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A light, bawdy & good-natured book

Special to The Recorder

“Slave Camp Nightclub” by David W. Goodwin (Xlibris, 321 pages, $19.99 in paperback)

“Slave Camp Nightclub” is an ideal summer read. The book is light, bawdy and good-natured, just like its protagonists.

Those protagonists are clearly based on the author, David W. Goodwin of Shutesbury, and friends of his youth, although he has taken considerable license with the plot. Goodwin’s “Three Musketeers”— Dean, Iggy, and Eric — are college students on break from school in Boulder, Colo., during our nation’s bicentennial summer.

The three live in a benign group vegetarian house known as the Zoo. It epitomizes the idealistic collectivism and free love of the mid-1970s; the household’s chores (and often embraces) are shared. The boys are always looking for money, however, so they accept jobs doing physical labor for a bit more than minimum wage at a quarry outside town.

The quarry, run by a predictably small person known as Big Larry, is populated by colorful figures. Its most interesting feature is not the work but the post-work ambiance. Workers are encouraged to live on the premises. They are given lavish, free meals. And every evening, the quarry’s supply building is transformed into a mysterious, lavish nightclub.

Dean, Eric and Iggy spend much of the book speculating about the nightclub. Mysteriously, no one from outside is allowed to visit the nightclub — or to provide any details about its activities to those who have not attended its evening sessions.

The three young men have social obligations back in town and spend their first working days at their home “Zoo.” They are intrigued by the hints they receive about the wildly entertaining, uninhibited nightclub, however.

When at last they spend the night at the quarry’s bunkhouse and are able to experience the nightclub for themselves, Dean, Iggy and Eric find the experience wildly hallucinatory — and wildly fun. They spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how Big Larry and company are able to provide this over-the-top fringe benefit to employees.

The book runs out of steam ever so slightly at the end. The buildup to the nightclub experience is so lively, and the description of its charms so entertaining, that the boys’ efforts to figure out how it is constructed (and how much of it is real, how much imagined) are slightly anticlimactic.

Taken as a whole, however, “Slave Camp Nightclub” resembles the period and generation it evokes. It is idealistic, often funny and kind hearted. Author David Goodwin exhibits a flair for dialogue and for storytelling.

Goodwin will sign books at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m. His book is also available at www.xlibris.com.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and the new Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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