Sunday, October 14, 2007

St. Hubert's Stag

by John Richard Lindermuth
(iUniverse / 0-595-32869-5 / September 2004 / 144 pages / $11.95)

John Richard Lindermuth's second novel has earned five stars by just a whisker of antler velvet. The cover, a slightly annoying lapse in proofreading, and the lack of a statement of time and place for the setting of the story are its only faults. The error count could be somewhat lower, but it is not large enough to cause serious damage. There are several deer on the cover; however, they are all does. The star of the show is a massive black buck with a large enough rack to impersonate Bambi's dad. A photo or other image of a lone buck standing proudly in the moonlight would be far more appropriate to fit the storyline. When I began reading St. Hubert's Stag, I thought the setting could have been in the 1930's, but by the time I got to the mention of a $50 down payment on a computer, I wondered if the author had placed the deer hunters in The Eighties, or even The Nineties. Anyone needing a computer now would just put the $498 on a VISA card at Wally-World! Mr. Lindermuth told the readers they were in 1830 in Pennsylvania as his earlier Schlussel's Woman begins. Why not at least name a state and a decade? This unnecessary mystery left my mental imagery out in the cold!

That's enough complaining. John Lindermuth has improved upon his first novel. He still revels in that special ability of his to display a highly developed vocabulary that so fluidly accompanies dialogue spoken by uneducated hicks. Whatever the time period, St. Hubert's Stag is definitely set a century or more later than the mystery developed in Schlussel's Woman. This book is a slow potboiler of family secrets and emotions. The story takes place in an unidentified small town in which Americana is personified by the importance to the residents of the first day of deer hunting season. Since this is much like the small Southern town in which I grew up, the meanings behind the story's backdrop were quite easy to follow. The book surrounds the lives of a very traditional American family whose past is meticulously unveiled as the story progresses. Think of it as American Beauty for rednecks. An experienced deer hunter goes out on the mountain in search of one last kill. Before the story is over, the grandson has been lost in the woods, the sons have a few important issues to mull over, and the local Catholic priest tells the story of St. Hubert's Stag.

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