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White Crosses: A Novel


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About the Author

Larry Watson is the author of WHITE CROSSES, JUSTICE, MONTANA 1948, IN A DARK TIME and the poetry collection LEAVING DAKOTA. He teaches English at the University of Wisconsin, USA.


The dark side of small-town life is again Watson's theme, as it was in his Milkweed Prize-winning Montana 1948. He may have overtaxed that territory. When Bentrock, Mont., sheriff Jack Nevelsen is called to the scene of an auto wreck on a May night in 1957, he finds the bodies of the married junior high-school principal, Leo Bauer, and 18-year-old June Moss, who had graduated from high school that day. Luggage in the car makes it obvious that the two were running away together. For reasons never made clear, the sheriff decides that he must protect the victims' reputations, even if it means stooping to lies, threats and deceit. Watson's choice of what to expound on (the backgrounds of various tangential characters) and what to leave undeveloped (the sources not only of Nevelson's behavior but also that of Bauer's son and wife) is puzzling. The prose is often lackluster, a flat contrast to the melodramatic events it recounts, and the secrets at the heart of the plot turn out to be contrived and unconvincing. Simultaneous audio; author tour. (June)

Nancy Pate Chicago Tribune Morally and emotionally complex, the writing assured...Readers of Montana 1948 will find themselves on familiar ground. Chris Faatz The Nation There's something eminently universal in Watson's ponderings on the human condition, and it's refracted through a nearly perfect eye for character, place, and the rhythms of language. Margaret Cannon The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Haunting...One of the most irresistible novels of the year.

As in his acclaimed Montana 1948 (Audio Reviews, LJ 6/1/95), Watson explores the moral dilemma of a Montana lawman. When Jack Nevelson investigates a fatal car wreck, he discovers the makings of a scandal. The driver, local school principal Leo Bauer, was apparently running away with a high school girl. Feeling that the truth may tear apart the small town of Bentrock, Montana, Nevelson improvises a cover-up, persuading Bauer's son Rick to pretend that he intended to live with the girl in another town. The truth remains suppressed until feelings stir in Nevelson for Bauer's widow and an unstable uncle of the deceased girl shows up in town, looking to avenge her death. Reader Beau Bridges's rough delivery suits the story well. The program's first quarter, which details the car wreck investigation, is spellbinding but soon flags. Still, Watson effectively evokes the bleak Montana landscape, mirroring the lives of its inhabitants. The abridgment leaves out important details, such as Nevelson's relationship with his wife and a suspicion that he is going mad. An optional purchase.‘John Hiett, Iowa City P.L.

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