A Lean Year and Other Stories
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In this collection of sixteen short stories, Robert Laxalt evokes the Nevada of the 1950s with illuminating insight. Written when Laxalt was in his twenties, the stories are as fresh as if they were penned yesterday. Humanity good and bad, humor and cruelty, satire and adventure are found in these early stories of a Nevada poised on the brink of change. In the lead story, Cowboy Clint Hamilton laments that the town is "getting more like a big city every day" as the traditional gambling joints of earlier times give way to the gaudy casinos that will soon become modern glitz. In another story, set in the remote rangelands of northern Nevada where livestock is king, Old Button can only fantasize about being "the best buckaroo that ever lived." On a Paiute Indian reservation only sixty miles from Reno, a citified lawyer learns how thin civilization's veneer can be for two Indian youths who revert to primitive ways of killing without a twinge of remorse. Laxalt finds poignancy in the last of the old timers in small-town Carson City. On a winter's night, Tom walks from his shack to the town's shabby pool hall. There, he finds familiar warmth from the pot-bellied stove and the company of two childhood friends. The friends exist only in ghostly form, but that is enough for old Tom. Dilapidated Virginia City of old silver boom days is determined not to become a ghost town. A mingling of descendants of Cornish miners, a one-time desperado, artists and writers who have found a refuge, and a marshal reincarnated from the Old West provide the author with the ingredients for a delightful spoof. Sobering experiences from his days as a reporter give Laxalt an insight into murderers and prison life andlethal gas chambers. In a chilling short story, "The Snake Pen, " we find the seed of Robert Laxalt's celebrated novel, A Man In the Wheatfield.
Robert Laxalt graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1947. Laxalt joined the staff of the university in 1954, first as director of News and Publications and later as director of the University of Nevada Press, which he founded. He was named a Reynolds Distinguished Visiting Professor and held the position of Distinguished Nevada Author Chair. He is the author of seventeen books, including the critically acclaimedSweet Promised Land. He lived in Washoe Valley until his death in 2001."
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- ID: 9780874172416
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