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 Wesleys 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 directors 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.