RARA-AVIS: Edward Bunker's Little Boy Blue

From: logan keith (keith) ( keith@globetrotter.net)
Date: 24 Jan 2008

I just finished this engrossing novel that is almost surely at least in part autobiographical. The book traces the life of a young boy named Alex Hammond, from ages 11 to 15. This is no ordinary coming-of-age tale but a bleak look at the horrors of institutionalization. Alex is sent from group home to Juvenile Hall to lockup by the California Youth Authority. The saddest aspect is how Alex learns the system, learns it so well that ultimately the system is the only future that he can function in. When at one point Alex is liberated on a type of parole, he doesn't last 2 days before reverting to criminal ways, utterly rejecting a mainstream law-abiding lifestyle. Bunker has the character reliving past abuses in his mind to prepare himself for robberies or other illegal acts, blandly stating that this is the only way he can go through with these acts without being overcome with guilt, by blaming his victims for all the times he himself has been a victim. A very depressing yet re alistic look into a criminal mind.

This read to me like a mix of Frank Bonham, Andrew Vachss, and Oz, which is a very good thing (in a very twisted way). It's my third Bunker, and I must keep my eyes open for his auotbiography. One funny thing - this edition (1998) has a back-cover blurb by Quentin Tarantino - "The best first-person crime novel I've ever read". Except it's written in the third person! So are The Animal Factory and Dog Eat Dog, so unless this quote refers to No Beast So Fierce (which I don't own) I guess QT needs some grammar lessons. Interesting that St Martin's let that one through...

Keith Logan

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