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The latest novels from Virginian Martin Clark and Brit Rupert Thomson

Lives Less Ordinary

Martin Clark has already achieved distinction by being the youngest circuit court judge ever elected in the state of Virginia. His debut as a novelist with "The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living" (Alfred A. Knopf, $24) constitutes an additional entry in a formidable career. The main character is Evers Wheeling, a powerful judge in Norton, N.C., who, though financially secure, nevertheless seeks periodic solace in a haze of alcohol and substance abuse.

Evers constantly battles with the recriminations of his embittered wife and worries about the overall welfare of his brother. It is during this time of emotional flux that Ruth Esther English approaches Evers with a curious proposition. If Evers would examine the case of her brother who is charged with cocaine possession and find some loophole for possible dismissal, Ruth Esther could retrieve a sum of money that she, her brother and foster father have stolen and which was hidden by her foster father. In addition, Evers must face the probability of his wife's infidelity. Along this odyssey of twists and turns, Evers encounters a peculiar, eccentric collection of companions, and is attracted to Ruth Esther's lawyer, Pauletta Lightwren Qwai, a strident African-American woman. Throughout the book, Evers undergoes a gradual metamorphosis that could either rebuild or destroy him.

This novel contains elements of the comedic, the outlandish and the irreverent. The author can arouse the readers' empathy for his characters, despite the many traits which make them unattractive. The elaborate legal scams and manipulations are both an education for the reader and the bane of Evers' professional existence. Evers' state of mind and sobriety dictate how readers are likely to feel about him. When he is rational, Evers' innate decency shines through, but when he is under the influence, he emotionally deteriorates, as does the tone and language of the book "The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living" includes bizarre episodes of humor that make the book engaging, yet the frequent indulgences in the scurrilous and the profane create an uncomfortable atmosphere which may offend the more sensitive and discriminating reader.

Michael Clark will speak, read and sign his book on May 16 at 7:30 at Barnes & Noble, Libbie Place.
— Bruce Simon

A quasi-famous ballet dancer/choreographer is on his way to the market for a pack of cigarettes when he is abducted in broad daylight by three cloaked and hooded women who cart him off to a mysterious place, shackle him in a white room and hold him captive for 18 days.

Thankfully, as British author Rupert Thomson has us believe in "The Book of Revelation" (Knopf, $23), this is an uncommon occurrence, even in Amsterdam. But come on? Locked away while friends and relatives assume he's fled the city with another woman, our dancer has to rely on instinct and intuition — a far cry from the qualities of routine and resignation that had customized his life — in order to survive the torture the three women put him though. Gentle readers beware, this is not a gentle book. The three voyeuristic women — whom the dancer names Maude, Gertrude and Astrid, in hopes of gaining some degree of control over them — use him in every way imaginable, from a human buffet table to sex slave to private dancer.

You've got to get past the first 100 pages in Thomson's sixth novel in order to get to the good parts — the good parts being anything that doesn't make you wince or fall asleep. Fortunately, the good parts do come, as our unnamed main character struggles to return to a normal life after the three hooded women inexplicably release him one day and dump him back into society.

It's not completely unpredictable, and it's not nearly as engaging as the heart-stopping postmodern candor of Doris Lessing or Angela Carter. Still, it has moments of intrigue and even inspires mild pity as the dancer tries to choreograph a new life that everyone seems to want to deconstruct for him.
— Brandon Walters

Heads-Up: William Styron will make what he says is his last public appearance at 7 p.m. April 26, at Barnes & Noble, Libbie Place. The day before, April 25, at 5:30 p.m., he, along with his biographer, James L W. West, will speak at the Library of Virginia's "For the Library" event. Call 692-3724 for reservations.

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