Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Saturday Night Town

“Saturday Night Town” was Harry Whittington’s 1956 release with Fawcett World Library’s imprint, Crest Books, featuring an attractive cover art by Barye Philips. It’s an anomaly in the vast library of Whittington in that it’s a highly-regarded novel that has never been reprinted since it’s debut 62 years ago. It’s been reported that the short book was Kathryn Whittington’s favorite of her husband’s work.

The action in “Saturday Night Town” takes place over a single April evening in rural and rainy Cottonseed, Florida. For a small town, Saturday nights in Cottonseed are generally hopping social events sandwiched between Friday’s farming and Sunday’s church services.

Bill Beckmon is a good doctor who cares deeply about the well-being of his patients. Despite this, he is passed up for a promotion in the local hospital much to his own disappointment and his wife’s frustration. This has got him thinking about leaving town and the people who need his services. Most of Dr. Bill’s practice is made up of poor crackers who can’t afford to pay their medical bills. A rundown of Dr. Bill’s patients - rich and poor - is the means by which Whittington introduces the reader to the first wave of the ensemble cast of characters in this book.

And there sure are a lot of characters in “Saturday Night Town.” I needed a cheat sheet to keep track of them all. The book is only 144 pages but the army of named characters moving the plot - or plots - forward made it feel a bit like “Game of Thrones.” Within the first 30 pages, we meet 20 characters of varying significance. It was like a soap opera with throngs of protagonists.

And it was all too much for me. Things happen. Storylines cross. Conflicts escalate and erupt. Couples form and others break it off. But it was all a bit of a jumbled mess and a slog to read. I love Harry Whittington, but this isn’t one of his best despite what you may have heard. There’s a good reason it was never reprinted - it’s just no good.