Publishers Weekly, 2001-06-11 Though smaller in scope (and physical size) than Busch's last novel, the ambitious Night Inspector, this brief and carefully wrought tale of a man's struggle to come to terms with the role his father played in the Korean War is also more accessible and emotionally straightforward. Haunted by his father's muddy wartime record, 35-year-old American lawyer Peter Santore travels to England to find Hilary Pennels, the daughter of a man in his father's platoon whose death may have been caused by the elder Santore when both men were prisoners of war. Peter finds Hilary a highly sexual, sharply intelligent and headstrong woman quite easily and they have a lusty affair. For Peter she represents the thrill of transgression, the part of Peter's family history that he has previously been afraid to access. History looms, however, in the form of the frightening, half-mad, abusive Fox, Hilary's semi-guardian, another Korean War veteran. Fox batters Peter with stories of wartime monstrosities, some perpetrated by Corporal Santore. As Peter pieces the story together, however, it becomes clear that the corporal was himself a victim of the inhumanity of war, thus not entirely culpable. With relentless intensity, the novella manifests interior revolutions with expressionistic vigor. Throughout, Busch keeps a tight bead on the drama of the war babies' lively, believable relationship. Intensity of passion in counterpoint with gruesome wartime descriptions make this novel a strenuous read, but worth the strain. Over the course of his harrowing and well-told tale, Busch teaches the hazards and benefits of delving too deeply into the past. (June 29) Forecast: Recent media reflection on Bob Kerrey's war-crime culpability will provide reviewers with a handy hook for their explorations of Busch's latest fiction, though the book will enjoy less attention, and fewer sales, than The Night Inspector. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 1989-07-28 National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award-winner Busch ( Absent Friends ) here offers a short, gory Gothic novella centering on the goings-on of two fashionably thirtysomething lovers: Peter Santore, a dull-witted American lawyer who is in England trying to unearth information about his father (an American who, during the Korean War, turned informer); and Hilary Pennels, whose own father, a war hero, was perhaps betrayed by the elder Santore. Also figuring in the novel's none-too-plausible plot is a kinky former Sergeant-Major and Korean POW who, we are told at every opportunity, has rotting teeth, terrible breath and weepy eyes. He drinks, toasts ``absent friends'' and narrates war tales famous for their blood and guts. In this slim volume, Busch fails to reach his usual standard of imaginative pathos leavened by humor. Even his dialogue palls: remarks Pete of Vietnam War veterans, ``They had a really bad time,'' to which Hilary replies, ``Didn't we all.'' (Sept.)
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