is warmly sympathetic.

Susan Dooley, The Washington Post, Sept. 30, 1986

Literally outlandish...inspired tragicomedy.

The New Yorker

In Bad Guys Arthur maintains the sharp eye for description and ability to write lyrical, cadenced prose amply exhibited in her earlier books. Moments of natural observation can be startling and beautiful. Bad Guys is a serious novel that attempts to examine troubling issues.

Ilene Raymond, The Philadelphia Inquirer

An oddly lilting tale about redemption and hope...Arthur writes with a simple, straightforward clarity, her prose lean and lyrical.

Vivienne Heines, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 25, 1986

An intriguing new novel . . . the whole book generates a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Bad Guys will leave you with a smile on your face.

Barbara Paul, Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 1986

Both outrageously comic and tenderly moving...the book moves to a tense and satisfying climax.

Albert E. Wilhelm, Library Journal, October 1986


     In Bad Guys the highly acclaimed author of Island Sojourn and Beyond the Mountain gives us for the first time a novel in the comic mode - a tale at once farcical in its invention, lyric in its painting of the northern wilderness, and fiercely touching in its advocacy of the human spirit.

     Played out against the backdrop of the Gulf of Alaska, “where rocks are really rocks,” this is a novel full of “bad guys”: the inhabitants - and the strange invaders - of Chenega, an island work camp for juvenile delinquents. Among them are the fifteen-year-old half Aleut camper Harry, educated into a piercing purity of heart by the longtime need to keep his crazy brother from killing . . . and the intruders: Spike, a graduate of Chenega, educated into muddled vengefulness by prison after prison; his enormously fat and naive companion, Wesley, a drifter who is guided in his travels by the World Spirit; and Wesley’s driven, anorexic daughter, Amolia.

     As, with wild ineptitude, the three “terrorists” make their way toward Chenega to lay siege to the camp; as Harry scours the dictionary for language (“you noxious miasma, you pusillanimous pismire”) that will permit self-expression in the face of the No Swearing rule; and as the on-island director’s wistful game plan of teaching the campers Trust metamorphoses into a mass breakout, Bad Guys careens through an absurd and heart-stopping moment of violence to a climax that is a celebration of innocence and courage.

     Readers of Island Sojourn and Beyond the Mountain will find the same pleasures here: textured and cadenced prose, resonant imagery, sharply and lovingly defined characters, a powerful evocation of the sometimes terrible beauty of the natural world. But in Bad Guys, as never before in her work, Elizabeth Arthur depicts the intricate interweaving of comedy with tragedy that is the core of life. This is a wonderfully funny and deeply moving book.

     Book excerpt will be available when e-version of Bad Guys is online at Hollow Tree Press.

USA Hardback 
British Hardback 

Bad Guys is available in a Kindle edition through Amazon, published by Hollow Tree Press.