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Out of Season

Out of Season

2.0 1
by Robert Bausch

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Four characters burdened by the past intersect at a fading resort town when County Sheriff David Caldwell is called in to restore the order destroyed by the town bully, Cecil Edwards-a giant of a man who operates the Ferris wheel. Caldwell must also face the sorrow that has been his daily companion when he reunites with his son, Todd, who has been in prison for the


Four characters burdened by the past intersect at a fading resort town when County Sheriff David Caldwell is called in to restore the order destroyed by the town bully, Cecil Edwards-a giant of a man who operates the Ferris wheel. Caldwell must also face the sorrow that has been his daily companion when he reunites with his son, Todd, who has been in prison for the accidental death of his brother. During this reconciliation, Todd meets a mysterious young woman, Lindsey, who is searching for her long-lost brother and finds a love she never knew possible.

With the intensity of a Shakespearean tragedy, these four people are drawn into the gravitational pull of family. Robert Bausch draws on the heartbreaking energy of families in distress like no other writer, and Out of Season resonates with the purity of redemption in the face of irretrievable losses.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A splendid novel, original in the best sense . . . raising the kinds of questions that families are always asking."—The New York Times Book Review

"A courageous and beautiful book—moving, tragic, wise, but also starkly and necessarily comic."—The Washington Post Book World

Bruce Murkoff
When Cecil collapses at the feet of the men who have come to challenge him, and when David Caldwell realizes he can love his son, Bausch delivers fully charged moments. His characters may not always be admirable or brave, but they remain good company. Their imperfections make them human, and that is a testament to this writer's craft.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
There's lots of quiet mourning in Bausch's elegiac novel set in Columbia Beach, Md., a tourist town that's seen better days. County sheriff David Caldwell is in town on a professional mission-to open up the disused jail-and a much more important personal one: to reunite with his 20-year-old son, Todd, who's spent five years in a "juvenile detention center." When he was 13, Todd killed his younger brother, Bobby, and his father, plagued with anguish at the loss, still wonders whether the slaying was accidental or murder. Columbia Beach hardly seems to need a jail, except for the problematic Cecil Edwards, who terrorizes the town with his unpredictable behavior. Less happens than one might think given the novel's aura of violence. The main theme is grief assuaged by the redemptive power of love, embodied in the unusual character of Lindsey Hunter, an adoptee who seeks out her birth mother and discovers a brother (Cecil) and a soul mate (Todd). At times the prose is beautiful-spare and lyrical-and the empathy of Bausch (A Hole in the Earth) for all his characters is impressive, but the narrative arc remains hazily indistinct. Agent, Timothy Seldes at Russell & Volkening. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A decaying Virginia resort town is the setting for this tense and absorbing tale of violence and family tragedy. When Sheriff David Caldwell arrives for an extended stay, there is no law and order in Columbia Beach. But that may change. There to rebuild the jail and set up shop, Caldwell also plans to meet his son, Todd, whose involvement in the accidental death of his little brother destroyed the family. The city has its own share of trouble in the form of Cecil Edwards, a violent, lawless man currently feuding with a local merchant-leading several locals to consider taking the law into their own hands. Also new in town is Lindsey, whose search for her mother leads her to Cecil instead. Lindsey is drawn to Todd, who recently was released from prison and arrives to meet his father and begin the difficult process of trying to come to grips with the past. Bausch (A Hole in the Earth) has a gritty and forthright style that suits the novel's violent physical confrontations, intense personality clashes, and unexpected plot twists. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/05.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
As autumn descends on an Atlantic coastal resort town that's seen better days, a quartet of characters haunted by the past collide in a moving novel. Bausch (A Hole in the Earth, 2000) uses a showdown with Cecil Edwards, the town bully, to drive the narrative, and does so with a sense of the inevitable, albeit with a twist. But his real agenda is an examination of how we compensate for what's missing in our lives: Cecil, who operates the Ferris wheel when he's not pointing guns at people, is alone, confused and scared. When his adopted half-sister Lindsey comes to town, she becomes a civilizing influence. Also new on the scene are Sheriff David Caldwell, who attempts to broker an uneasy truce between Cecil and other locals, and Caldwell's son Todd, who's spent years locked up for accidentally killing his brother-then panicking and burying the body in the back yard. The corrosive effect of grief has taken a toll on Caldwell's marriage, but the family can't be made whole until Caldwell accepts his surviving son's account of the tragedy. And Todd-who's been free and hasn't seen his family in two years-is still nursing wounds Caldwell unintentionally inflicted. Some readers may feel a bit cheated by how Cecil's feud with the local coffee klatch is resolved. But by deftly sprinkling backstory into the narrative, Bausch (Creative Writing and Literature/Northern Virginia Community College) makes his characters' histories compelling and conflicted. They're frail and stubborn, yearning to be understood, but on their terms, determined not to be defined in the present by losses in the past. Bausch gets the quirks and rhythms of a small town in decline exactly right.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.02(w) x 10.92(h) x 1.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

Because it was the off season, the clerk (and owner) of the Clary Hotel was surprised to hear that a lone man, about forty or so, with only one suitcase, wished to know the weekly rates. It was early Thursday morning in mid October. The front lobby was still bathed in bright sunlight.

The clerk's name was Jack Clary. He had worked at the Clary Hotel all his life. He had run around in this very building as a little boy. His father and mother ran the hotel when it was called the Hotel Columbia, and after he and his wife inherited it, he renamed it the Clary Hotel. He maintained it mostly by himself-painting, woodworking, window washing, plumbing, repairing the heating and air conditioning, and installing a new floor in the lobby-and although he almost never rented more than a few rooms on weekends in the off season, there were always plenty of tourists in the summer, even with the decline of the town's fortunes. He worked very hard in the summer, and so did his wife-the hotel's only chef and maid-but during the winter months, when the tourist season was officially over, he always felt quite successfully retired, even though he was not yet fifty years old. He stood behind the counter in his hotel and stared into the face of this man who wanted to know the weekly rates.

"What you want to know that for?"

"I'll be staying for a while." The man put down the suitcase, put his hands on the counter. Clary noticed they were clean, the fingernails neatly trimmed.

"Have you been here before?" He turned the book around, so the man could sign it.

"Used to bring my family here every year."

"A long time ago?"

"You might say," the stranger said. He signed the book with a steady hand. His face was thin and long. His hair was thick and came to a perfect widow's peak in the middle of his forehead. It was cut close, but not so close that it wouldn't drape over his brow if he let it. He wore a long gray coat, too heavy for the weather, open down the front. A black scarf draped around his neck.

The name he wrote in the register was David Caldwell.

"It's a different place now," Clary said, studying the name.

"Yes, I guess it is."

"Well, Mr. Caldwell," Clary said. "I certainly hope you weren't expecting . . ." He didn't finish the sentence.

"Expecting what?"

"Nothing. You can see it ain't too lively now."

Caldwell turned the book around again. "A key?" he said.

"Sure." Clary got the key off the wall behind the office door.

As he was handing the key to him, Caldwell said, "And those rates?"

"Well, I don't know. Long as I've been here, nobody stayed over a couple weeks."

"I don't really know how long I'm going to be here. I'm looking for a place. But the county keeps you on a pretty restricted expense account. I can't afford to pay you daily rates." He held the key up, read the number on it.

"Let's see. If you did that it'd be . . ."

"I can't do that. It would be too much. But perhaps . . ."

"At the daily rate that'd be close to four hundred a week."

"I'll give you two hundred."

"A week?"

"You wouldn't have anybody here, it looks like. For sure nobody else'll be here come winter."

"That's right."

"I'm offering two hundred you wouldn't have, then."

"I'm not arguing," Clary said. "It sounds fine to me."

Caldwell almost smiled, picked up his bag and turned for the stairs across the lobby.

"You say the county's paying for it?"

"That's right."

"You some sort of inspector or something?"

"No. I'm visiting on behalf of the county."


The stranger put both bags down at his feet. "And I'm meeting someone, too."

"What's the county got to do with . . ."

"You got a problem here, right?"

"What kind of problem?"

"Law enforcement."

"There ain't none."

"Well, that's why I'm here. I'm the sheriff of Dahlgren County. I came down here to see about setting up an office for a deputy or two."

"You don't say."

"That's right." He leaned down and picked up the bags. "I may be moving down here myself," he groaned with the weight. "Who knows?"

"What we need is a whole police force."

"What I'm going to set up will be better than that. Trust me."

"Oh, I trust you. But you never had to deal with Cecil Edwards."


"Cecil Edwards. He's the problem you mentioned."

Caldwell was silent, but he didn't look away.

"Just the other day he pulled a gun on the fellow that runs the gas station out at the highway."

"Really?" Caldwell was still holding the bags.

"Fellow named McDole runs that place."

Caldwell hefted the bags to get a better grip and started moving toward the elevators across the lobby. Clary came around the counter and took one of the bags, a heavy garment case with a long strap. He draped the bag over his arm.

"I don't suppose you heard that name?"

"What name," Caldwell said, a little winded.


"Can't say I have."

"I thought maybe he went ahead and lodged a complaint. He was mad enough, I thought he might go ahead and do it." Clary put the strap over his shoulder and hoisted the bag as they walked along. "We got a jail, you know."

"I know."

"Nobody's used it in years. Not since they outlawed gambling," Clary huffed.

"I went by it," Caldwell said. "It's still standing." When they were a short distance from the elevator, Clary stopped and set his bag down, leaning over to let the strap fall off his shoulder.

"Want me to get that?" said Caldwell.

"No. I got it." He put the strap over his other shoulder and lifted the bag again. "Did you say you were meeting someone here?"

"My son," Caldwell said. He was already in front of the elevator when Clary put his bag down next to the door.

"That thing's a bit heavy."

"It's got clothes, boots, some books, a gun and lots of ammo in it," Caldwell said, smiling. "I can take it from here."

They both stood there, watching the door. The stranger pushed the button again.

"It's a wonder that folks do that," Clary said. "Ain't it?"


"I do the same thing. I push the button, it lights and then I wait a little while and if the thing doesn't come I push it again."

"Oh," Caldwell said, still smiling. "Yes. I do that, too."

"You just did it," Clary laughed, and then he was conscious of how loud he had been, and was suddenly embarrassed. He felt awkward and too friendly and as though he had been fawning over this man who hadn't even really told him his name.

The elevator door opened and he helped Caldwell put his bags in, then he stepped back and watched as the door closed. Caldwell didn't look at him, and neither of them said anything. He went back to the counter and studied the name written neatly on the white page of the hotel register. "David Caldwell," he said out loud. "Well. This is just the right time and place for you, Mr. Sheriff Caldwell." He closed the book, went back into his office and got a bottle out of the lower right hand drawer of his desk.

"Chivas," he said. "God bless you."

Copyright © 2005 by Robert Bausch

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Meet the Author

ROBERT BAUSCH is the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. His novel A Hole in the Earth was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year as well as a Washington Post Book World Favorite Book of the Year. He lives in Stafford, Virginia, and teaches literature and creative writing at Northern Virginia Community College.

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Out of Season 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stafford, Virginia, native Robert Bausch's novel 'Out of Season' is a bland, hazily written drama as creaky and simple as the rundown beach hamlet of Columbia Beach in which he sets it. The characters are presented the most banal of descriptions, their backstories and developments are constructed in the least interesting of ways (is there anything less interesting than learning about characters' relationship through their e-mail?), and the dramatic crux of the novel - the newly burgeoning family of David Caldwell, whose son Todd is reuniting with them after years in prison for accidentally killing the family's youngest child, Bobby - putters along with nothing approaching serious consideration. There is some beautiful language in this novel - in particular, his similes are quite disarming - but it's hard to push through a novel in which no one, including the writer himself, seems to care much about the goings-on.