Cover image for The gypsy man
The gypsy man
Bausch, Robert.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2002]

Physical Description:
495 pages ; 24 cm
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The motto of Crawford, Virginia, might well be Beware what you fear, because it may come true. Penny Bone is terrified of the town's local legend of a child-stealing phantom. Henry Gault, her six-year-old daughter's teacher, scoffs at the tale, trusting in reason and foresight to safeguard what is most precious to him.
Penny's husband, John, is in prison for an accidental murder that happened because he was trying to be too careful. And in prison he will, almost accidentally, become a hero, which makes him prey to what he fears most--hope.
An eerie succession of events will take these people into the bull's-eye of risk that everyday life presents. While the Gypsy Man may be just one of Crawford's myths, John and Penny Bone are as real as the rising sun, and their strength, separately and together, reminds us why life is worth living. The Gypsy Man , and its durable and enduring characters, illuminates how an elusive truth lives behind every legend.

Author Notes

Robert Charles Bausch was born at Fort Benning, Georgia on April 18, 1945. In 1965, he and his twin brother enlisted in the Air Force and served together for four years, teaching survival tactics. He received a bachelor's degree in 1974, a master's degree in English in 1975, and a master of fine arts in creative writing in 2001 from George Mason University. He taught at a private school before becoming an instructor at Northern Virginia Community College in 1975. He received a statewide award in 2013 as one of Virginia's leading college professors.

His first novel, On the Way Home, was published in 1982. His other novels included A Hole in the Earth, The Gypsy Man, Out of Season, Far as the Eye Can See, The Legend of Jesse Smoke, and In the Fall They Come Back. His novel Almighty Me was adapted into the movie Bruce Almighty. In 2009, he received the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature from Longwood University for his body of work. He died from multiple myeloma October 9, 2018 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Old mountain myths die hard; those who believe in them die harder. In the Blue Ridge Mountain hamlet of Crawford, Virginia, whenever a building is burned or a child missing, the Gypsy Man is blamed before all others. For Penny Bone, his legend is particularly loathsome. With her husband, John, imprisoned for a murder he didn't mean to commit, and her aunt Clare frequently gone who-knows-where, Penny raises her daughter alone, ever fearful for her safety. But when one of John's fellow prisoners escapes, a new, and more deadly, terror invades Crawford. Writing with chilling intensity, Bausch captures the essence of this backwater way of life where superstition thrives and self-reliance is tantamount to survival. In Penny, Bausch creates a gutsy yet gentle heroine; in convict Peach, an amoral, sociopathic villain; in anxious, supporting townsfolk, a community crippled by malaise. In Bausch's hands, their sense of dread and fear is powerful and pervasive and riveting right to the surprising end. A truly memorable tale of horror and hope. Carol Haggas

Publisher's Weekly Review

A small Virginia mountain community in the late 1950s is the setting for this vivid and heartrending tale of dreadful accidents, fear, guilt, heroism and redemption by the author of A Hole in the Earth. At its center is a couple, John and Penny Bone, with a cherished small daughter, Tory. John goes to jail for 20 years for the accidental killing of a young black girl. Meanwhile, another black child, Terry Landon, has disappeared, and an old legend about a gypsy man who steals small children-the deranged scion of a family once prominent on the mountain-returns to haunt the minds of the locals. In jail, John does something heroic to save one of the warders, and hope begins to flicker that he may get an early release. At the same time, a fellow inmate, P.J. "Peach" Middleton, a psychopathic killer, escapes and latches on to Penny's man-hungry Aunt Clare. This sets the stage for a denouement of hair-raising tension in which Penny has to fight for Tory's life, and the mystery of little Terry Landon's disappearance turns out to involve two surprising culprits. Bausch keeps his complex but utterly absorbing tale moving with a cleverly interwoven series of narrative voices, including that of the hideous Peach himself-one of the most chilling villains in recent fiction-and it is not until the closing chapters that the whole structure becomes a little too neatly contrived, with clues planted earlier brought out like triumphant trump cards. This does not diminish the impact of a thrilling read, however, in which the poetry of character is more important than the rather plot-heavy action. (Oct.) Forecast: Bausch's last book was on several Notable lists, and this could be carefully hand-sold to admirers of well-crafted literary thrillers with convincingly created regional settings. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this striking novel of 13 alternating narrators, Bausch (A Hole in the Earth) illustrates the consequences of unintended actions, the power of love, and the use of myth to avoid truth. It's 1959 in the mountaintop town of Crawford, VA, and people are still reeling from the disappearance of a black boy, Terry Landon, and the accidental murder of a black girl by John Bone six years earlier. Penny Bone, who thinks of her husband as dead during his 20-year jail term at his insistence, fears for the safety of her daughter when an old neighbor notices signs of the return of the Gypsy Man, a feared local legend believed to kill children. Meanwhile, a dangerous escaped prisoner lures Penny's Aunt Clare, whose weakness for booze and men grows as she reaches middle age, and John's heroism in prison leads to disappointment. A few of the narrators primarily serve to advance the story, but all come alive and add richness and depth with their differences in age, gender, race, and background, as suspense builds and events come to a just and satisfying close. An exceptional novel, this is recommended for all fiction collections.DMichele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



PennyAt the top of this mountain, where clouds are neighbors, you can see everything clear-close up or miles and miles away. The air is colder somehow and don't get hazy too often. From the back porch of my cabin I can see the white stone all the way across the yard. Maybe it's always been there, but it never meant so much until now. It was just a stone for a long time. Yesterday, my little girl found lettering on it.I didn't mind it when it was just a white stone. It looked like a small piece of paper, sticking up out of the brown dirt. I remember one time I pointed it out to John and I said, "Look, it's like the mountain has a broke bone sticking out of it."And John says, "What's that my daddy's always saying? 'Ain't no Bone ever broke. We bend. We don't break.'" He smiled, give a short laugh. You see that was John's last name: Bone. He used to be my husband.I always liked to sit next to him in the evening and just talk. That day I leaned my head on his shoulder and just concentrated on the smell of him, on the curve of his arm. I don't remember if I knew already he was going."Seems funny for my daddy to be saying that, don't it?" he says.John's father was a drunkard. And still is. Nothing else. He's under the care of a bottle.I said, "You worried about him again?""Worrying about a thing don't change it," he says. "But if there ever was a broke Bone, he's it."We was married only a few months when John got taken off. It seems like just yesterday. But it was a long time ago. And even though he said that about no Bone ever being broke and all, I wonder sometimes what's happened to him. I never see him, never talk to him. But John was about as solid as anyone I've ever known. It took me a year or two to speak of him in the past tense. Tory don't even remember him, and she's six going on seven. He ain't dead or nothing, but he may as well be. Plain as day.I try not to think about John, but I see the light of him in Tory's eyes. The way she flashes scorn or pity, or when she laughs or teases me, or gets stubborn and can't say nothing but no-it's John in her eyes.But like I said, John is gone. When they took him away he says, "I'm dead to you, and you got to be dead to me.""I can't," I said. I wasn't crying, but it took all I had. I couldn't resist his will, too. "I can't think of you dead when I know you're alive.""I ain't alive," he says. "I ain't alive again, honey, for twenty years.""I'll wait then," I said."No," he says. "You ain't."He wanted me to divorce him, but I wouldn't do it. I said, "Why let the state in on that, too?""In on what?""On our vows. Our betrothment."Now I was being stubborn. Tory just a baby in my arms, and the state takes John away from me, for twenty years. He spends all his days and nights at a place called Richard Bland. It's a prison, in case you don't know. I ain't seen him in almost six years. I miss him sometimes, but not nearly as bad as I did in the beginning. You might think I'm Excerpted from The Gypsy Man by Robert Bausch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.