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Blackburn [Paperback]

Bradley Denton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 7 1994
Blackburn is a serial killer. But, like the rest of us, he confronts the same hypocrisies and frustrations of the world and, unable to help himself, or at the mercy of circumstance, he crosses a dangerous threshold--and he kills. In this novel, we meet many of his twenty-one victims: law enforcers, writers, adulterers, auto mechanics, and other liars. And each crime reveals another side of his psyche . . . and his disturbing rationale for murder.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Denton's third novel (after Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede ) takes the overworked serial-killer concept and wrings from it a striking depiction of middle-American despair, betrayed innocence, and transcendent hope. Jimmy Blackburn is a roaming murderer with an idiosyncratic moral code: he kills only those he feels deserve to die. His victims include cheating auto mechanics, bullying bosses and a thieving encyclopedia salesman. In intervening chapters, Denton traces Blackburn's childhood in small-minded small-town Kansas, in a home haunted by an abusive father, a world prescribed by casual cruelties and repressive, untrustworthy authority. Denton doesn't settle for facile connections between Blackburn's early years and his criminal turn, playing his life off against some Norman Rockwell vision of an America that never was. He portrays Blackburn's childhood not as unusually bleak or cruel, but as an all-too-common experience, so it's the reality of a mundane world--not some exceptional horror--that produces Blackburn the killer. And Blackburn himself is no simplistic figure of evil; he retains a sympathetic innocence, a stubborn hope, throughout his doomed journey, and his end yields a surprising sense of redemption. Denton's hand never falters as he shows us an America of petty injustices and vanished dreams, where a sensitive Kansas boy can grow into a killer.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Abused and unloved, Blackburn is a true victim of circumstance who devises his own strict moral code to guide him in all matters including whom and what to kill. On his 17th birthday, Blackburn shoots a cop who has just killed a dog in the town church. He then embarks on a career as a one-man eliminator of those who mistreat and prey upon others. Using stark, unadorned prose, Denton ( Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede , Morrow, 1991) has created a modern-day parable illustrating the shades of good and evil and the meanings of life. Sometimes humorous but more often heart-wrenching, Blackburn delivers a knockout punch to rigid, self-satisfied thinking everywhere. Excellent.
- Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A challenge to society's values July 18 2001
Format:Paperback
All of us have thought about killing other people. It might be the mechanic who cheated you, the professor who unfairly gave you a bad grade, etc. That being said, Blackburn is a book in which the main character actually acts upon these urges.
Jimmy Blackburn has been put down all his life. His parents abuse him, and he's looked at as a failure in life. So, when a cruel police officer harasses him outside a church, Blackburn, having had enough, kills him. This begins a crusade against unfairness and immorality in society. Blackburn begins a crusade against those who wrong others and him.
The story is horrifying and thought provoking at the same time. Blackburn rises against society's ills. However, as the book winds down, he is seen not as a public crusader, but as a serial killer. Are his actions wrong because society doesn't condone murder or is he providing a public service by disposing of some of the scum out there? I found myself asking this question after finishing this book.
Read this now. It is not an easy read, but you will be the better for it once you finish.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Anti-Hannibal April 10 2001
Format:Paperback
Bradley Denton's "Blackburn" is an astonishingly original novel and a complete departure from the over-formulated serial killer genre. The novel is written in a curious style, shifting between scenes in which Jimmy Blackburn kills his victims - all liar, cheaters, and other blights upon society - and scenes from his life, beginning with his childhood. Blackburn grows up with an abusive father and a negligent mother, but Denton is not interested in using this difficult child as a pop-psychology explanation for Blackburn's strangely moral homicidal tendencies. If anything, he wants to sever any kind of cause and effect relationship in this novel that has much more interesting things on its plate than causality. Blackburn is an enigma, and his terrible childhood is part of that enigma, as are his many murders.
At times this is a very funny novel, and Blackburn has to be among the most likable murderers in literature. His moral system is skewed but enticing, and Denton does a wonderful job of keeping his protagonist both likable and utterly alien. The only flaw in this great book is that Denton sometimes lets his tone get away from him. Some of the scenes become silly rather than sardonic, and the weave of the book runs a bit thin at those moments. But they are few and far between, and for the most part this book a wildly successful in ways that multi-million dollar serial killer pot-boilers can never hope to emulate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brave, intelligent, thrilling, moving novel Dec 27 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A brave, intelligent, thrilling, moving novel about a young man who takes action against what he deems to be wrong -- through violence. Funny, chilling, possibly a serial killer book, and very possibly not, it's a story that actually manages to challenge your moral sense, but not because it is particularly violent (although it is), rather because you end up sympathizing with the main character to the point where you accept his actions as valid, and you must sit down and ask yourself what all this means. I never did that with any book or film before, but I did with this one: It makes you think. Really. This is no wishy-washy criticism of society, but a harrowing, highly personal journey to the proverbial heart of darkness, whose themes include righteousness, responsibility, freedom (all sorts), and the consequences of one's actions -- implicit (as in the social implications of a failed upbringing) as well explicit (as in physical violence).
It's refreshing to find that the word "media" rarely (if ever) appears in the novel; it simply doesn't seek to blame the violence of a nation on the media. Being an often deadpan, deeply ironic satire, this is a very, very funny book; but you'll cry as much as you will laugh. Jimmy Blackburn is a memorable character -- up there with the best of them -- and this is a book I could quote endlessly. Even though this is Important Literature it's immensely readable as well (usually a good combination).
While Denton does not indulge in preaching (although there absolutely is a "modern society made me" theme) -- I believe the answer to the question of the righteousness of Blackburn's actions can only be found in your own moral stance. It should be an eye-opener even to the most jaded reader. As such, I heartily recommend this book to any citizen of the modern world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A moral killer? A modern classic! May 3 2000
Format:Paperback
BLACKBURN is one of those books that will change you. Once you've read it, you will never see the world the same way again. There are no convenient blacks and whites in this brilliant novel. Blackburn is a man we understand and sympathize with. EVEN WHEN HE KILLS PEOPLE! We laugh and cheer. EVEN WHEN HE KILLS PEOPLE! And when we think about that, we shudder because we know that what he's doing is WRONG, but it feels so right and that, my friends, is a very disturbing thing to think. This is one of those books you will never forget. Bradley Denton has turned out a modern classic that deserves a much wider audience. The question remains, though, and you can take this as a challenge if you like: Do you have what it takes to read this book? If so, you will never be the same.
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