Eclectic Book Club: Save Me, Joe Louis

At its outset, Macrae, a Tennessee hillbilly with an artistic bent, goes AWOL from the army and is wandering the streets of Manhattan, broke and alone. A chance encounter with a streetwise, small-time mugger propels him into a life of crime and ever-increasing violence. Unlike his companion, however, Macrae retains a sense of guilt that ultimately enables him to secure a kind of redemption--with the help of a woman he has known since childhood and a final, necessary act of personal violence. Bell does a marvelous job of depicting life on the seamier side of the tracks and in drawing his characters. Their essential humanness comes through in spite of themselves.