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The Mad Cook of Pymatuning: A Novel Hardcover – September 20, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834276
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,347,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When 17-year-old Jerry Muller returns to Camp Seneca as a junior counselor in Lehmann-Haupt's entertaining new novel of summertime suspense, he finds he's in for more than the Pennsylvania camp's typical "controlled chaos." This year (the summer of 1952), Jerry has brought along his nine-year-old half-brother, Peter, and an excess of psychological baggage from his divorced parents, a single, alcoholic mother and his remarried father. Jerry hopes to show Peter a good time—and have a good time himself with a pretty new girl named T.J.—but camp owner Woody Wentworth's "character building exercises" take on a sinister tone. Woody's campfire tales leave children in tears; the annual Snipe Hunt (an armed bird-bagging contest) turns survivalist; and the atmosphere grows "savage, like they're preparing for war." More disturbing is the adult administrator, Buck Silverstone, aka Redclaw, who runs the Indian program and has some unorthodox activities planned. The question is not if Redclaw will go off the deep end, but when he does, how gory will it be and how many campers will he take with him? Lehmann-Haupt (A Crooked Man) builds suspense and delivers the expected cataclysmic conclusion to this scary campfire tale. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The sophomore effort (following A Crooked Man, 1995) of the former daily book reviewer for the New York Times is set in 1952 at a summer boys' camp. Accompanied by his little half-brother, Peter, with whom he is determined to forge a closer relationship, teenage Jerry arrives at Camp Seneca with high expectations; however, he immediately senses that things have changed. Known for his wacky philosophy of surprising campers with unexpected challenges, the camp owner has put a sinister spin on routine activities. After Peter emerges from a "fun" boxing challenge bloodied and bruised, Jerry writes to his father and stepmother about his misgivings. Furthermore, the new man hired to teach Native American lore is downright creepy. Although this novel begs to be read as an allegory on the 1950s, it is so awkwardly done that it does not really work. Large amounts of exposition are shoveled into the dialogue, and passages meant to terrify readers do not. The author's name and critical acclaim for his debut may draw some readers, but they are likely to be disappointed. Buy cautiously. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Not that I crave the blood and gore, but it just seemed the logical way to go.
Viva
There's a hint at a real exposure of some interesting unconscious motives of the hero but that too is underdeveloped and falls flat.
Master Cineaster
Actions were outre and unexplained, and yet the ending was predictable and unsurprising.
S. Kreed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karen Wilson on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book immediately after reading a very positive review in The New York Times. I devoured it in one evening and was totally drawn into the summer camp, its rituals and games, and was fascinated by the charismatic Indian working there...what was he up to?! I could not have imagined the plot that Mr. Lehmann-Haupt develops. As a big fan of the genre, it's rare that I come across such a thrilling, evocative and intelligent--yes, intelligent--thriller! The author is an amazing storyteller and someone who clearly knows an awful lot about Native American myth and history, too...or at least he did his homework! This is an excellent choice.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Cade on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A moving portrayal of a young man coming to grips with his personal life and feelings and a dramatic illustration of ethnic fervor driven to excess. THE MAD COOK OF PYMATUNING is a gripping read, a book to savor and think about - I couldn't keep myself from re-reading it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. McDiffett on January 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Two stars for the fact the book kept me reading, kept me interested in what would happen to Jerry and his brother, kept me curious about Buck (Redclaw) and his motivations, about Win and Woody and TJ. But only two stars because so many questions are left unanswered. What becomes of Jerry and Peter after their summer? How does it change them? After all, this is written as a sort of memoir, with repetitive foreshadowing that bad things are going to happen because the narrator has already lived through them. Thus, little suspense in the conclusion--the adult narrator obviously survived the confrontation! Why is Buck doing as he does? Some clues are hinted at, but not satisfactorily explained. Like Jerry in his physical encounters with TJ, this book teases, but never really reaches a satisfactory climax.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Katz on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the summer of 1952, seventeen-year-old Jerry Muller returns to his beloved summer camp as a junior counselor. Jerry looks forward to bonding with his younger brother Peter, a first-time camper, while introducing him to the pleasures of the Pennsylvania forest and to the American Indian rituals that have traditionally been the core of the camp program. Instead he finds himself engulfed in a series of increasingly terrifying adventures set in that forest and orchestrated by Buck Silverstone, the camp's enigmatic, charismatic teacher of Native American lore.

The Mad Cook is at once a poignant coming-of-age novel, a compelling who-dunnit, and a thoughtful meditation on the darkness and violence that lie just beneath the surface of everyday life. It's hard to put down and impossible to forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Courtney Easter Waggoner on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book because Stephen King recommended it in Entertainment Weekly. He said it was one of the years best, but I disagree. The story is frustrating to read because it builds the reader up so much and then nothing really happens. It's so predictable. Then the story just ends. I actually thought my book was missing the last chapter, until I asked a friend if there's was the same. I could have kept reading but the author just cuts the story off- maybe his computer crashed and he didn't get to finish the story, but the editors liked it that way. Highly disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Master Cineaster VINE VOICE on July 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Story tension appears only sporadically in this novel and there's no real successful blend of the camp fire horror and coming of age genres. There's a long smoldering buildup to a payoff that's neither as scary nor gory as it should be. An attempt really at a Stephen King tale, this Cook gives us what might have worked in the 50s in terms of sex and thrills (and imagery like the hero always having to use a crutch), but doesn't work now. There's a hint at a real exposure of some interesting unconscious motives of the hero but that too is underdeveloped and falls flat. It's hard to cook a literary soufflé over a campfire.

Book purchased used from an Amazon-listed dealer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Viva on October 26, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A great premise here: young boys at a summer camp deal with an Indian guide who has sinister and deadly plans for them. There are some good visuals and occasionally some decent dialogue.
Unfortunately, many scenes could have been much more frightening, tense and effective if they hadn't just trailed off. The Indian, Buck Silverstone, is certainly frightening, but I was expecting more of an attempted massacre of the youthful campers at his hands. Not that I crave the blood and gore, but it just seemed the logical way to go.
Plenty of potential, but it just doesn't satisfy in the end.
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