Countrymen of Bones
Darrell Reeves looked to the south when he heard the bombs falling, south down the trackless Jornada del Muerto, the journey of the dead, where the mesquite sucked deep into the desert soil. The mesquite was stunted and hard, like the souls of the men making this war, Darrell thought, and no shadow touched another. Far off, a sand devil rose up; silent from this distance, the swirl of wind climbed, taking on its body of dust and sand, broadening and flexing and then sliding away.
Darrell waited for the bombs again, the B-29s making their practice runs in the Alamogordo Range. But the only sounds, now that he had turned, were the bellows-pop of a tent in the wind and Betty beginning to titter, holding it in but the sound shaping into an explicit giggle. Darrell’s hands jumped up, the blade of his trowel flashed in the sun, he turned and wanted to gouge out the foolishness in her and in Thomas who sat beside her in the mouth of the equipment tent. Their faces turned to him—they looked very young—and their levity vanished. They knew Darrell’s disappointment over the excavation. Thomas said, “We’re sorry, Dr. Reeves.”
Darrell nodded but he could not say to them, it’s all right, even though he wanted to. He crossed the fifty yards to his tent, not looking at the space that had held the mound of earth, the mound gone now, every particle sifted through the rocking screens and piled as back dirt in a long, professional hedgerow nearby.
“A brilliant novel of ideas.”
– The New York Times
“A time-is-running-out story of enourmous suspense… far more than just a good thriller.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Excellent… of all the most recently published books dealing with the theme of the nuclear war, this is by far the finest.”
– Jack Fuller, The Chicago Tribune Magazine
“Extraordinary… Extremely suspenseful… Compelling… The genius of this book is in the way it renders thinkable the fears and origins of the bomb.”
– The Chicago Tribune
“Butler has been compared to Hemingway and there is justification. Butler writes jab-like sentences, punches them at the reader and then throws a roundhouse sentence that careens down the page, leaving the reader as stunned as if he had just sparred with Jake LaMotta… A fever is always present in Butler’s prose… he is a serious novelist and Countrymen of Bones is his best work.”
– Fort-Worth Star Telegram
“Mr. Butler’s ability to relate personal fates to larger moral, philosophical and social issues stems from his grasp of character and the darker side of human nature.”
– The New York Times Book Review