Dutch Shea, Jr. (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Failure is a dominant theme in the fiction of John Gregory Dunne. In Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season (1974), an autobiographical novel, Dunne, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, goes to Las Vegas to cure himself amid the prostitutes and second-rate comedians of the world’s most tawdry community, a mecca of failure which turns high rollers into low livers. Tom Spellacy, the Los Angeles homicide cop in True Confessions (1977), lives in the shadow of Des, his powerful, esteemed younger brother, a monsignor on his way to becoming a cardinal. Investigating the murder of a prostitute, Tom stumbles upon a network of corruption which he exposes, ruining his brother’s career. Similar discoveries drive the protagonist of Dutch Shea, Jr. to suicide.
The protagonists of Dunne’s first two novels are able to deal with the chaos of their lives and become reconciled to their failures, but Dutch Shea, Jr. feels responsible not only for his own chaos but also for that created by those connected with him. This burden becomes even heavier when a man who thinks he has no illusions about anything finds out that his world makes even less sense than he has thought.
The novel opens with Dutch’s thoughts about the death of his adopted daughter Cat, who was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in a London restaurant. He blames himself because he recommended the restaurant. All of the crimes in the novel, both violent and...
(The entire section is 1436 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
America. CXLVII, July 24, 1982, p. 58.
Library Journal. CVII, April 1, 1982, p. 744.
New Statesman. CIV, September 10, 1982, p. 24.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, March 28, 1982, p. 1.
Newsweek. XCIX, April 19, 1982, p. 98.
Time. CXIX, March 29, 1982, p. 71.
Times Literary Supplement. September 17, 1982, p. 71.
West Coast Review of Books. VIII, May, 1982, p. 26.
(The entire section is 44 words.)