Robert R. McCammon's BOY'S LIFE


New York Times bestselling author Robert R. McCammon, author of Swan Song, Stinger, and MINE, creates a marvelous new novel of mystery and unforgettable storytelling power set in the American South.

The year is 1964. On a cold spring morning before the sun, Cory Mackenson is accompanying his father on his milk delivery route. Without warning a car appears in the road before them and plunges into a lake some say is bottomless. Cory's father makes a desperate attempt to save the driver, but instead comes face-to-face with a vision that will haunt and torment him: a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel, naked and savagely beaten, a copper wire knotted around his neck. The lake's depths claim the car and the corpse, but the murderer's work is unfinished as, from that moment, both Cory and his father begin searching for the truth.

The small town of Zephyr, Alabama, has been an idyllic home for Cory and his friends. But now, the murder of an unknown man who lies in the dark lake, his tortured soul crying out for justice, causes Cory's life to explode into a kaleidoscope of clues and deepening puzzles. His quest to understand the forces of good and evil at work in his hometown leads him through a maze of dangers and fascinations: the vicious Blaycock clan, who defend their nefarious backwoods trades with the barrels of their guns; a secret assembly of men united by racial hatred; a one-hundred-six-year-old black woman named the Lady who conjures snakes and hears voices of the dead; a reptilian thing that swims in the belly of a river; and a bicycle with a golden eye.

As Cory searches for a killer, he learns more about the meaning of both life and death. A single green feather leads him deeper into the mystery, and soon he realizes not only his life, but the sanity of his father may hang in the balance.

Welcome to the imagination of Robert R. McCammon, the New York Times bestselling author who now takes us on a whirlwind voyage into the realm where innocence and evil are on a collision course. Boy's Life is a tour de force of magic and wonder, a journey that is at once joyful, unrelentingly mysterious, and hauntingly poignant.

--From the dust jacket of the Pocket Books hardcover edition of Boy's Life, first published in August 1991.

A Letter from Robert R. McCammon

A Letter From
Robert R. McCammon

Dear Reader,

I think that in everyone's life there is a time for looking back, in order to better judge the road ahead. Boy's Life is my backward look. It is more than a novel; Boy's Life is what I would call a "fictography," a combination of fiction and biography. It is, in one sense, about me and why I became a writer; in another sense, I believe it is a universal story of a boy's awakening to dark forces in the world around him.

But Boy's Life is certainly not about darkness alone. It is not a celebration of evil, nor a paean to lost innocence. Rather, Boy's Life is a journey through a particular time when the world stood on the threshold of great changes and achievements. Boy's Life is first and foremost about people, as seen through the eyes of a young Southern boy; some of these people I knew, some of them I wish I had known. This is where fiction and biography get all mixed and mingled, and what was real and what was wished share the borderland of imagination.

I am probably prouder of Boy's Life than of any book I've ever done. All books are like children, and every child has a different personality. Some are difficult, others companionable, some in a hurry to get where they want to be, others in no particular rush but just content to amble across the hills and meadows of a ripe young world. I hope Boy's Life has captured some of that young world—a world we all remember, and often yearn to return to in our secret hearts if but for a moment to catch our breaths and right our gyroscopes against the hard iron of reality.

I say Boy's Life is not about lost innocence, because I believe we all maintain the pool of innocence and wonder inside us no matter how far we get away from our childhood. I believe this pool can be revisited, and we can immerse ourselves in its healing water if we dare to take the risk of knowing again the children we used to be. This is a risky thing, because once we look back—once we let that wonderful pool take us in again—we may not ever fully return to being the adults we are now.

This is part of what Boy's Life is about: the rediscovery of magic, of wonders that lie drowning and half-forgotten in our souls. Boy's Life is about the dreams and terrors in the life of a Southern boy in 1964, but I hope it is more than that, too; I hope it is a universal key to yesterday, and by the opening of that door for a backward look we may all see today tomorrow in a much clearer, brighter light.

Robert R. McCammon

Copyright © 1991 by Robert R. McCammon. This letter originally appeared in the Pocket Books paperback edition of MINE, first printed in May 1991. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Foreword to the 2008 Edition of Boy's Life

Robert McCammon's foreword to the 2008 Edition of Boy's Life

McCammon's poem that begins Boy's Life

The Poem Introducing Boy's Life
by Robert R. McCammon

We ran like young wild furies,
where angels feared to tread.
The woods were dark and deep.
Before us demons fled.
We checked Coke bottle bottoms
to see how far was far.
Our worlds of magic wonder
were never reached by car.
We loved our dogs like brothers,
our bikes like rocket ships.
We were going to the stars,
to Mars we'd make round trips.
We swung on vines like Tarzan,
and flashed Zorro's keen blade.
We were James Bond in his Aston,
we were Hercules unchained.
We looked upon the future
and we saw a distant land,
where our folks were always ageless,
and time was shifting sand.
We filled up life with living,
with grins, scabbed knees, and noise.
In glass I see an older man,
but this book's for the boys.

Copyright © 1991 by Robert R. McCammon. This poem originally appeared in the Pocket Books hardcover edition of Boy's Life, first printed in August 1991. Reprinted with permission of the author.


F. Paul Wilson @
F. Paul Wilson, best-selling author of the Repairman Jack novels, as well as the horror classics The Keep and Black Wind, posted this to his message board about Boy's Life:

Boy's Life is on my list of favorite books by anyone. I finished the last page and said, "I wish I'd written that." (Not something I say very often.)

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1991
McCammon (Swan Song; MINE) hangs this expertly told episodic tale on the bones of a skeleton that becomes symbolic of evil doings in the quiet waters of small-town life. ... The mystery will satisfy the most finicky aficionado; McCammon has also produced a boisterous, poignant travelogue through a stormy season in one boy's life, peopled with the zaniest, most memorable Southern characters since those of Harper Lee.

The Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1991
Midway through this enthralling "fictography," as McCammon calls it, the young hero learns of a book "about [a] town and the people in it...maybe there wasn't a real plot to it...but the book was about life...[it] was sweet and deep and left you wishing for more." That's a perfect description of McCammon's fictional autobiography as well, an exuberant celebration of childhood mystery and marvel that's a giant step apart from his popular horror/suspense novels (MINE, 1990, etc.).

It's 1964, and both Zephyr, Alabama, and aspiring 12-year-old writer Cory Mackenson, who narrates, are about to grow up from the idyll of small-town America—and idyll that McCammon paints with a score of bull's-eye details, from Cory's delirium on first heard the Beach Boys to his delight on joining his father on his milkman's route in the cool of a summer's dawn. It's on this route that Cory begins to come of age, as he and his dad witness the sinking in the town lake of a car carrying a brutally murdered man. Who was the man? Who killed him and who sank the car? These questions cast a flitting shadow over the next year, brimming with earthly wonders—a raging flood, a shootout, a showdown with bullies—but also with purely, often darkly, magical wonders as well—a living dinosaur; precognitive nightmares; the grotesque life after death of Cory's dog. And throughout the loose-jointed tale—teeming with smartly realized characters, from the ancient black "Lady" whose voodoo wisdom rules Zephyr's ghetto to the wimpy boy with a Nolan Ryan arm to Cory's high-strung mom and quietly courageous dad—the mystery of the man in the lake grows in intensity until it implodes, in one of the rapturously sentimental story's few false notes, into a jarringly melodramatic climax.

Strongly echoing the childhood-elegies of King and Bradbury, and every bit their equal: a cornucopia of bittersweet fantasy storytelling that is by far McCammon's finest book.

Entertainment Weekly, August 30, 1991
(Click here to read the whole review)
...Robert R. McCammon has...reinvented the kind of naive and sentimental storytelling most of us thought we had to give up along with the Hardy Boys, Albert Payson Terhune, and baseball-card biographies. ...For sheer screwball storytelling exuberance, McCammon's book is hard to top. There will be times when most adults will find themselves faintly embarrassed to be gobbling the thing like hot buttered popcorn, but gobble they will all the same. A-.

Locus, October 1991
.... a fabulous tale .... a magical mystery tour of growing up in the deep south, and it's a wonder indeed .... Boy's Life handles coming of age and a boy's coming to grips with life and death magnificently. McCammon has created - at least up to this point in his career - his masterwork .... Within the space of 30 minutes, McCammon put tears in my eyes and then made me laugh out loud. I don't think it was because this jaded old reviewer [Edward Bryant] was caught in a weak moment. McCammon's done well.

Reviews on other web sites:

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