1988 "First Edition" stated; Doubleday publishers, New York; hardbound in chestnut and brown boards with gilt lettering along spine; very good condition with unmarked pages, appears unread; dust jacket very good.
An engaging story dominated by a clever plot, Groom's fifth novel ( Better Times Than These , Forrest Gump ) offers a diverting portrait of a Vietnam veteran-turned-playwright named Beau Gunn. Narrated by a lifelong friend of Gunn's, the book purports to be a ``Life Certificate,'' as opposed to a birth or death certificate. We learn on the first page that Gunn has both of these, which is the only reason his death, three pages from the end of the book, comes as no surprise.
Set mostly in the mythical shipping port of Bienville, Ala., the story moves in time from the 1940s to the present. Following graduation from an oppressive military school and a heroic stint in Vietnam, Gunn begins a promising career in New York writing plays. But his life begins to stall with failures both romantic and onstage, and he returns home to clear his head and think about the future. There he falls into the editorship of of the town's only newspaper and proceeds to investigate a shocking scandal that reaches back into the pasthis own included. There are a few parallels in plot that echo Thompson's Celebrity , but the writing is very much Groom's own.
The novel is unquestionably a page-turner, though the form of the narrative as related by Beau Gunn's Boswell is sometimes disconcerting. However, the plot twists are clever, and the tale is absorbing and very well told.