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Warlock (New York Review Books Classics)by Oakley Hall
Synopses & Reviews
Oakley Hall's legendary Warlock revisits and reworks the traditional conventions of the Western to present a raw, funny, hypnotic, ultimately devastating picture of American unreality. First published in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, Warlock is not only one of the most original and entertaining of modern American novels but a lasting contribution to American fiction.
"Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880's is, in ways, our national Camelot: a never-never land where American virtues are embodied in the Earps, and the opposite evils in the Clanton gang; where the confrontation at the OK Corral takes on some of the dry purity of the Arthurian joust. Oakley Hall, in his very fine novel Warlock has restored to the myth of Tombstone its full, mortal, blooded humanity. Wyatt Earp is transmogrified into a gunfighter named Blaisdell who . . . is summoned to the embattled town of Warlock by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist. . . . Before the agonized epic of Warlock is over with—the rebellion of the proto-Wobblies working in the mines, the struggling for political control of the area, the gunfighting, mob violence, the personal crises of those in power—the collective awareness that is Warlock must face its own inescapable Horror: that what is called society, with its law and order, is as frail, as precarious, as flesh and can be snuffed out and assimilated back into the desert as easily as a corpse can. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock one of our best American novels. For we are a nation that can, many of us, toss with all aplomb our candy wrapper into the Grand Canyon itself, snap a color shot and drive away; and we need voices like Oakley Hall's to remind us how far that piece of paper, still fluttering brightly behind us, has to fall." —Thomas Pynchon
"Hall's brilliant, complex take on the American western, first published in 1958, more than stands the test of time. A newly hired gun-slinging lawman, Clay Blaisedell, tries to restore order to the mythical silver mining town of Warlock, Calif. His reputation for violence serves him well during the first robbery on his watch, but his quick trigger finger, and that of deputy John Gannon, also get him in trouble. A bizarre killing spree (covertly perpetrated by Blaisedell's best friend, a murky political figure named Tom Morgan) and an impending miners' strike (one that allows gang leader Abe McQuown to mount a charge against Blaisedell and Gannon) set up the inevitable final, blazing set of confrontations. Hall, who has written more than 20 novels, taps into the mythic essence of the Wild West with a potent combination of dense but fast-moving prose; a colorful cast of violent, corrupt characters; and a diabolical, ethically neutral worldview. His prosaic tracking of the town's violently shifting nodes of power is prescient and brings Cormac McCarthy to mind as the story unfolds. No account of the fictions of the American West can be complete without reconsidering this revelatory novel." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Oakley Hall was born in 1920 in San Diego and grew up there and in Honolulu, where his mother moved after his parents’ divorce. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Hall joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in the Pacific during the Second World War. Following the war, and with the aid of the GI Bill, he continued his studies in France, Switzerland, and England, returning to the US to receive an MFAin creative writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Hall published his first book, Murder City, in 1949 and his most recent, Ambrose Bierce and the Ace of Shoots, in 2005. In between he wrote more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novels The Downhill Racers, Separations, and Warlock, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1958; a libretto for the opera based on Wallace Stegner’sAngle of Repose; and two guides to writing fiction. Hall was director of the writing program at the University of California, Irvine for twenty years and, in 1969, co-founded the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, an annual writers’ conference. Among his many honors are lifetime achievment awards from thePEN Center USA and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Oakley Hall lives in San Francisco.
Robert Stone was born in Brooklyn in 1937. He is the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, the National Book Award–winning Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. He has also written short stories, essays, and screenplays, and published a short story collection, Bear and His Daughter, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in New York City and in Key West, Florida.
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