A Wasteland of Strangers

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Overview

Set in an isolated town in Northern California, A Wasteland of Strangers begins with the arrival of John Faith in Pomo. Who is he? Why has he come here now, during the off-season when there is nothing to do but get into trouble? What is it he wants? His arrival is surrounded by questions; his staying clothed in threats; his leaving fondly desired by almost all who cross paths with him. Everyone has an opinion of him; only a few of them are favorable. For everyone he helps, there are two who question his motives, ...
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A Wasteland of Strangers

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Overview

Set in an isolated town in Northern California, A Wasteland of Strangers begins with the arrival of John Faith in Pomo. Who is he? Why has he come here now, during the off-season when there is nothing to do but get into trouble? What is it he wants? His arrival is surrounded by questions; his staying clothed in threats; his leaving fondly desired by almost all who cross paths with him. Everyone has an opinion of him; only a few of them are favorable. For everyone he helps, there are two who question his motives, who see danger to themselves and their way of life in his continued presence in their town. And then, when a beautiful, lonely woman is brutally slaughtered after spending some time with him, Faith is the prime and logical suspect. Discovering the identity of the killer becomes as important to Faith as it is to anyone else...except the murderer.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Once again (as with his acclaimed BLUE LONESOME) veteran mystery novelist Pronzini departs from his Nameless private eye series for an offbeat tale of crime and punishment. Here he presents his story via first-person reports from an assortment of folks whose lives are touched by the arrival of mystery man John Faith into their small, secluded northern California town. It's not an easy task for a writer to control so many narrators, but Pronzini does it with seeming effortlessness, while at the same time neatly melding two subgenres -- the thriller and the whodunit.

—Dick Lochte

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While some readers may resist the ending, Pronzini (the Nameless Detective series; Blue Lonesome, etc.) plays fair and spins a nifty page-turner. Fast-shifting first-person narratives from various characters (a lovelorn police chief, a spouse-battered waitress, an alcoholic newspaper editor and others, all speaking in instantly identifiable voices) build this tale of small-town meanness and its lethal consequences. Big, ugly John Faith arrives in Northern California's Pomo. Locals are disturbed by his scars, his battered Porsche and by his brooding insistence on privacy. An inflammatory editorial, written drunk, in the weekly newspaper sets almost everyone in town against Faith. The police chief sees Faith apparently running away from the bludgeoned body of Storm Carey, rich widow and practicing nymphomaniac, and tries unsuccessfully to arrest him. Shot and wounded by the chief, Faith flees into the forest, heading for the lake. During the ensuing manhunt the fugitive is aided and abetted by an unlikely trio of women. The story fairly tears along to the jolting climax. Even after everyone has his or her say in the epilogue, readers still don't know John Faith's secrets. But that mystery is more haunting than maddening. Pronzini's newest story is a gem. (July)
VOYA - Florence H. Munat
A stranger has arrived in Pomo, a remote town in northern California. The ominous-looking, scar-faced John Faith is immediately perceived as a threat and a troublemaker. And indeed, trouble does seem to follow the peripatetic Faith. In Pomo, suspicious townspeople assume he is responsible for recent minor crimes; later, these same people are quickly convinced that it was Faith who murdered the beautiful, promiscuous widow Storm Carey. When Sheriff Richard Novak tries to arrest him, Faith flees and is badly wounded by a bullet from Novak's gun. This adult mystery is tightly structured into four parts, each describing a single day's action. The points-of-view shift among seventeen townspeople who include a hateful lake resort owner, a xenophobic born-again housewife, an alcoholic reporter, a banker fleeing Pomo with embezzled funds, and Sheriff Novak. All the men were in love with Storm. Three women narrators who join forces to prevent Faith's capture are a waitress who is abused by her husband, a native American high school teacher, and the teacher's teenage student, who has just learned she is pregnant by her immature boyfriend. We never hear John Faith's point of view; the townspeople tell his story. The short chunks of narration keep the book moving swiftly. Tension builds, and the climax and denouement are surprising and credible. The different narrative voices take on individuality. If some of the characterizations seem trite... well, in mystery, plot's the thing and this is a good one. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Kirkus Reviews
The latest product of Pronzini's recent fascination with the bad chemistry between tight little towns and catalytic strangers (Blue Lonesome, 1995; Sentinels, 1996) brings big, ugly wanderer John C. Faith to Pomo, a lakeside hamlet in Pronzini's favorite northern California wilds. Faith's picked a bad weekend to come to Pomo, since bank president George Petrie, desperate to cover his minor defalcations, is about to pull off a major robbery of his own bank; Indian teacher Audrey Sixkiller is getting threatened by a masked rapist; and aptly named widow Storm Carey, who's slept with half the men in town, keeps her very last assignation while Faith, who absently deflected her first come-on between bites of his restaurant meal, is on his way to her place. Faith manages to get away from police chief Richard Novak, but Novak, still burning from the memory of Storm's fiery embraces, isn't about to take Faith's escape lying down. And the outcast women who somehow know they can trust Faith—an unhappily pregnant teen, a waitress who gave up nursing school to marry the brute who beats her, and even, in the end, Audrey Sixkiller herself—only seem to be making more trouble for themselves.

Pronzini nails his familiar small-town meanies—the bigots, the cheats, the tiny-souled righteous—with an unerring eye. Only the alcoholic newspaperman who talks to his gun, and maybe the enigmatic Faith himself, miss the bull's-eye.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802733016
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 6/1/1997
  • Pages: 257
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Interviews & Essays

I've always been interested in how one person can affect an entire community. In my new novel, the arrival of a hulking stranger in a small California town triggers a series of bizarre events that include attempted rape and brutal murder. Who is John Faith? Why has he come here? And is he responsible for the escalating violence that threatens the town? You're never sure until the very end. My aim was to get readers engrossed in the mystery of John Faith by telling the story through a series of alternating viewpoints of more than a score of the town's residents. Above all else, I wanted this to be a 'good read,' a novel that keeps you turning the pages. And in the process, I also wanted to make some cogent comments on the realities of northern California today.

—Bill Pronzini

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted May 14, 2012

    This is another of Bill Pronzini’s intensive, commanding,

    This is another of Bill Pronzini’s intensive, commanding, explorations of current social ideas and concerns which move a national colloquy in many forums. But this is not a social treatise full of statistics. This is a moving, intense, crime novel, that will captivate and enthrall the reader. Take one large, dangerous looking, individual, John Faith, by name. He’s a traveler, a seeker, a man on the move. Insert this stranger into a small resort community during the off season. This community happens to be in northern California, but such are the author’s skills, it could be anywhere. It could be your hometown.

    John Faith is the immediate object of suspicion, because he’s a stranger and he doesn’t look like he belongs. His presence gradually reveals and widens long-standing cracks in the comfortable, biased attitudes and ideas of almost everyone in town. Why has this man come to town? What are his motives? His answers are enigmatic, and even at the end we are left with questions. John Faith’s encounters with the police chief, the bigoted lake-side resort owner, some local Native Americans, and a bartender or two, are like pebbles dropped in a placid pool. The ripples expand and expand until they reach the edge of the pool and die. Except in this case, the ripples grow larger, intersect and become irresistible waves that begin to tear at the base fabric of the town.

    This psychological thriller is tightly plotted, and intricately presented. It’s pace is irresistible. “A Wasteland of Strangers” is a thoughtful, satisfying crime novel. Artist Doug Henry has presented a handsome, evocative cover illustration. Highly recommended.

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