In TRIBAL SECRETS, Izzi depicts the struggle of Babe Hill, anaspiring actor, to come to terms with his genetic inheritance andto allow his wife Kelly into his life. For most of the novel Babekeeps Kelly at a distance, afraid he will revert to his family’sviolent behavior. His father, Johnny Hilliard, physically abusedhis sons and has six times been arrested for murder; his mother,Marge, is an alcoholic who flaunts her sexual encounters. Babe’sbrother Frank practices sexual masochism, and brother Anthony, whocommits arson and murder, suffers from an Oedipus complex. Since,as a youth, Babe himself killed a man, he has good reason to fearthat he will reenact the tribe’s violent past.
Compounding Babe’s problem are Edna Rose, a murderous, obesetelevision addict who has sexually fixated on Babe, and JeromeSpinell, a drug addict who has promised to sign Babe to a contractwith his Hollywood cronies. When Babe refuses to sign, Jerome’sbrother Milo threatens to kill Babe’s father, thereby forcing Babeto reexamine his past. To counter this threat, Babe has only oneally, Tim, a police officer; theirs is the quintessential exampleof male bonding.
When Anthony and Edna individually decide to kidnap Babe, allthe characters are thrown into bloody conflict. The two kidnapperstake Babe to Edna’s home, where she initiates sex with a boundBabe. Kelly and Tim track down the kidnappers, and in the ensuinggun battle Edna and Anthony are killed. In the aftermath, Margeshoots Frank, and Johnny’s Venezuelan henchmen gun him down. Kellysomehow keeps Babe’s role in the slaughter out of the papers, andTim succeeds in convincing a distraught Babe not to abandon hisfamily. When Babe, who has maintained a macho attitude, cries inKelly’s arms, all his psychological problems are resolved.