Mark Childress's first novel,A World Made of Fire, was praised by James Dickey ("A truly outstanding novel"), Barry Hannah ("Full of delicate electricity and raw power") and Stephen King ("A damned fine story.") See back of jacket.
His new novel -- full of charm and generosity of spirit -- is about a boy's heroic dream fulfilled. It's 1942. The place is Alabama. Victor, aged sixteen, has been sent by his family to care for his grandmother on an island in Mobile Bay. The war is everywhere: at school, they hand out cards with silhouettes of enemy airplanes; at home, Victor clips newspaper pictures of Churchill and Goebbels. He yearns to break away and join the rest of the world in the great patriotic adventure.
Until one night, hearing an earth-rending roar out on the bay, he sets out to investigate and finds himself suddenly, miraculously, in the midst of war. His boat has crashed into a surfacing German U-boat.
What happens, as he is alternatively a hostage and in hot pursuit, is told in a novel that combines real excitement and suspense (rich and mysterious eccentrics, enemy agents, a Nazi plan to infiltrate the southern coast of the United States) with a brilliantly perceptive vision of the adolescent -- as dreamer, as romantic, as would-be adult and would-be hero -- crossing, under wildly dramatic circumstances, the delicate border into adulthood.
"If you've forgotten the thrills and chills of child's play, the incendiary imagination of adolescence, Mark Childress's second novel -- a speeding bullet of a book -- will ignite your memory. In this adventure story the hero, Victor, is sublimely lost, a celebrated ragamuffin like Huck Finn or one of Peter Pan's lost tribe."
-- Marianne Gingher, New York Times Book Review
"A crackling good adventure is tough to pull off, but Mark Childress has done just this and he's done it brilliantly. From his lyrical opening passages, which evoke the softness of adolescent innocence, right up through his explosive finale, he never lets us come up for air. And we never want to. Think of the Hardy Boys if you will, but also think of Harper Lee, and early Capote. This is a yarn spun with poetry. This is storytelling at its best."
-- Peter Buckley, Vogue
"The whole 'great watery plain of Mobile Bay' is a world the author and his gangly hero know with a strong and lovely intimacy."
-- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Childress makes us believe this tale of double-crosses, murders, spying and general mayhem. He does this through a magical evocation of place, a lyric touch and a keen ear for speech, both interior and exterior....A compelling variation on the happy myth of war as a passage to manhood."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
"With a marvelous ear for language and devilishly rich imagination, Mark Childress has crafted an engaging and readable novel."
-- Jay Parini, The Boston Globe
"Mr. Childress knows the business of words. His descriptions evoke a sense of time and place that ring true...A rare talent."
-- Atlanta Journal & Constitution
"A boy's fantasy of adventure, heroism, and romance...the cinematic plot is perfect for a thriller movie."
-- Publisher's Weekly
"Childress's novel zings with charm and thrills."
"Childress deftly evokes the marshy landscape, the thrill of radio listening, the magic of a summer cotillion, etching it against a backdrop of purpose and urgency."
-- Joseph Olshan, Chicago Tribune
"Enthralling and delightful...what might at first have seemed a gently paced coming-of-age story turns into a rambunctious tale full of the kind of characters who crowd a would-be teenage hero's dreams. V for Victor is a rich, compelling story: Childress shows boyhood in all its endearing awkwardness, fervency, and fire."
-- Heather Vogel Frederick, Christian Science Monitor
"Childress expertly weaves the intrigue of a first-rate coming-of-age story with subtle moments that show a boy testing the boundaries of youth. (He) creates a landscape teeming with possibilities...and he delivers on his promise. Victor takes us to the narrow edge of youth, where every day a U-boat may be waiting."
-- Orlando Sentinel
"V for Victor is a thriller, but it is also a novel, a fine, fast-moving yarn that ought to have the Alabama filmmaking promotion agency jumping for joy."
-- Macon Telegraph
"Childress has as many twist and turns and surprises in his novel as the Magnolia River."
-- Birmingham News