Picks and Pans Review: Year of the Gun

UPDATED 06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/04/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Michael Mewshaw

"Whereas so many novels now presented themselves as thinly veiled fact, nonfiction had adopted the devices of the novel," muses the hero of this splendid suspense thriller set in Rome. The man is a journalist who works—without the proper papers—for an English-language newspaper. He is a refugee from the America of the '60s, during which his lover had been blown up in a house in Greenwich Village. He had never guessed that she was a radical, and the fact that he knew so little about her continues to prey heavily on his mind. To make some money, the hero gets a contract to write a book about the terrorists who are everywhere in Italy, the Red Brigades. Since it is impossible to infiltrate their secret brotherhood, he begins to imagine that certain people he knows might be involved, and he uses their names in his notes. Then a young woman photographer, who once took sado-chic fashion pictures but now looks for real scenes of violence in Vietnam, Lebanon and Italy, decides that the hero can put her in touch with the Red Brigades. The danger escalates. Mewshaw is the author of a nonfiction book on tennis, Short Circuit, and five other novels. His writing in this novel is as crisp and clean as the best newspaper reporting. The city of Rome itself—portrayed as ancient, desirable, rotting and corrupt—comes through as vividly as his remarkably convincing characters. (Atheneum, $14.95)

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