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A Wasteland of Strangers by Bill Pronzini

A Wasteland of Strangers

by Bill Pronzini

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Bill Pronzini is an entertainer. Through the entire book, "A Wasteland of Strangers," I had a smile and warm feelings that I was experiencing the lives of a group of characters who had a tale to tell. The book made me think of a modern Peyton Place mixed with a TV soap opera.

A large, brutal looking man arrives at a lakeside village in Northern California. His arrival unleashes the prejudices and sexual fantasies of many of the locals.

John Faith is a quiet man, just looking for a place to be accepted and that he can call home.

Women solicit him, some men challenge him in order to prove their manhood and a slim few-accept him for what he is.

He's accused of murder, almost accused of being a pedophile and is actually a kind hearted, lonesome man.

I found the story unique and totally engrossing. It is cleverly plotted and the characters are well developed and interesting. ( )
  mikedraper | Oct 22, 2014 |
A Wasteland of Strangers - Bill Pronzini *****

I had never heard of Pronzini until I picked up this book so came to the novel not knowing what really to expect. The blurb on the back promised a treat for fans of the James M Cain type of Noir books so I decided to give it a chance.

The book is set in the small town of Pomo, a lakeside dwelling that relies heavily on tourism for it's survival. In recent years the visitors have started to decline and a large number of businesses are beginning to struggle or close completely. The local townsfolk seem very stereotypical of the scene we would expect to find. We have numerous colourful characters which include the drunken newspaper reporter, neurotic bank manager, prejudiced hotelier, busybody Christian and local sex siren. Into this mess however, walks a stranger by the name of John Faith. Immediately John sticks out as an outsider, everything from the car he drives to the way he looks makes most of the townsfolk suspicious of him without any kind of provocation. So when a crime spree begins and escalates with a murder all eyes immediately fall upon Faith. With the help of a small number of open minded residents can he clear his name or will he be simply presumed guilty and lost in the politics of Pomo?

This has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. At just over 360 pages I managed to get through it in two sittings, it really is a true pageturner. Pronzini has been really clever with the way in which he allows the plot to become unravelled. Each chapter is told in the first person and narrated by most of the major characters of the town. This way be get to feel their own personal thoughts and especially their prejudices towards Faith. It is really interesting how they justify their own behaviour to themselves in one chapter and then the next chapter is told by someone else covering the same events from an entirely different viewpoint. Brilliantly John Faith is never given a voice throughout so we are never party to his own view except through the eyes of others. Every person has the potential or reason to have committed the murder and we are kept guessing until the very end. I personally suspected so many people as I worked my way along that the ending came as a complete surprise.

Although primarily a thriller/whodunit this books raises many questions regarding how we treat others, especially those that are different to ourselves. Everyone in this book has something to hide or a nasty trait to their personality. What Pronzini does is to open this up fully to the reader and allows us to explore both our own emotions and to place ourselves in nearly every central characters position and think what would we have done in the same situation.

An ideal introduction to the author, I will definitely be looking out for him again. ( )
1 vote Bridgey | Jul 18, 2014 |
An excellent novel of suspense with in depth characterization of a group of small town characters, their interaction with a mysterious stranger. Pronzini captures the small town atmosphere beautifully. ( )
  adithyajones | Jan 11, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802775608, Paperback)

Here's a fine modern mystery that would have made a wonderful 1950s B movie. Robert Mitchum would have been perfect as the hulking stranger John Faith, who arrives one day in the faded Northern California resort town of Pomo with a mysterious agenda. Who but Paul Douglas could have played the tough but fair-minded police chief? And the part of Storm Carey, the gorgeous widow feeding her grief with rampant sex, would have been a natural for Jan Sterling or Elisabeth Scott. Bill Pronzini both uses and overcomes these film noir images as he skips from voice to voice to tell a tricky, compelling story. Other books by this excellent writer include Blue Lonesome and--from his Nameless Detective series--Hardcase.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:50 -0400)

Set in an isolated town in Northern California, A Wasteland of Strangers begins with the arrival of John Faith in Pomo. Who is he? Why has he come here now, during the off-season when there is nothing to do but get into trouble? What is it he wants? His arrival is surrounded by questions; his staying clothed in threats; his leaving fondly desired by almost all who cross paths with him. Everyone has an opinion of him; only a few of them are favorable. For everyone he helps, there are two who question his motives, who see danger to themselves and their way of life in his continued presence in their town. And then, when a beautiful, lonely woman is brutally slaughtered after spending some time with him, Faith is the prime and logical suspect. Discovering the identity of the killer becomes as important to Faith as it is to anyone else...except the murderer.… (more)

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