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Reviews 65 Four grown children are traveling to the hospital room of their father, Irvin Donner, who is dying of a stroke. The opening dialogue between the doctor and the second Mrs. Donner sets the tone of the novel: “Your husband, Mrs. Donner, won’t recognize them; it’sfor the children themselves that I__” “They’re not close to their father.” Irvin Donner has been a failure as a husband and as a father. A tremendous worker, wedded to his job but unable to involve himself with his family or friends, he never laughed and never came to say “Good Night” to his children when they were small. He is a loner. One wonders whether the author thought of him as a descendant of the compul­ sive German Donner, whose dictatorial and foolish decision (against the better judgment of his wife) to cross the Sierra Nevada in the fall caused one of the major disasters in western trail history. At the end of the journey, after they have freed themselves of all the anger and absurdities of their past, the Donner children realize that in spite of it all they have found love, safety and homes—all the things that always eluded them in childhood. After all, “the Donner show must go on”—an opti­ mistic note in a rather grim story. The message is obvious: loveless, inarticu­ late parenting is one of the worst child abuses of all time. I would judge The Cactus Garden to be a rather boldly conceived book, but hardly a “classic” of western literature. ANNE M. WITMER Eastern College Beyond Blame. By Stephen Greenleaf. (New York: Villard Books, 1986. 291 pages, $14.95.) Greenleaf writes classic California detective fiction with the obligatory subtle variations. Like his fellow shamuses, his hero John Marshall Tanner is a lonely man, unlucky in love, and sometimes at odds with the police; in a literature of middle-aged crisis, as the hard-boiled school seems to be, he is unusually old (50), and less violent than even Lew Archer. He also has a law degree. In this, the fifth novel about the San Francisco-based Tanner, he crosses the Bay to Berkeley and investigates the murder of a law profes­ sor’swife. The formal games of the mystery story are managed by Greenleaf with skill; he provides the expected trick pool shots, so to speak, the balls whirring and clicking about, dazzling but true to their own Cartesian logic, finally all dropping into the right pockets. This may be all most mystery readers expect, but there ismore. Beyond Blame is an exploration of the legal status of insanity and diminished capacity, the grey areas where law and psychiatry meet, and the ways that justice is sometimes served and sometimes abused by these professions. Greenleaf make good use of his own Boalt Hall law degree here. The best of hard-boiled detective tradition are as memorable for their ambiance as their plots: we read Chandler now as much for his images of 66 Western American Literature Los Angeles in the 30s and 40s as we do for the twists and turns of Marlowe’s investigations. Beyond Blame is a superb evocation of Berkeley, drawn with unerring accuracy from mudflat slums to the terraced hillsides and Maybeckdesigned cottages favored by academics. Greenleaf’s Berkeley is haunted by its own past. The place names— Telegraph Avenue, Sather Gate, Sproul Hall, People’s Park—resonate with memories of the Free Speech Movement and the Vietnam protests. Now, in the present, the liberalism has gone stale, the young men and women of the 60s have grown middle-aged and have punk children with drug problems. Sometimes they murder or are murdered. Tanner cannot put the times right, any more than Marlowe or Archer could, but he can deal out a rough approxi­ mation of justice and deal compassionately with the victims, especially the scarred, tough but frightened children who are the book’s most affecting characters. Your library or bookstore may have difficulty ordering this book unless instructed that Villard markets its wares through Random House. CHARLES L. CROW Bowling Green State University A Chicano in China. By Rudolfo A. Anaya. (Albuquerque: University of...


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