Frank Bonham JAMES McBRIDE - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Projected in a style far closer to screen documentary than conventional narrative, "Durango Street" describes a summer in the life of Rufus Henry….

Mr. Bonham's opening chapters are by far his best…. [The] author creates a macabre montage that compels belief. Durango Street could be any sink of misery in any American city. The fact that Mr. Bonham has done his research in Los Angeles gives his book an added relevance.

Unfortunately, when this documentary runs out of camera angles, the author—as an honest reporter—has nowhere else to go. A youth counselor takes over, with highly doubtful results. A Negro pro football star appears as a totally unconvincing peacemaker. Rufus's halfhearted decision to go back to school is only a device to ring down the curtain. One closes this disturbing book with all the sensations of a tourist who has just been down nightmare alley in a prowl car—only to be whisked out again, at the moment when Rufus, like his doomed supporting cast, was about to assume a third dimension. Since Mr. Bonham was on the outside looking in, it is perhaps unrealistic to ask for more. (p. 20)

James McBride, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 5, 1965.