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FARAWAY PLACES by Tom Spanbauer Plume: $6.95

August 13, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

In his promising but uneven first novel, a coming-of-age story set in the early '50s, Tom Spanbauer writes convincingly as a teen-age boy bewildered by events that destroy his family's rural life. But his attempt to move a story of small-town decadence in the best (or worst) Tennessee Williams tradition to the Northwest doesn't quite come off. The corrupt local big shot with the secret affinity for bestiality, the mysterious black man and the lovely Indian girl seem out of place in Idaho: The odor of their bayou country models still clings to them. Spanbauer also indulges in a bit too much Hemingway-esque repetition, and by the time the climactic confrontations and murders occur, the reader is tired of hearing about them.

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