on November 6, 2012
"But it wasn't a dream. It was a place. And you, and you, and you, and you were there. But you couldn't have been, could you?" (Dorothy, at end of The Wizard of Oz)
Cathy Henn's book The Virgin and the Veteran artfully blends the past, the infamous and ultimately unsuccessful escape of James Earl Ray from the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Tennessee, with the present, the [also infamous] Barkley Marathons. The characters, the escaped convicts as well as the finest trackers (and their most talented bloodhounds) make their way through, over, and around some of the most difficult terrain in the country, Frozen Head State Park. When Ray escaped in June of 1977, he managed to traverse the landscape for three days before being caught just a short distance from the prison.
The author has taken this tale and mixed into it elements of the Barkley experience, its characters, feelings of terror, hope, despair, etc. If you're a Barkley "veteran," you may feel a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, when you recognize traits of some of the larger than life Barkley "characters." But even you've never been to Frozen Head Park, you'll feel as though you've been there on the slopes, in the saw briar patches, trudging fearfully over the skeletal jeep roads circling the cold abandoned coal mines.
The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Clyde, the main escapee, and John, the guard who captures him. I found this helped empathize with both the pursuer and the pursued.
I hope that Cathy Henn is working on another story; I'll be in line to get a copy.
on April 30, 2012
I honestly thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a nice meter, good characterization for such a short story, and I really didn't want it to end. There was one scene where the 'virgin' eats a piece of chicken, and the way the author described it, I was wanting a chicken leg for a week before I finally broke down and cooked some.
It's a very cross generational story in that I think it would be fine for kids and adults alike. I would recommend it to friends, and very much have.
It's definitely worth the time, and I was very pleased with my purchase. I hope Cathy Henn gets to write another one soon, especially if it was anything like this one.
on March 25, 2011
Filled with insider references of the torturous Barkley Marathons, this story has thrills, adventure, intrigue and at least one particularly horrific situation. Even if you never heard of the Barkley you'll still wonder - will they or won't they finish this race and find release? I attended a Marathons weekend once years ago and always wondered just what the participants went thru "out there". Now I have a better idea.