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Billy Dead

Lisa Reardon

117 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0670882240 / ISBN 13: 9780670882243
Published by Viking Press, New York, 1998
New Condition: New Hardcover
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About this Item

Viking, New York, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: As New. Base of spine has minor bump. Best I could find at the signing event. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. First Edition, First Printing. Viking Press News Letter included, announcing book release. Jacket protected in a Brodart cover and book placed in archival bag. All flaws listed. As a collector myself, I don't like surprises. Very Collectible Copy !!! SIGNED BY AUTHOR ON FULL TITLE PAGE !!!!. Bookseller Inventory # 000120

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Billy Dead

Publisher: Viking Press, New York

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: New

Dust Jacket Condition: New

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


In an everyday voice, still as the air before thunder, Billy Dead introduces Ray Johnson and his kin. In their small Michigan town, the Johnsons are the family that starts all the trouble, has all the hard luck, and fuels all the gossip. Ray's older brother Billy has just been found murdered--by someone who watched him crawl a mile down the road, head bloody; who smoked four Marlboros while watching Billy die. The question isn't who killed him, but who didn't want him dead. Now Ray--knotted up with sorrow and a strange relief--bears the weight of the town's curious gaze as they dredge up all the past he's been trying to live down. But Ray insists on telling his own story, one of shameful abuse transfigured by impossible love: shocking, violent, tender, and redemptive in ways we have never known before. Lisa Reardon reshapes the American landscape of Annie Dillard's The Living and Peter Matthiessen's Killing Mr. Watson in this novel of shocking depths and soaring heights--and Ray Johnson emerges as one of the most heartrending and endearing characters in recent literature.


So, you find out one day that your brother has just been killed, brutally murdered in fact, by someone who seemed to take calm delight in watching him die slowly, agonizingly. The thing is, you can think of dozens of people who wished Billy harm, and a few who very well might have done it, including members of your own family.

Such is the situation of Ray Johnson, the narrator of Lisa Reardon's first novel, Billy Dead, as we begin a gut-wrenching trip into the past of an American family that's about as unappetizing as you will find. A relatively decent, tender man who's spent much of his life trying to keep out of harm's way, Ray has managed to cobble together a pretty good existence of steady job and thoughtful, intelligent girlfriend, Sally... until now. As he ranges around town in a surreal haze in the days following Billy's murder, meeting up with ghosts from the past, and interacting with various and sundry family members (including a mother who flirts with an old boyfriend in sight of her son's coffin), Ray realizes just how much he remains shackled to a past chock full of domestic abuse, alcoholism, incest, and just plain meanness.

While Billy's death seems a just, but unavoidable, conclusion to a nasty existence--"Somebody took that thing full of mean and made it nothing at all"--maybe he was the lucky one. For Ray, the killing pulls into sharp relief the hell on earth that is his when he realizes his only life passion is his forbidden love for his younger sister, Jean: "All the hurt and confusion about Billy being killed is like a big forest fire that's burned through everything in me. Burned clean through all the underbrush of when we were little, all the deadwood memories. Even the big strong trees that I thought would live forever, blocking all the sun ... Jean and me, we're looking at each other now in that empty, burned-out place."

In a narrative that explores in terrifying detail the violent nature of Jean and Ray's past and the poignant truth of their love, Reardon creates a skillful and credible tale. This is a hard, in-your-face kind of book that takes you for a disturbing ride, and finally asks you to reexamine your notions of what is and what is not right when it comes to affairs of the heart. --Marianne Painter

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Mostly modern first editions of fiction with a the occasional non fiction title. All jackets are mylar protected and books are kept in archival bags. Books are housed in a smoke free environment. Numerous titles are signed as well.

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