Train Paperback – Feb 1 2005
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It's Los Angeles 1953 and we are focussed on two main protagonists. The first is Lionel Walk, or Train, as he is more commonly known. Train is a young black man who works at the exclusive Brookline Country Club. We follow his fortunes first as a caddy and then as a greenkeeper and later as his relationship and feelings of responsibility for a fellow caddy known as Plural. The other is Detective Sergeant Miller Packard, an incredibly enigmatic man who seems to exude authority and confidence. He always appears to be in total control of every situation right up to the moment he loses the handle with disastrous consequences.
Their paths cross a number of times and although these encounters proved mutually beneficial to both men, there always seemed to be an unsatisfactory ending whenever they parted. Scenes of quiet amusement are followed by scenes of extreme violence wrenching the emotions from empathy to sympathy in an instant.
I had a problem with the ending, feeling it was wrapped up incredibly quickly and leaving way too many questions unanswered for my liking. Apart from this quibble I found I was completely engrossed from the opening line.
Although Dexter remains faithful to the third person narrative, he tailors his language and points of view to the specific plots he is developing. The action at the golf courses involving Train's life is told from a caddy's-eye view and is described in a deceptively plain-spoken and ungrammatical style. The story line involving Packard is related in more grammatical terms, though Packard is earthy and often uncritical in his observations. The club members' rampant bigotry, casual cruelty, disrespect, and complete disregard for the feelings of the all-black caddy staff and grounds crew are reflected in scenes involving both Train and Packard, with vividly realized dialogue which stings and insults.Read more ›
The main character in this book is a caddy names Lionel "Train" Walk who is truly a great golfer and eventually is befriended by a policeman/hustler Miller Packard.
Being a black caddy in Los Angeles a number of decades ago was not a pleasant experience. During the book, Lionel will be wrongly arrested and will have problems keeping a job.
The one job he eventually lands is in playing golf for high stakes with Miller Packard who funds the entire enterprise while relying on Train's abilities. Packard's experience with racism is exacerbated by the experience of his girlfriend, a social activist whose husband is brutally murdered.
Throughout the book, the characters will encounter a number of challenging events that often force them to reconsider their stands on race and relationships. The only constant in the book is a dark and bleak outlook along with Lionel's stellar golfing.
As a whole, the book will not leave you with a warm feeling about humanity but will cause you to think long and hard about an important subject.
The only annoyance is there seems to be a few plot threads that are left hanging in the end. Still, worth reading.
Train is fired from Brookline, but scores a job as a groundskeeper at dilapidated Paradise Developments. He helps renovate the course, but loses his position due to a tragic accident. Packard wants to help the lad so he turns Train into a golf hustler. As they travel the country together, they win thousands on the youngster's skills, but soon Train will learn once again the violent underbelly of the leisure game he plays.
Perhaps no author can display the darkest side of life as easily as award winning Pete Dexter can. TRAIN is a fast-paced eighteen holes starring strong characters trying to do the right thing, but the message is even charity can turn abusive. The story line is a warning that a caring method with a seemingly constructive output does not necessarily mean a positive outcome. Readers will appreciate this deep dark character study, but be warned that Mr. Dexter will escort you to the most profound, deepest, but darkest corner of the soul.
Most recent customer reviews
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
"...this was not an ordinary citizen of Beverly Hills...He probably never threatened anyone in his life. He would skip that step. Read morePublished on April 19 2004 by Michael W. Kennedy
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
Itï¿½s pretty clear from reading other reviews for Train that people either really like or really dislike this book. Read morePublished on March 9 2004 by David J. Gannon
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
Peter Dexter's Train is being marketed as a suspense thriller, and that might explain some of the reviews that are appearing here. Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2004 by Sebastien Pharand
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