Playboy review of 'The Hawkline Monster'
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Books | The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western

America's legendary trout angler is back again, this time with two hired guns at the turn of the century in the Dead Hills of Oregon. The Hawkline Monster (Simon & Schuster), subtitled "A Gothic Western," by author Richard Brautigan, is as slim and grotesque as a Victorian hag creeping through ice caves and about as subtle as a flying buttress.

The affable killers, Cameron (who counts everything from bullet holes in a cross to the number of times he chews his food) and Greer (who seems to have Brautigan's knack for timely assertion), are hired by Magic Child, "quite a pretty" Indian girl who "looked so calm you would have thought she had been raised in a land where bodies hung everywhere like flowers" and who has studied at the Sorbonne.

The job: Kill a monster who skulks and howls in the ice caves beneath the now-deceased Dr. Hawkline's basement laboratory. Dr. Hawkline had created his monster from ingredients ranging from Himalayan potions to drops of something from the Egyptian pyramids and, it was rumored, Atlantis. In return for the gift of life, the monster turns Dr. Hawkline into an elephant's-foot umbrella stand. Hawkline Manor is occupied by the doctor's identical daughters. Miss Hawkline and Miss Hawkline (who are identical to Magic Child). All three are exactly identical, which seems to bother nobody but the Hawkline Monster, and everything bothers it. Phosphorescent and assuming small changeable forms, sounding like water being poured, a barking dog and a drunken parrot, it is followed by its well-meaning, independently minded but physically bound shadow as the monster drags it through Hawkline Manor, a kind of "back East" St. Louis mansion,

And there is a real plot and a thread of continuity that runs through chunky one-page chapters containing passages that run a gamut of style from Poe to Zane Grey, from Ian Fleming to George V. Higgins. This is certainly Brautigan's most simultaneously unified and eclectic work.

September 21, 1974: 22, 24

Copyright note: My purpose in putting this material on the web is to provide Brautigan scholars and fans with ideas for further research into Richard Brautigan's work. It is used here in accordance with fair use guidelines. No attempt is made regarding commercial duplication and/or dissemination. If you are the author of this article or hold the copyright and would like me to remove your article from the Brautigan Archives, please contact me at birgit at cybernetic-meadows.net.