On the Night Plain

Lennon, J. Robert. On the Night Plain. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.

Reason read: April is Sibling month.

Grant Person is a curious character. When we first meet this protagonist, he is leaving his Montana sheep ranching family for somewhere (anywhere?) else. His whole attitude is one of ambivalence. If the train stops he’ll get on board. If not, oh well. He’ll go back to his parents and brother as if nothing happened. He has no clear direction other than he would head due east towards New York. He ends up in Atlantic City, New Jersey for some time then wanders home again when he learns his mother has died.
When Grant returns, he is the exact opposite. He comes home to a sheep ranch barely surviving. After his mother’s death, his father runs away. His brother with dreams of being an artist has one foot out the door himself. By himself, Grant becomes singular in his focus to save the farm. It’s a stark story with barely any color or light.

There were a lot of lines I really, really like. “A smile seemed to think about appearing on Cotter’s face but it never arrived” (p 55),

Author fact: J. Robert Lennon also wrote The Funnies which I have already read for the Challenge. He also wrote a series which I am not reading.

Book trivia: I could see this being a movie.

Nancy said: In Book Lust Pearl jokes Lennon is successful at setting a tragedy of Greek proportions on a failing sheep farm on the Great Plains. In More book Lust Pearl included On the Night Plain as an example of brothers who have loved and hated one another.

BookLust Twist: Pearl liked this one. From Book Lust in the chapter called “Western Fiction” (p 240); also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Oh, Brother” (p 180).


Ox-Bow Incident

Clark, Walter Van Tilburg. The Ox-Bow Incident. New York: Signet Classic, 1968.

The Ox-Bow Incident was first published in 1940 but its premise could have been about modern mob mentality. It is the story of a rumor and what happens when a community is whipped into a frenzied need for self-righteous justice. In Nevada someone has been rustling cattle. When two men are pinned for the crime the mob cries for retaliation. Then they find out one of their own has been murdered. Now, they want the men lynched. While this is a western it could take place anywhere a collective group of angry people let their emotions get the better of them. It’s the story of what happens when this group takes the law into their own hands. Clark’s character development is brilliant. Each man in the story is a study in emotion. The tension that builds due to violence and bred by hate and suspicion rings true.

Lines I liked, “Whenever Gil gets low in spirit, or confused in his mind, he doesn’t feel right until he’s had a fight” (p 15), “There is a kind of insanity that comes from being between walls and under a roof” (p 50), and “He’d got beyond me again, chasing his own hate” (p 103).

Reason read: For some reason July is the best time to go to a dude ranch. Not sure why. This doesn’t take place on a dude ranch but it’s a western so…

Author fact: Clark was born in Maine but became Nevada’s best known writer of western fiction.

Book trivia: The Ox-Bow Incident was made into a movie in 1943.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Western Fiction” (p 240).