Most people in town think sixteen-year-old Clinton Williams’ family is strange.
"Herlihy sheds a mourning light on the dark nights of the adolescent soul, even with its pain." —New York Herald Tribune Book ReviewMost people in town think sixteen-year-old Clinton Williams’ family is strange. His father, once an outspoken socialist, now searches for answers at the bottom of a glass. His mother has a reputation for scaring children. And his older brother, named Berry-berry, is a traveling vagabond, known by most for his cleft chin, loose morals, and streaks of violence.
Clinton himself is seen as meek, timid, and not quite right as he spends his days filling notebook after notebook, writing down every conversation he can overhear, word for word. Wishing he could contact his wayward brother, Clinton yearns for a day when he too can escape the neighborhood and travel the country. After following a clue to Berry-berry’s whereabouts, Clinton ventures to coastal Florida hoping to find him, but instead gets a firsthand view of his brother’s callous destructiveness that will leave permanent marks on the young man.
James Leo Herlihy
James Leo Herlihy was born in 1927 in Detroit, Michigan to a working-class family. After serving in World War II, Herlihy studied art, literature, and music at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, whose faculty had boasted such luminaries as William De Kooning and John Cage. After a professor told Herlihy that he had no future as a writer, the disillusioned Herlihy turned his attention to theater, where he met with considerable success and found acting roles in more than fifty plays over the span of several years.But Herlihy continued writing fiction despite the discouragement he had received and in 1960 he published All Fall Down, a largely critically acclaimed work which was later adapted for film. In 1965 he published Midnight Cowboy, which cemented his reputation as a serious writer.After the success of Midnight Cowboy, Herlihy retreated from the public eye and turned his attention to teaching. He took creative writing posts at the City College of New York, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Southern California. Herlihy died in Los Angeles in 1993 from an overdose of sleeping medication.