On Nov. 6, The Times will award its annual Book Prizes in five categories--biography, history, fiction, poetry and current interest--along with the Robert Kirsch Award for a body of work by a writer living in or writing on the West. This week we publish excerpts from the books nominated in fiction. FOOLS CROW by James Welch (Penguin Books). In a northwestern territory of Montana circa 1850, a tribe of Blackfeet Indians (from which the author descends) fights against the Napikwans--white men--in a tragic attempt to preserve its very existence.
Fools Crow and Red Paint (his wife) stood outside their lodge, waiting. He had painted his face and he carried a feathered shield and a bow. His braids were wrapped with ermine skins and tied with red yarn. Red Paint wore a dress of elkskin trimmed with several rows of elk teeth. Her cheeks were rouged and she stood shyly. The cradleboard was on her back. Not too many winters ago it had held Red Paint, then Good Young Man and One Spot. The blue, white and red quillwork designs were slightly faded, but the skin was as soft as ever. Butterfly had been sleeping, but as the procession approached and the drumming and singing got louder, he opened his eyes and looked at the pegs holding the front of the lodge skins together. His eyes were large and dark as he watched the butterfly fan his wings on a peg. Fools Crow stepped back and made a face at him, and Butterfly looked back with calm curiosity.
Then the procession was passing the lodge and Mik-api gave them a quick look. In his glance, Fools Crow saw a glint of almost youthful energy, a bright flame of pride that made the younger man smile . . . The procession managed a grave dignity as it wound its way through the camp. Only the few old people whose frail bodies would not allow them to join watched without getting up. But they too sang, and they remembered many hopeful springs when they had danced through camp, and they prayed that, after the sad winter they had lived through there would be hope and joy this spring.
THAT NIGHT by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc.). A young girl growing up in suburban Long Island during the '60s witnesses the passion and tragedy of two teen-age lovers.
That night when he came to claim her, he stood on the short lawn before her house, his knees bent, his fists driven into his thighs, and bellowed her name with such passion that even the friends who surrounded him, who had come to support him, to drag her from the house, to murder her family if they had to, let the chains they carried go limp in their hands. Even the men from our neighborhood, in Bermuda shorts or chinos, white T-shirts and gray suit pants, with baseball bats and snow shovels held before them like rifles, even they paused in their rush to protect her: the good and the bad--the black-jacketed boys and the fathers in their light summer clothes--startled for that one moment before the fighting began by the terrible, piercing sound of his call.
This is serious , my own father remembered thinking at that moment. This is insane .
I remember only that my 10-year-old heart was stopped by the beauty of it all.
Sheryl was her name, but he cried, "Sherry," drawing out the word, keening it, his voice both strong and desperate. There was a history of dark nights in the sound, something lovely, something dangerous.
One of the children had already begun to cry.
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS by Joyce Carol Oates (E.P. Dutton).
A 15-year-old girl's relationship with her uncle, a former boxer, grows into a haunting, near-fatal obsession.
Enid was crying and it made him angry, that was why he was trying to keep his voice light; she could feel the tension between them palpable as the charged air before an electrical storm. She looked at him, seeing his dark narrowed eyes, the pale scar in his eyebrow smooth as a piece of exposed bone. She said suddenly, "I didn't tell anyone," and he said at once, half joking, "Didn't tell anyone what!"--and she swallowed hard and went silent. He looked away, face twitchy in disdain, began to tap his fingers on the steering wheel so she could feel his agitation, his rising fury. "Look, you know I was drunk up there, I told you--I'm sorry for what happened Jesus Christ I'm disgusted I'm not that kind of a shit really!--taking advantage of a girl your age my own brother's daughter I'm not that kind of man," he said in a rapid voice, a murmur, his face darkening with blood, and Enid sat in a trance, her mind extinguished as if knowing what would come next, the words that would leap out of him next, harsh, hateful, no transition between one tone and the next, "You led me on, acting the way you did fooling around the way you did you knew damn well what you were doing didn't you!--and now I see you out on the street hitching rides!"
Enid made a sudden movement as if to touch him or was she simply shrinking back from him, and Felix struck out at her by instinct, a hard stinging slap on the side of her face with the back of his hand, lightning quick, she hadn't seen it coming and her head knocked against the window and for an instant she was stunned, astonished--then she hid her face in her hands, crying like a small child. So ashamed, so ashamed. And she'd known beforehand, she'd known all along--so ashamed.
A SUMMONS TO MEMPHIS by Peter Taylor (Alfred A. Knopf Inc.).
A father's impending remarriage causes his three middle-aged children to converge in the Southern city where they were raised and forces the narrator to confront a past from which he has long since withdrawn.
During the six months of our love affair Clara Price and I explored the woods and ravines on that mountaintop where she lived, taking picnic suppers to the waterfalls even in very cold weather and to the mouth of the great cave. I must not say that our life during those two short fall and winter seasons was idyllic. Rather, it was a grand and glorious reality that I came upon out of the drabness of my life both before and afterward. And it was that which my father, that day when I saw him going into the Patton Hotel, had come to Chattanooga to destroy and succeeded in destroying. By December all of it was over. Clara had been sent away by her parents, and I had resumed my dreary hours in my rooming house. Then on December 7th of course the whole face of life changed. I was alone in my room on the Sunday afternoon when the news came that we were in the War. I gave notice to my landlady that night and went back to the Post. I knew my military life would be a somewhat more serious affair from then on. And a few days later I went into town and saw to having my books packed and shipped to my father's house in Memphis. Within three months I was sent to a training camp in New Jersey, and then overseas. I was in Europe for more than two years and never once had occasion to speak Clara Price's name or to hear it spoken.
OF LOVE AND SHADOWS by Isabel Allende, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden (Alfred A. Knopf Inc.).
In an unnamed South American country under a military dictatorship, an upper-class reporter and her photographer (a clandestine member of the resistance) fall in love as they risk their lives exposing an act of official brutality.
Her body was in such an advanced state of decomposition--putrefying in a broth in which maggots were feeding, fermenting in her own desolation--that he had to call on every ounce of his strength to control his nausea and get on with his work. He was a man with a great deal of self-control; he had had professional experience with cadavers and he had a strong stomach, but he had never seen anything like this before. The despicable place, the inescapable stench, and his mounting fear--all contributed to his undoing. He could not breathe. Hurriedly, he shot several photographs, not bothering about focus or distance, hastened by the bile that rose in his throat with each flash lighting the scene. He finished as quickly as humanly possible, and fled from that sepulcher.
In the fresh air he dropped the camera and flashlight and fell to the ground on his knees, head sunk to his chest, trying to relax and conquer his retching. The stench clung to his skin like a plague, and etched on his retinas was the image of Evangelina stewing in her last consternation. Irene had to help him to his feet.
"What do we do now?"
"Close the mine, then we'll see," he said as soon as he was able to reclaim his voice from the fiery claws gripping his chest.