The time is the 1930s and the setting is a western frontier town of a few thousand people, with one dubious distinction. Carson City, Nevada, is the smallest capital in the United States. Pete's world is circumscribed by Main Street - shops and stores, a pool hall, boarding-house hotels, and a capitol whose main contribution is as a place of ...
The time is the 1930s and the setting is a western frontier town of a few thousand people, with one dubious distinction. Carson City, Nevada, is the smallest capital in the United States. Pete's world is circumscribed by Main Street - shops and stores, a pool hall, boarding-house hotels, and a capitol whose main contribution is as a place of liquid shade and precious green grass in blistering summers. By far the most important event of the day is when the steam whistle of the V & T sounds, signaling thee passage of the shortline railway on its journey from Virginia City to Reno, "that impossibly big town of 20,000 people 30 miles away." Pete's immigrant parents run the Basque Hotel, bed and meals, whiskey and wine in Prohibition time for sheepherders and town characters. Pete is indifferent to his heritage except for disquiet about his parents' ignorance of such American traditions as Christmas trees. The heroes that figure in the boy Pete's growing up consist of a motley collection as delightful as the reader will ever meet: Buckshot Dooney, the town drunk who "travels from trouble to trouble"; Hallelujah Bob, who pursues his demons with a shotgun when he has imbibed too much; Irish prospector Mickey McCluskey; Mizoo, the cowboy with a ten-gallon hat; Pansy Gifford, the handyman who always wears a suit with a flower in his lapel; and George Washington Lopez, who swamps out the local whorehouse a block away from the capitol. Pete, too prone to dreams, undergoes his rites of passage - cruelty and kindness, disillusionment, love and terror, pathos and hilarious adventure, and finally, a cautious understanding of his world.
Publishers Weekly, 1993-03-01 This short, semiautobiographical novel of a Depression boyhood in Nevada is a small gem. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1989-07-21 Pete is a boy growing up during the Depression in Carson City, Nev., where his immigrant father, once a sheep rancher in the Basque hills, runs a small hotel and bootlegs whiskey to his customers. When Prohibition agents close in, his proud father sets one of the men down on a hot stove. Soon the family sells the hotel and moves six blocks away to the ``high-toned'' part of town, where they face discrimination. This short, beautifully written, semiautobiographical novel is a small gem, a perfect example of a childhood tranquilly recollected. A bout of rheumatic fever, which nearly leaves Pete an invalid, a painfully funny early sexual encounter and his relationships with five siblings, a dour father and a resentful, firm-jawed mother are among his formative experiences. Carson City has its colorful and eccentric townies: a natty handyman, an old prospector, a drunk, a cowboy, a near lunatic--but the arrival of desperate Okies gives the novel a sharp edge. Laxalt ( Sweet Promised Land ) is a rare find, a totally genuine, unaffected voice. (Sept.)
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