On the Ides of March, our hero, Raleigh Whittier Hayes (forgetful husband, baffled father, prosperous insurance agent and leading citizen of Thermopylae, North Carolina), learns that his father has discharged himself from the hospital, taken all his money out of the bank and, with a young black female mental patient, vanished in a yellow Cadillac convertible. Left behind is a mysterious list of seven outrageous tasks that Raleigh must perform in order to rescue his father and his inheritance.
And so Raleigh and fat Mingo Sheffield (his irrepressibly loyal friend) set off on an uproarious contemporary treasure hunt through a landscape of unforgettable characters, falling into adventures worthy of Tom Jones and Huck Finn. A moving parable of human love and redemption, Handling Sin is Michael Malone's comic masterpiece.
Demonstrating a spirited grasp of the genre, Malone (Dingley Falls has written a ``romance novel'' in the original sense: a long tale of chivalrous heroes and extraordinary events. This madcap book bubbles with a frenzy from the first pages, an initially disconcerting pace that rarely allows the reader to catch a breath. With a wink to Cervantes and Dickensas well as the Marx Brothersthe narrative recounts the two-week odyssey of Raleigh Whittier Hayes, an upstanding citizen of Thermopylae, N.C., and Mingo Sheffield, his Sancho Panza. They encounter a bizarre cast of characters during their adventures, including Raleigh's criminal half-brother Gates, his prison buddy Weeper Berg, and aging jazzman Toutant Kingstree. Their quest, to unfairly simplify it, is to recapture Hayes's ailing father, who has escaped from the hospital with a young black woman, and who has left Raleigh a strange set of tasks to fulfill before a planned rendezvous in New Orleans. While tantalized by the promise of a secret treasure at the end of the journey, Hayes uncovers family secrets and Raleigh is granted a large measure of self-enlightenment. This is a highly refreshing tale in which Malone has managed to make the bizarre hilariously credible. 75,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo. (April)
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August 31, 2001
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