Clyde Edgerton


"Redeye: A Western"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAY 15, 1999)

This is a humorous novel of Quakers, Mormons, Indians, a bounty hunter and his red-eyed dog. The book is styled as a "written guidebook" of the Mesa Largo Tourist Expedition including the complete history of The Eagle City Shootout of 1892. Cleverly the tour we are about to embark takes place in 1905 so it treats the events of 1892 as history.  Yet by telling the story only 13 years later allows a naivete that could not be pulled off if one had to speak in our own "modern day" voice. Maybe it's the old director in me, but as I read the book I envisioned a group of actors on a sparse stage with maybe a wagon wheel and a painted background, dressed in period clothing, taking turns as they each tell pieces of the story of the "actual events." Edgerton's skill is to set up a sentence so that it is entirely truthful to its owner, but when actually read or said aloud, it is hysterical. In this way he jabs at the idiosyncrasy of religion, the mortuary business, dog training and the tourism business.

 

Despite the humor, Edgerton is covering some serious territory.  In 1857, 120 Arkansan emigrants heading for California were massacred in the the South West corner of Utah. The event became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Although the Mormons tried to make it look like the Indians were to blame, this massacre was led and executed by the Mormons. Fortunately for the Mormons, this event missed the history books because of the Civil War. It's interesting technique to juxtapose such a startling event with this a light hearted setting. The second story line is nearly as upsetting as we follow the first expedition into the cliff dwellings in the Mesa Largo. The disregard for the artifacts and the desire to profit is not new news, but it sure gives a sense of helplessness as we watch the entrepreneur Blankenship scheme up the first American roadside attraction. Although, some of the scenes are really funny.

  • Amazon.com reader rating:from 6 reviews


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About the Author:

Clyde EdgertonClyde Edgerton was born in 1944 and grew up in Bethesda, North Carolina, a small community in east Durham County. He was the only child of Truma and Ernest Edgerton, who came from families of cotton and tobacco farmers, respectively.

In 1962 Edgerton enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, eventually majoring in English. During this time he was a student in the Air Force ROTC program where he learned to fly a small plane. After graduating in 1966, he entered the Air Force and served five years as a fighter pilot in the United States, Korea, Japan and Thailand.

After his time in service, Edgerton got his Master's degree in English and began a job as an English teacher at his old high school. Soon after, he also earned a doctorate.
He decided to become a writer in 1978 after watching Eudora Welty read a short story on public television.

Publication of Edgerton's first novel, Raney, the plot of which revolves around the marriage of a Free Will Baptist and an Episcopalian, ultimately led to Edgerton's leaving the teaching staff at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina (a Baptist institution). His later work, Killer Diller, is a thinly-veiled satire of that university and its administration, with whom Edgerton clashed over Raney.

Also a musician, Edgerton, with his wife Susan Ketchin,  were founding members of the The Tarwater Band. He now plays with the Ranks Strangers Band.

Currently he is a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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