Wasteland Of Strangers Paperback – Jun 1999
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Here's a fine modern mystery that would have made a wonderful 1950s B movie. Robert Mitchum would have been perfect as the hulking stranger John Faith, who arrives one day in the faded Northern California resort town of Pomo with a mysterious agenda. Who but Paul Douglas could have played the tough but fair-minded police chief? And the part of Storm Carey, the gorgeous widow feeding her grief with rampant sex, would have been a natural for Jan Sterling or Elisabeth Scott. Bill Pronzini both uses and overcomes these film noir images as he skips from voice to voice to tell a tricky, compelling story. Other books by this excellent writer include Blue Lonesome and--from his Nameless Detective series--Hardcase. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Beneath the surface in the northern California resort community of Pomo swirls a viper's nest of desire, jealousy, loneliness, and crime. When a sexual assault occurs, the obvious suspect is an outsider, John Faith; after all, the sheriff doesn't like Faith's interest in a sexy local widow he fancies himself. Neither does a boozy reporter, who launches a yellow-journalism campaign against the outsider. When the widow is murdered, the town explodes. Pronzini, the author of the extraordinary "Nameless" detective series (see starred review, p.1667), rotates the first-person narrative among the main characters as if they were sitting around a campfire and picking up the story where the previous teller left off. It's a difficult technique to execute successfully, but Pronzini pulls it off by providing each narrator with a unique voice and personal context. The result, as in Stephen Dobyns' Church of Dead Girls , is a thriller in which a small town's fear of the unknown drives the action. Highly recommended. Wes Lukowsky --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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John Faith is the immediate object of suspicion, because he’s a stranger and he doesn’t look like he belongs. His presence gradually reveals and widens long-standing cracks in the comfortable, biased attitudes and ideas of almost everyone in town. Why has this man come to town? What are his motives? His answers are enigmatic, and even at the end we are left with questions. John Faith’s encounters with the police chief, the bigoted lake-side resort owner, some local Native Americans, and a bartender or two, are like pebbles dropped in a placid pool. The ripples expand and expand until they reach the edge of the pool and die. Except in this case, the ripples grow larger, intersect and become irresistible waves that begin to tear at the base fabric of the town.
This psychological thriller is tightly plotted, and intricately presented. It’s pace is irresistible. “A Wasteland of Strangers” is a thoughtful, satisfying crime novel. Artist Doug Henry has presented a handsome, evocative cover illustration. Highly recommended.
Although A Wasteland of Strangers gets quite gritty and noir, humanism is apparent here. Pronzini delves into the twisted psyches of characters ala Thompson, but he also give us characters we care about--notably John Faith, the mysterious "stranger in town" who is wrongly accused of murder, as well a wayward teenage girl and a half-blood Indian schoolteacher.
The entire book is told in first person by various characters except John Faith, so we see him from differing perspectives. It's a very effective technique and it reveals much about human prejudice and bias.
Pronzini has cited this novel as one of his favorites. That should give you a clue to its worth. I've read a lot of Pronzini, and I consider this one of his best works--the ones that cross over the genre line into thought-provoking literature.
At the same time, the suspense and plotting are masterfully executed.
I'm a fan of the Pronzini's Nameless series, but it seems that his standalone books are more carefully wrought and more meaningful. It's like he cranks out a few Nameless books, and then he's compelled to write something "literary."
Good for him. He's multi-faceted.
A large, brutal looking man arrives at a lakeside village in Northern California. His arrival unleashes the prejudices and sexual fantasies of many of the locals.
John Faith is a quiet man, just looking for a place to be accepted and that he can call home.
Women solicit him, some men challenge him in order to prove their manhood and a slim few-accept him for what he is.
He's accused of murder, almost accused of being a pedophile and is actually a kind hearted, lonesome man.
I found the story unique and totally engrossing. It is cleverly plotted and the characters are well developed and interesting.