Everything for Your Home's
Beauty, Comfort & Convenience 384-2123
704 Jamestown St, Columbia
Dr. Ronald P. Rogers
Support for your body's natural healing capabilities
Click here for details
Click here for information
Real Estate & Auction Co.
Duo County Telecom
Now Available Through
Your Cable Service!
GUN & PAWN
What's Going On
Info about the
Janice Holt Giles
and Henry Giles Society
Columbia Gas Dept.
GAS LEAK or GAS SMELL
24 hrs/ 365 days
270-384-2006 or 9-1-1
Call before you dig
Directory of Churches
phone numbers and more
for churches in Adair County
Find Great Stuff in
Antiques, Help Wanted,
Autos, Real Estate,
Legal Notices, More...
Tom Chaney: The Man Standing Next To Us
Of Writers And Their Books: The Man Standing Next To Us. Tom reviews Christopher Rice's novel about the relationship between two Marines who don't fight for a cause, "We fight for the man standing next to us." This column first appeared 3 August 2008.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Slow Years of Wasteful War
By Tom Chaney
The Man Standing Next To Us
What a pleasure it is to watch a beginning novelist search for and find a viable voice. Puts me in mind of a young colt I saw the other day out at Cub Run. Not more than a few days old, he knew just what he was after and was already pretty certain about how to get it. Once in a while his legs got in the way, but I could tell he would soon find his stride.
Christopher Rice hit the ground confidently with his first novel, A Density of Souls, set in the New Orleans of his youth.
Of it he said, "[It] is as close to a gay book as you can get. It revolves around a character's homosexuality and others are described in terms of their reaction to the one character's sexuality. In that sense it is at the core of the book."
In the next couple of books he broadened his approach -- The Snow Garden basically deals with identity. "I am trying," he said in 2002, "to shrug off the term 'gay' author."
No more wobbly legs. With his fourth novel Blind Fall Christopher Rice has found a voice as surely as his famous mother, Anne Rice.
Marine John Houck set out to be heroic in Iraq. Chosen for a Force Recon Company he is best friends with his captain, Mike Bowers.
John receives word of the suicide of his brother back home -- a brother for whose death John blames himself. He fails to tell Bowers of the news which has made him less than fit for a sensitive assault.
Indeed, as the attack begins Hauck hallucinates that the Iraqi boy who runs to signal the assault on Bowers company is his dead brother Dean. He is surprised when explosives hidden in a dead dog erupt in the street, and realizes the Iraqi boy is a part of the plot. Hauck is saved by Bowers who, spreading himself over John to protect him from the blast, is severely injured in the process. Marines, Bowers has taught Hauck, don't fight for a cause, "We fight for the man standing next to us."
Hauck goes with Bowers to the medical center and sees him off on the plane that will take him to Germany and hospital. From his stretcher, Bowers favors his friend with a large thumbs up.
Hauck has no time to apologize to Bowers and explain his distraction.
Nine months later John Hauck is back in Southern California, living in a trailer park, studying for the test to admit him to the California Highway Patrol. He is also searching for Bowers.
Bowers is living in a remote mountain town. John finds the address and sets off for a visit, bearing an antique sword as a gift.
When he arrives at Bowers' house late at night, Houck finds the door wide open and discovers his friend's badly mutilated body sprawled across his bed. At that moment Alex Martin runs from the house. Thinking he is the murderer, Houck runs him down and brings him back to the house.
They arrive to find the body gone.
Houck discovers that Alex is not the murderer rather he is Bowers' lover. Houck, a genuinely homophobic former marine, is devastated by the discovery that his pal Bowers was gay and that he didn't know.
A part of Rice's theme in Blind Fall is how the policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" has failed the marines generally and the friendship of men such as Houck and Bowers specifically.
John Houck and Alex Martin join forces to unravel the mystery of the murder of Bowers and the disappearance of his body.
Rice calls himself a writer of "thrillers" so further discussion of the plot is unworthy of me -- except to hint that the involvement of the local law is most interesting.
The basic tension in the novel is "between Alex Martin, rejected by his family for his homosexuality, and John Houck, the uptight Marine who is homophobic through and through." So suggests one reviewer of the novel.
Christopher Rice has come quickly in his career to a universality in his creation of character. His gay characters are not limited by their sexuality. It is the same process of transformation that must occur when a regional writer retains, but is not limited by, his region; or when a black writer similarly retains and uses his blackness but is not restricted thereby.
This is the first book by Rice told through a single character. Often, he notes, the voice of character is lost in action. It is best when plot arises out of character. Rice observes that the work of Ross MacDonald most nearly embodies what he is attempting to do with his own crime fiction -- using character to lead to a dramatic treatment of social issues. He has chosen a worthy mentor.
One reviewer has well observed "Blind Fall is a tale of the moral choices human beings make, of the personal redemption that can come when one man reaches out to pull someone else back from the abyss."
Join me in keeping an eye on this developing writer. He is nigh ready for the derby.
Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney
This story was posted on 2013-08-04 00:40:39
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.
To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.
More articles from topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books:
Tom Chaney: Slow Years of Wasteful War
Tom Chaney: Traipsing Through Georgia
Tom Chaney: Prey Tale Us
Tom Chaney: The Elephant in the Room
Tom Chaney: Putting Hands on Heaven's Clock
Tom Chaney: Clear Shadows of Hope's Persistence
Tom Chaney: A Merrier Companion there never was
Tom Chaney: The Joy of Drinking
Tom Chaney: Bank Robbery in Hart County
Tom Chaney: The Narcotic Moment of Creative Bliss
View even more articles in topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books
Bank of Columbia
If You're Thinking of Selling,
Let Us Do the Yelling
Principal Broker & Auctioneer
Burton Real Estate
& Auction Service
Call Us For Appraisals
Click for Listings
On This Site
or Click Here
The Best of
Local Stories of
The Greatest Generation
Order Book or e-Book
See who's celebrating
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Special Events List
ColumbiaMagazine.com content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Contact us: Columbia Magazine and columbiamagazine.com are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.