Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyOpen spaces, vast sky and the terrifying violence of wild tornados are the real stars of British novelist Pete Davies's ( The Last Election ) travelogue, but there are plenty of people in it, too, explaining themselves and their lives. Davies loves it all, and in this account of his 7500-mile journey in an old Ford pickup through the Great Plains and the Bad Lands in 1990 he catches the essence of tornado country and its people. His own encounters with the storms are hair-raising, and the tales he hears of them are awesome. He is masterful in describing the physical quality of the heartlands, and against that vivid backdrop, the people emerge memorably and without cliche. Davies describes them ``struggling to stay afloat in their struggling little towns as the sky turns black and the wind gets up, as the small farms go under and the water table falls, as the cities catch fire on the horizon . . . . '' Insightful and moving, this is an extraordinary picture of America from a skillful and compassionate observer. (May)
Gilbert TaylorCompared with Davies' native Wales, the desiccated, wind-swept, twister-blasted High Plains must have seemed like an alien planet. The physical descriptions in this travelogue bear the impress of the region's monotonous, treeless topography. But Davies is no innocent at capturing the moods of surviving on such unforgiving land, and accordingly he adopted the local gear and customs: a beat-up pickup, a cap emblazoned with a seed feed ad, drinking Busch beer, listening to country music and to, above all, the weather report. Everyone talks about this life-or-death subject in Tornado Alley; Davies becomes equally obsessed as he drives from dot to dot on the maps of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, and presently chases down one storm that wrecked Mintare, Nebraska, in spring 1991. Otherwise, chats range over cattle prices, the decline of the small towns, or just what's happening in the country at large. Though the opposite of xenophobic, the farmers, ranchers, and barkeeps Davies meets still exhibit a stubborn insularity, bordering on racial animosity between the whites and Lakota Sioux. Though a few notches shy of the recent masterpiece in this genre, William Least Heat-Moon's "PrairyErth" , Davies' work exhibits a writer on the ascent--an adventuresome, affable soul whose acute vision few--especially in Middle America--will want to miss.
- Random House Publishing Group
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- Edition description:
- 1st North American ed
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