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In the 1953 of Pete Dexter's Train, Miller Packard is a sergeant in the San Diego police department who has little time for hypocrisy or racism. He lives life as a dare, fearless and bemused, his wife observing that he "was drawn to movement and friction, to chance; he had to have something in play." He is also a golfer, though not a great one. Over a game with a fat cheater named Pinky, Packard's world collides with the troubled life of Lionel "Train" Walk, a young African-American caddy at Brookline Country Club. Train is a virtuoso golfer but is doomed to tote old men's clubs in a sport that can't find a place for a young black athlete. Train also holds a secret, a murder that has never been reported but haunts his every step. In the volatile world of 1950s racial politics, bonds of friendship that cross the color line are doomed, and Packard and Train cruise towards inevitable conflagration.
Dexter explores racism with a cold eye in Train--rarely politically correct and always unafraid to find pettiness in the lives of liberal whites, beatniks, philanthropists, and powerful African-Americans. Outside of the purity of Train's golf swing, Dexter finds little to celebrate in the troubled times, and every page offers the possibility of new catastrophe. Occasionally, with this abundance of disaster, Dexter seems to lose track, and a few of his subplots (like the story of a hideously burned reporter who tries to uncover the truth behind the killings on a sailboat) never quite get resolved. Yet, Train is not a bleak novel, and Packard's detachment lends the book an air of dark comedy. When Dexter writes, "Packard was amused with the world at large" he could just as well be writing about himself: curious, entertained, fascinated, but never unsettled by the grotesquery of human existence. --Patrick O'Kellley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
National Book Award winner Dexter's new book is about pain: the men and women who deliver the emotional and physical blows and the limits of those who bend and break beneath them. This is a theme that runs like a dark thread through Dexter's work, from his prize-winning Paris Trout to The Paperboy. In his latest, no one escapes unscathed, and that includes the reader. It's 1953, and Lionel Walk, a black 18-year-old caddy known as Train, works at an exclusive Los Angeles golf course. The members there are cruel and bigoted, the other caddies violent and criminal. Train is badly treated by everyone except enigmatic golfer Miller Packard, who plays a decent game and recognizes that Train has a special talent for the sport. Packard is a police sergeant who comes to the rescue of beautiful Norah Rose when she is viciously attacked and her husband is slaughtered in an attempted boat hijacking. Packard and Norah fall in love, and he moves into her Beverly Hills home. Meanwhile, Train loses his job and eventually finds work as a groundskeeper at the rundown Paradise Developments golf course. He gets the course back into shape, but this hopeful interlude cannot last. A botched tree-removal project ends in tragic farce, and Train is set adrift again. Packard-a rescuer once more-finds Train, turns him into a golf shark and wins thousands on the boy's exceptional talent. In clear, pitch-perfect prose, Dexter moves the relentless story forward, exposing the ironies and dark undercurrents of charitable actions. The calamitous conclusion looms over the novel from the start, and it comes just as the reader knows it must.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The author tries to pull together a varied cast of characters,
and from various periods of our history, and it doesn't
seem to work. Read more
Miller Packard plays games with himself. He pushes life right up to the edge and then balances there as long as possible. His life is a mess. Read morePublished on May 12 2004 by FictionAddiction.NET
I picked this up in the library, just seeing the binding and thinking it was about trains. After reading the description and seeing the (misleading) "National Book Award Winner"... Read morePublished on April 4 2004 by Jason Purdy
not nearly as interesting and contained a plot as dexter's Brotherly Love, but the characters are just weird enough to inch their way into your consciousness. Read morePublished on Feb. 18 2004 by finn
I have been a fan of Pete Dexter's since I read the first sentence of Deadwood. Dexter is a major talent and his novels Paper Boy and Deadwood, along with the screenplay for... Read morePublished on Jan. 23 2004 by Kidd Horn
Dexter has a style all his own, thus the 2 stars. Otherwise, I found the prose more dime story dramatics. Novels that get wrapped up in gutter talk belong in the trash. Read morePublished on Jan. 19 2004
A cross between Elmore Leonard and Walter Moseley, Train is peopled with colorful characters and paced with ironic incidents. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004 by martha steffen
I'm sorry. I don't know what book some of the reviewers have been reading, but it's not this one. I found the first 16 pages so boring I couldn't think of a reason to read the... Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2004