At first glance, this memoir is reminiscent of such classic true crime memoirs as Ann Rule's A Stranger Beside MeÄbut Australian literary sensation Drewe (The Drowner, etc.) has more in mind than sharp reportage here. He looks back at the years, in his youth, when his hometown was racked by a series of brutal murders. Reflecting on these killingsÄincluding that of a boy who'd been his friendÄopens up a gloomy window onto Drewe's lonely childhood. His family had moved from cosmopolitan Melbourne to the "sandy moonscape" of 1950s Perth in western Australia. Drewe starkly renders this isolated realm of provincial whispers, suburban boredom and frustration. His father, a rising star with his employer, is distant in every way: he only half jokes that he loves the company more than his wife, and rarely engages Drewe and his brother in any father-son activities. Drewe's mother is no less remote for her overprotectiveness; over time, her spiritually empty moralizing grows vicious. This emotional climate makes Drewe's adolescent traumas surrealÄand complements perfectly his account of the senseless and random murders, which at times is deeply affecting. Unfortunately, in his first major work of nonfiction, the author's anecdotes frequently go nowhere. As a result, the bookÄwhich drifts along lazily instead of dreamilyÄisn't as effective as it could have been. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Drewe, an Australian novelist, playwright, and journalist, comes close to nailing it in this work of nonfictionDa coming-of-age, true-crime story. Growing up the eldest son of an upwardly mobile businessman, he lived what in many respects was an idyllic life amid Perth's bountiful sun and sand. However, there lurked a Peeping Tom, an unplanned pregnancy, and the death of a parent (precipitated, perhaps, by the actions of the son). And half a decade of murders: one victim a friend of the author, one murder committed with another friend's hatchet, and all eight done by a man known by the author. In his recounting of these events of his formative years, Drewe succeeds in reminding us that the dark side is always near. However, as the book progresses, we find ourselves wanting to know more about the murdererDan unusual combination of serial and spree killer who struck with rifle, hatchet, and even automobileDand perhaps less about the author. Recommended for larger public libraries.DJim Burns, Ottumwa P.L., IA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.