Ronald L. Fair John R. Greenya - Essay

John R. Greenya

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In a world where compliance with corrupt authority is the better part of valor, and where fathers teach their sons the wisdom of deceit, a question of right or wrong is never a simple matter. And when a ten-year-old Negro boy, who has witnessed the accidental slaughter of his neighborhood idol by the police, is called in to testify at a coroner's inquest, he is truly "down to the nitty-gritty." This is not Calhoun mumbling, "Woe is me," or Ole Jim worrying about the missing Huck; [Hog Butcher depicts] the very real dilemma of a young boy who lives in a jungle called Cook County, Illinois.

Wilford Robinson, sickened by the senseless butchery, seeks truth as a weapon of revenge. His reaction to the inevitable pressure, inevitable because the police will not admit the possibility of having killed the wrong man, is so well handled by the author that even the cynical will find the ending plausible. Ronald L. Fair skillfully contrasts the idea of goodness and the image of the neighborhood covered with filth and smothered by frustration.

There are moments of weak dialogue, and far too many clichés, which would limit the book's impact were it not for the overriding power and drama of the boy's moment of truth. Perhaps realizing the difficulty inherent in having Wilford tell his own story, Mr. Fair has chosen to move the plot along by shifting the emphasis to the minor characters. Thus the reader comes to know and...

(The entire section is 442 words.)