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The keepers of truth

Michael COLLINS

579 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1861591780 / ISBN 13: 9781861591784
Published by Phoenix House, 2000
Condition: Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The keepers of truth

Publisher: Phoenix House

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

It is the mid-80s in post-industrial America. Men no longer produce things with their hands but Pac-man consumer culture has yet to lift the recession. In a small town graced with the decaying hulks of defunct factories, young journalist and college dropout Bill churns out lengthy essays on the death of industry and of America itself for The Daily Truth, whose scoops rarely rise above the latest home-bake contest. Bill broods over the suicide of his father and the decline of their family ¿ an industrial empire built on refrigerators and founded on his immigrant grandfather¿s dream of America. The static summer is punctured when local bad boy Ronny Lawton reports his father missing. A dismembered finger is found and all suspect the son of murdering his hated father, but nothing can be proved. The sorry tale of the white trash Lawtons hypnotises the town and Ronny Lawton becomes a local icon. Bill becomes increasingly obsessed with the story ¿ he gets involved with Ronny¿s estranged wife, finds a decomposing human head, and ends up as a suspect in the murder case himself. Things come to a head and Ronny Lawton holds his wife, child and Bill hostage in a confrontation with the FBI. Bill escapes with the woman and child and contemplates the American dream gone sour.
Michael Collins¿ writing is sharp and intense ¿ the decline of the town, of an era, of a culture, of individual lives, is detailed in a gripping narrative. Intertwined with a meditation on the state of America and on failed dreams is the story of the axe-murder investigation which keeps you on the edge of your seat as the characters rush headlong to their destruction ¿ cathartic and inevitable.

Review:

Michael Collins' third novel The Keepers of Truth, shortlisted for the 2000 Booker Prize, is set in the American mid-west in the 1980s, as industrial decline eats away at the heart of a small town and July heat delivers a punishing drought. Once thriving with metal manufacturers, the town, "hemmed in by crops that it doesn't pay to grow any more", now boasts trainee managers. Eating is the new pastime. Bill works as a reporter for the Daily Truth, a local newspaper built in a disused foundry. Suffering from an inflated sense of his talent as a philosopher, Bill makes a verbose and often funny narrator, an inept news journalist and, as the novel progresses, a sloppy Private Eye: "I apply philosophy like one applies dressing to a wound."

When Ronny Lawton's father goes missing, Bill has to adjust to the shock of producing copy people will actually read. After a small piece of finger is found, the town rushes to vilify Ronny and trial by media ensues. Before e-mail, at the cusp of the widespread use of answer machines, news travels more slowly and the newspaper men fight a losing battle for ascendancy over television. "I lived in the slipstream of TV's immediacy," says Bill. He ironically designates the paper's editor and photographer the "keepers of truth" and wonders at their apparent ability to ride the edge between banality and scavenging. It later emerges that the women of the town keep truth of a different order.

Being from Ireland with its capacity for nostalgia, Collins handles the town's decay and loss with great pathos and fiercely energetic satire. As an outsider, he is well placed to inhabit a narrator set apart by cynicism, boredom and an intellectual view as moribund as the town's labour history. But in Bill's search for deeper meaning, he stumbles into an understanding of the Lawton murder that the media en masse fail to grasp. Collins has produced a compelling and often profound detective story that takes an athletic swipe at the confused mores of contemporary America--a society consumed. --Cherry Smyth

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