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A dark brilliant novel of astonishing pitch set in Provincetown a spit of shrub and dune captured here in the rawness and melancholy of the off season Tough Guys Don't Dance is the story of Tim Madden an unsuccessful writer addicted to bourbon cigarettes and blonde careless women with money On the twenty fourth morning after the decampment of his wife Patty Lareine he awakens with a hangover considerable sexual excitement and on his upper arm a red tattoo bearing a name from the past Of the night before he remembers practically nothing What he soon learns is that the front passenger seat of his Porsche is soaked with blood and that in a secluded corner of his marijuana stash in a nearby woods rests a blonde head severed at the throatIs Madden therefore a murderer? He has no way of knowing As in many novels of crime the narrative centers on violence physical sexual and emotional but these elements move in their orbits through a rich constellation of character as Madden tries to reconstruct the missing hours of a terrible evening In the course of this in quiry a bizarre and vividly etched gallery of characters reappears to him as in a dream ex prizefighters sexual junkies mediums former cons a police chief a world weary former girl friend and Mad den's father old now but still a Herculean figure a practitioner of the sternest backroom ethicsTough Guys Don't Dance represents Mailer at the peak of his powers with a stunningly conceived novel that soon transcends its origins as a mystery to become a relentless search into the recesses and buried virtues of the modern American male Rarely as many readers will discern have the paradoxes ofmachismo and homosexuality been so well explored

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