Dirty White Boys

Dirty White Boys
Dirty White Boys  
Author(s) Stephen Hunter
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Thriller
Publisher Dell
Publication date November 1995
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback); Audio CD
Pages 496 pp
ISBN ISBN-10: 044022179X / ISBN-13: 978-0440221791

Dirty White Boys is a vivid and violent novel by American author Stephen Hunter. The story begins with the escape of Hunter's brutal antagonist, Lamar Pye, and two other accomplices, from a penitentiary in the mid-western USA and continues as Lamar encounters highway patrol officer Bud Pewtie.

Principal Characters

Lamar Pye - A physically powerful, ultra-aggressive career criminal with high intelligence and considerable charisma. Lamar is depicted as the misshapen product of a violent, impoverished upbringing with the strong suggestion that under different circumstances he may have been a better man. Lamar is motivated by his contempt for the seemingly arbitrary rules of normal society, his desire to protect his retarded cousin Odell, his own love of danger and his violent tendencies.

Odell Pye - A deformed and mentally disabled man, rescued from a brutally abusive parent by Lamar, who has been looking after him ever since.

Richard Peed - A terrified, but artistically gifted inmate. Lamar is pleased with the art he produces, and in return for drawing more pictures, Lamar protects him from the violence and rape that is prevalent in the prison. When Lamar escapes, Richard goes with him because he knows he would be doomed without his protection.

Bud Pewtie - A courageous, but flawed police officer who is tasked with tracking the three escapees down. He is shot and nearly killed by Lamar, but recovers.

Plot summary

The opening scene for Dirty White Boys sets the tone for the rest of the novel with main antagonist Lamar Pye using brutal violence to avoid being raped by a giant black inmate in the showers at McAlester State Penitentiary where he is a "Prince" (a ranking prisoner) among the Dirty White Boys, the white gang element of the prisoner population. Lamar is a physically powerful, charismatic, aggressive and intelligent "alpha male" in his late 30s. The rape was ordered in revenge for a perceived slight made by Lamar's retarded, behemoth cousin Odell against the white gang chief, Lamar having been "sold" to the black inmate gang. Knowing that revenge in some form is certain if he remains in the prison Lamar uses his wits and unrestrained capacity for violence to escape from "the Mac", taking along his cousin and their cell mate Richard Peed, a failed artist who is at once a timid victim yet imprisoned for a gruesome crime of violence against his mother.

Bud Pewtie the other main protagonist is introduced as a state trooper called in to participate in the search for the escaped criminals. Pewtie at first seems to be a responsible father of two teenage boys but it quickly emerges that he is having an affair with the young wife of his partner Ted, a confused young man with unarticulated doubts about his role as a trooper. The troopers are among others briefed on the escape by the head of the search effort an embittered alcoholic Lieutenant called C. D. Henderson (Earl Swagger's subordinate from Hot Springs) who was once a star law enforcement officer.

The search for the convicts leads the troopers to the remote farmhouse of an old couple where the Pye's and their passenger Richard have taken refuge and armed themselves with the man's guns. The ensuing ambush sees Pewtie perform well under fire but his partner caves under assault, Pewtie is severely wounded and watches as Lamar executes his helpless partner and is himself left for dead after being shot by Lamar.

The Pyes escape but Pewtie survives having been unknowingly shot by Lamar with lightweight bird hunting shot. The Pyes flee to the remote house of a mentally ill young woman, Ruta Beth Tull, who has been writing confused letters to Richard about their "mystic connection". Tull it later emerges murdered her own parents as a juvenile and sees this as her link to Richard. Tull immediately takes to Lamar and the group forms into a twisted family unit as the search for them loses momentum. Pewtie returns to the house where he was ambushed to thank the owner, who also survived being kidnapped by Lamar and raised the alarm about the shootout. While at the house he is given pictures of Lions drawn by Richard, and overlooked by investigators, as Richard's value to Lamar rests on his ability to draw pictures as Lamar orders him to; Lamar being amused and intrigued by the artist's ability. Pewtie also returns to his affair with his dead partner's wife Holly and frustrations at the conflicting demands of his newfound romance and his family life continue to build.

Lamar and his "family" carry out a bloody robbery of a restaurant in a small Texas town from which Lamar narrowly escapes with his life. The bloodshed of the robbery intensifies the manhunt for Lamar and Pewtie is one of the officers who drops by the scene of the crime. There he finds more pictures of Lions drawn by Richard at the restaurant. He is questioned by a suspicious LT Henderson about his find but does not explain it or the earlier pictures. Lamar now reveals to his family that Richard has in fact been working on the design for a tattoo and they begin a search for a top quality tattoo artist to carry out the work and finding Jimmy Ky outside a small town. After discussing the drawings with a local art teacher Bud also begins to suspect that Lamar is working on a tattoo, and obtains information about Jimmy Ky. The stage is now set for the second bloody confrontation between Bud Pewtie and Lamar. Pewtie literally stumbles in as Lamar is being tattooed and watched over by Odell. A gunfight ensues which ends with Pewtie killing Odell with the last shot in his gun (the last of three he was carrying) and blasting two fingers off Lamar's left hand. Pewtie himself is once again badly injured and Lamar escapes after the intervention of Richard and Ruta.

As Bud struggles with his choices Lamar plots a terrible revenge for the death of his cousin.

The stage is set for the final confrontation between Pewtie and Lamar. Pewtie fails at first to shoot Lamar with a rifle, his bullet deflected just enough by an unseen glass door to miss his intended target and wound Ruta. The firefight leads to Lamar breaking out of a window using Holly as a shield as running across the fields towards a patch of trees with Pewtie chasing. Holly breaks away from Lamar and runs back towards the house leaving Bud to face Lamar. Bud again confirms to Holly that they are through. Lamar ambushes Bud in the patch of trees but fails to shoot him with his final bullet; the two men begin a desperate hand-to-hand struggle for Bud's gun, in which the physically stronger Lamar is sure to win. As the men fight, Pewtie deperately manages to fire a shot, which hideously wounds Lamar. The fight finishes as Bud uses his back-up gun to shoot Lamar twice in the head. As the medics and SWAT teams arrive all seems to be settled, but Richard is still alive and decides he should help Lamar. He finds Bud near a creek with the just-arrived Henderson. Both of the policemen talk quietly to Richard, trying to convince him to drop his gun and telling him that they know he was not responsible for the crimes committed by the Pyes. Richard responds by firing at Bud with the gun that Lamar took from Pewtie after their first confrontation at the old couples' farmhouse.

Henderson moves in front of Bud and takes the brunt of the bullet's damage, though the bullet hits Pewtie after going through Henderson. Bud is severely injured but lives as Henderson dies. The final scene is of a recovered Richard (having been shot by other policemen after firing) being transferred back to "the Mac" where he finds his previous fear of the prison and its brutal inmates is gone and he is a feared member of the criminal community.

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