White Man's Grave: A Novel

Overview

When Peace Corps volunteer Michael Killigan goes missing in West Africa, his father Randall and his best friend Boone Westfall begin separate quests to find him. Randall, a bankruptcy lawyer, is the warlord of his world, a shark in a fishbowl, exercising power with mad, relentless, hilarious glee; Boone, an American innocent abroad, journeys to the African bush, protected by the twin charms of the passport and the almighty dollar. In seeking Michael, both men find much more than...

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Overview

When Peace Corps volunteer Michael Killigan goes missing in West Africa, his father Randall and his best friend Boone Westfall begin separate quests to find him. Randall, a bankruptcy lawyer, is the warlord of his world, a shark in a fishbowl, exercising power with mad, relentless, hilarious glee; Boone, an American innocent abroad, journeys to the African bush, protected by the twin charms of the passport and the almighty dollar. In seeking Michael, both men find much more than they bargain for.

Richard Dooling's debut, Critical Care, was hailed as a "very funny first novel" (Washington Post) that reached "Evelyn Waugh-like heights" (Booklist). Dooling's scandalously funny new satire focuses on the search for Peace Corps volunteer Michael Killigan among the witches, witch finders, disgruntled ancestors, and bush devils in West Africa.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A bravura display of satire . . . Dooling evokes the humane checks and balances of a deep world: the logic, you might say, of its magic."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"The book is absolutely astonishing; I am a Richard Dooling fan for life."—Phillip M. Margolin, author of Gone, But Not Forgotten

"The author's fizz of comic energy is as wild and scornful as Richard Condon's."—Time

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a galloping tale about a clash of worldviews, in this case between the insular West African Mende culture--complete with tribal politics and voodoo--and the pure red-blooded Caucasian American variety, with its highly rational citizens bent on ideological conquest, good deeds and the accumulation of cash. For all that heavy loading, Dooling ( Critical Care ) has constructed a deceptively simple story involving the disappearance in the African bush of Michael Killigan, a Peace Corps worker from Indianapolis whose father is a powerful wizard of the bankruptcy courts in the Seventh Circuit. A ``black bundle of tightly wrapped rags the size of a football,'' which has arrived at Randall Killigan's law office, eventually oozes blood and might be the cause of his bizarre nocturnal hallucinations. Calling on his considerable and well-compensated powers of analysis and suasion, Randall discovers that he is the recipient of African ``bad medicine.'' The State Department confirms that his son is missing. What follows is a journey far into the depths of African magic for the whereabouts of Michael Killigan. His boyhood friend, a not-always endearing naif named Boone Westfall, flies on a heroic rescue mission, only to further complicate the situation. Meanwhile, looking to buy answers, lawyer Killigan showers money and Land-Rovers into the African bush. Dooling's prose gifts are capacious: of a ``huge shirtless blacksmith'' working at a forge, he says ``he lifted something and the muscles of his back bloomed like the hood of a cobra.'' The book's language similarly expands to accommodate the bizarre and mind-bending mysteries of witchcraft upon which the plot turns. In the end, the book's lush satire cleverly obscures its simple, unarguable premise: that unfathomable rituals are at the heart of any culture, even in Indiana. (June)
Library Journal
Behind the fairly simple story of a Peace Corps volunteer missing in West Africa and a friend's search to find him, one feels that some larger significance is brooding and expects it to appear at any moment. Unfortunately, it never does. The pace is fast, the style lush, and the atmosphere slightly ominous; there is plenty of action, adventure, and suspense; but somehow Dooling has not quite managed to make it all come alive. The result has to be one of the longest shaggy-dog stories on record. The book would have been better if the author had curbed his tendency to overexpansiveness and exercised a little control of his material. A potentially good novel that does not quite make it.-A.J. Anderson, GSLIS, Simmons Coll., Boston
Gary Krist
Impressive…sharply satiric.
The New York Times Book Review
Richard Eder
A bravura display of satire…Dooling evokes the humane checks and balances of a deep world: the logic, you might say, of its magic.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312132149
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/15/1995
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.93 (w) x 7.93 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Dooling's first novel was Critical Care. His short fiction has been published by The New Yorker. He is an attorney who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with his wife and three children.

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