Allan Seager didn’t have much luck as a novelist. His first novel, Equinox, sold well but was published in 1943 at exactly the time when a wartime shortage of paper restricted its potential. His last novel, Death of Anger, was published by a firm who simultaneously folded and so it too slipped away. In fact the only book of his currently in print is his fantastic memoir A Frieze Of Girls which I would heartily recommend for its charm and humour alone. But this is about uncovering fiction and if you make the effort to find a second-hand copy of his novel Amos Berry (or just get AbeBooks to do it for you) you will be rewarded not only by the heady whiff of foxing paper from 1953 but Seager’s masterpiece dissection of the small town of America’s Midwest.
The title character seems to have it all: education, successful job, good looking wife and fine son. The only blot might be his son’s wish to be a poet rather than follow his father into business. So what is it that causes him to carry out a seemingly random act of violence? Why would such a man ‘retreat from the twentieth century’ and take up arms against another? As his son pieces it together we read a novel with the forensic detail of Capote’s In Cold Blood and the humanity of William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. Taking the reverse journey to Crime And Punishment we delve into the rational mind in the lead up to the crime rather than witnesses its descent afterwards. Seager deserves more than the silence of obscurity and if you fancy rescuing a book from the stacks then this is one that will reward your endeavour.
William Rycroft blogs at http://justwilliamsluck.blogspot.com