When Clarence Luckman's father kills their mother, Clarence and his half-brother Elliott Danziger , spend their childhood in various state institutions. By the time they are teenagers, housed in a juvenile detention facility, Clarence (known as Clay) and Elliott (known as Digger) are well acquainted with violence and the darker side of life in institutions. And things are about to get a whole lot worse when they are taken hostage by Earl Sheridan. Earl Sheridan, a man en route to death row with nothing left to lose, kills his way out of imprisonment and takes the brothers with him as hostages.
Set in the 1960s, in Texas, the balance of the story plays out over the next nine days. Earl Sheridan is a psychopath who takes the boys on a killing spree. Digger is fascinated, and sees Earl as a hero and someone that he wants to emulate. And so he does. Clay manages to escape, but is caught in a different tragedy as a consequence of mistaken identity.
This novel is both thriller and epic tragedy. Who will survive, and how? Are the fates determining who will live and die? Will the guilty be punished, and can the innocent survive? Both boys are seeking a happier life, both seem set on reaching their own Eldorado but each has chosen (or is drawn to) a different path. Other people, whose paths cross theirs, will have their lives changed. Or ended. Is it chance, or fate? Pre-destined, or self-determined? If self-determined, what factors determine the choices?
I could not put this novel down. I was caught up in an atmosphere of dreadful expectation and fearful hope - of a brighter future for one of the brothers and his new-found friend. There are some horrific scenes in this novel, but none of them seemed gratuitous within the context of the story. `Bad Signs' is disturbing but never entirely without hope. And the ending? Somehow it seemed appropriate. If you want to know why, you'll need to read it yourself. Be prepared to be shocked and moved, and then haunted.
`Doesn't matter where you are in the world, you're always looking at the same sky.'