Except for his Alaskan novel, Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade, The Beetle Leg is Hawkes’s only fiction in which the action is located in America. Hawkes has plenty of American characters in his oeuvre, but on the beaches of Greek islands and other exotic locations they become figures that might be just as at home on the moon. Hawkes, or perhaps his publisher, even titled a collection of his short works Lunar Landscapes. The Beetle Leg, which purports to be a Western, might as well also be lunar located, and indeed much of its action occurs in the moonlit desert. In its near lunatic story, moreover, it would be difficult to speak of plot. Let us just say it’s “story,” if you have to have one, concerns the various comings and goings, loves and deaths, of a group of characters living in the isolated desert encampments of Mistletoe, Government City, and the nearest “town,” Clare. The Sheriff, the Lampson Brothers, Ma, Cap Leech, Finn Mandan, Thegna, Harry Bohn, the Red Devils and the intruders—Camper, his wife Lou and their rattlesnake-bitten son—are figures in this unlikely tale, as prickly and isolated as the desert landscape, and as dangerous and hostile as the mosquitoes, lizards and snakes that inhabit it.
Train from Münich to Rome, October 15, 2003