In the Night Season

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Even when violence is an integral part of one of his short stories or novels, Richard Bausch is more interested in how his characters react than in the horrors they experience. In VIOLENCE (1992), a young husband caught in a convenience store robbery is catapulted into a reassessment of his past. Similarly, IN THE NIGHT SEASON, though certainly suspenseful, is really a novel about how one survives the loss of innocence.

When her husband Jack dies in an accident, Nora Michaelson and her eleven-year-old son Jason take some comfort in the fact that they still have some happy memories, their rural home, and a kindly African American neighbor, Edward Bishop, to watch over Jason. However, his association with Nora results in Bishop’s being threatened by a neo-fascist group. When he is murdered, the police assume the same people are guilty.

Meanwhile, the real killers, who were Jack’s associates in an illegal enterprise, move into the Michaelson home, mistakenly believing that Nora knows where Jack hid their loot. Though they are devastated by the knowledge that Jack betrayed them, Nora and Jason dare not succumb to grief, for they are sure their captors intend to kill them. They cannot reveal their plight to anyone, since if anything goes wrong, Nora’s parents in Seattle will be executed.

Fortunately, all four hostages prove themselves resourceful enough to confound their captors. However, IN THE NIGHT SEASON is much more than just a thriller with a happy ending. Bausch’s style and characterization are both impressive, and his treatment of some of the most basic moral issues of our time make this a book that one cannot soon forget.

Cultural History/Literary Criticism