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What if you were the son of Son of Sam?
am 25. April 1998
Shame,Alan Russell's sixth novel, presents an unusual premise. What would life be like if you were the son of a serial killer? Caleb Parker escapes from the Texas small town he has grown up in as soon as he can, and seeks a new, anonymous life in San Diego. What he has left behind is the torment of bullies, the sexual predation of a thrill seeking high school girl, and a decidely strange mother. What he discovers in a city of many transients and few natives is his own business, a marriage, and two children. Russell starts the book with a bang. Parker is called in for an "emergency" tree removal, only to stumble on a body, naked, the corspe marked in the same fashion as his notorious father, with the word "Shame". This starts a chain of events that draws in Maryelizabeth Line, a true crime writer and the only person to survive Shame (the father's criminal "nickname".) Line's remininscences are woven into the thread of the story. Russell can tell a story, and Shame is certainly his his fastest paced book. He does a fine job with the character of Caleb. A third major character, a drag queen, provides some humor, but also, surprisingly, some pathos. While the character of Gray Parker seems derivative at times, an amalgamation of Ted Bundy & Hannibal Lector, he is menacing and cunning. His "heir" seems less so. Russell has a fine ear for dialog. His characters are distinct. His sense of place is superb. He captures San Diego vividly, bringing to the 1990's the same sense of place of Wade Miller's post-World War II novels. My favorite Russell novel is still Multiple Wounds, but Shame is a fast-paced, enjoyable read. The original premise and the craftmanship with which is handled is enough to win a ringing endorsement.