George Garrett: Do, Lord, Remember Me
Garrett submitted this book to Scribners, publishers of his previous two works, but they declined to publish it. As a result it was first published in Britain by Chapman and Hall, though in a shortened version. It was then published in the US by Doubleday in a version that was even shorter. When it was republished in the US by the Louisiana State University Press, it was the British version that was issued. Publishers! Dontcha just love ’em?
The book is told from the perspective of the various characters, Big Red Smalley, a travelling faith healer and a former criminal under another name, his two advance men, Elijah J Cartwright, a country boy from Tennessee, as he describes himself, and a man interested solely in sex, drink and money, and his colleague, Moses, a man given to much doubt, not least because he killed some children during the war, mistaking them for an SS group, Judith, who has left her man (it is not clear if it is her husband) to follow Red, who had previously healed her of what she calls a psychological illness, Miami, a reformed prostitute who is now Red’s girlfriend, Howie Loomis, a local store owner, and the deputy sheriff and the sheriff. It starts with Cartwright and Moses arriving in the town to set things up for a revivalist meeting that night.
Red could be an ordinary trickster preacher, out to rob the poor of their money but in Garrett’s hands, he is more complicated than that. He clearly has some sort of gift but misuses it – even he admits that – as he is too tempted by matters of the flesh. On this night, it is clear that something is going to happen. Red is refusing to preach, Miami has put on her sexiest outfit, Judith has shown up – the outsider that triggers a key event – and even Cartwright smells trouble in the air. Garrett gradually builds up the tension, till, at the end, it all goes wrong, with the inevitable death and destruction. But it is Garrett’s great skill to keep us guessing till the end, gradually painting his picture of an extraordinary but a weak man of god and his misbegotten flock, till the final cataclysm.
First published 1965 by Chapman & Hall