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Reviews 85 tionally should. Like the pastoral that becomes antipastoral, the traditional initiation story has been turned upside down. The book concludes with Richard dutifully fighting in the Second World War, in which Christopher has already died. The book ends on a hopeful note, however, for Richard has named his own son Christopher. MARY WASHINGTON, Utah State University The Genuine Article. By A. B. Guthrie, Jr. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977. 180 pages, $7.95.) A. B. Guthrie’s latest book, The Genuine Article, raises more questions about the author’s development as a Western writer and the evolution of the Western novel. Ostensibly, The Genuine Article is a “novel of suspense” (according to the subtitle) and a continuation of Wild Pitch (1973) and the life and adventures of would-be baseball player Jason Beard who, with his pitching arm gone and almost twenty-one, is now officially able to track down another murderer — this time not as adolescent flunky but as Sheriff Chick Charleston’s deputy. In typical suspense fashion, Sheriff Charleston, deputies Jase Beard and Jimmy Connon, town Marshal Halvor Amussen, Inspector Gewald from the state attorney general’s office, and the sleuthful reader play the “Who done it?” game. Aside from motive, what almost everyone is looking for is the murder weapon, the “genuine article,” as it comes to be called, which crushes in several places the skulls of two victims. The first one murdered is F. Y. Grimsley, local rancher, Indian hater, and general bastard whose initials Guthrie humorously says stand for words appropriate to Grimsley’s low regard with the townspeople. Next to die is Eagle Charlie, compromised “chief” in nearby Breedtown who rents his lovely wife to whites like Grimsley who can meet the price. The real suspense for some readers, however, in their search for the “genuine article” soon might become, “Just what kind of a novel is this?” Suspense? Western? Western-Suspense? Serious? Satiric? Moreover, “Where’s the old Guthrie whom we knew?” After all, The Last Valley (1976) was advertised as Guthrie’s “concluding novel about America’s westering” and thought by some, notably L. J. Davis, “a near-total disaster as a work of fiction. . . . One can scarcely believe that the man who wrote The Big Sky and The Way West is responsible for it.” As pure Western, The Genuine Article is even less authentic than The Last Valley and confirms further 86 Western American Literature that for Guthrie (just as for Jack Schaefer) the prototypic Western, like the Old West, is dead. In adapting the stock formulas of suspense and fusing them with those of the Western, Guthrie is vulnerable to charges of counterfeiting. But if the Old West is dead, the New West lives on and Guthrie’s brand of hybrid Suspense-Western, not unlike SF-Westems such as Star Wars, at least reaffirms the archetypal authenticity of a larger generic impulse which, as John G. Cawelti demonstrates, is shared by adventure, mystery, and romance in very intriguing ways. Inevitably, then, readers with different assumptions about the nature of Western and Suspense fiction will find the mixed forms in The Genuine Article genuinely frustrating yet fascinating. Insofar as the suspense plot dominates the book, the “Who done it?” response is the most suitable one because Guthrie tries hard to call attention to motive and events. He does it, for the most part, by attempting a tech­ nique perfected by E. M. Forster and adopted by such followers of Forster as Norman Mailer, whereby characters and sub-plots with the potential for sustained development are abruptly killed in an understated flourish of anti-climax. To mention Guthrie along with Forster and Mailer may seem incon­ gruous, but at three key times in plotting The Genuine Article Guthrie uses this technique rather effectively: in the opening chapter which ends, “The next morning F. Y. Grimsley was dead” ; in the middle of the novel where Eagle Charlie’s death surprises both Jase and the reader (young Jase and the reader play Watson to Charleston’s Holmes) ; and near the end where the wily Sheriff, after a long incriminating interrogation with Dave Becker — Grimsley’s hired man and the prime suspect — informs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 85-86
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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