Kin Platt Jack Forman - Essay

Jack Forman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Owen Kirby [protagonist of Headman], whose father was killed long ago in a fight and whose mother is an alcoholic, is sentenced to a rehabilitative "camp" after his knife work on three others, while defending himself in a street attack. At the camp which is liberally run, Owen makes friends and seems to be adapting to this life, but his term is cut short due to his mother's illness…. Again, he takes to the street and at the end of the story finds himself at the wrong end of a switchblade. This fast-paced novel is written for the same age group as Durango Street … yet the point of [Frank] Bonham's novel has been inverted here: social institutions are irrelevant to the Owen Kirbys of this country; the only law which is real is the law of the street. The language is street talk—sharp and quick and punctuated by a litany of fucks, shits, mothers, and the like. The language, however, is used to make the character of Owen believable and the setting credible. Provocative and engrossing, this is an especially good choice for the category of readers who need "high interest, low reading level" material.

Jack Forman, in his review of "Headman," in School Library Journal (reprinted from the December, 1975 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1975), Vol. 22, No. 4, December, 1975, p. 61.