January 7, 1996

“One Night Out Stealing” by Alan Duff

Reviewed by Mark Lindquist
New York Times Book Review

In ”Pulp Fiction” and ”Get Shorty,” John Travolta defines the current pop culture image for hoods: hip, clever if not bright, and effortlessly charming. The hoods — or ”crims” — in Alan Duff’s second novel, ”One Night Out Stealing,” are slovenly, befuddled if not stupid, and inclined to senseless, self-destructive behavior.

”Once Were Warriors,” Mr. Duff’s first novel, was made into a well-received movie with unknown actors. ”One Night Out Stealing” will likewise require unknowns; not even Gary Oldman is sufficiently unwashed to play one of these leads. Sonny and Jube live off the New Zealand equivalent of welfare and spend their time scheming and thieving and, always, drinking: ”Near everyone humming from the state of being drunk. . . . Just felt real good, but yet not so good you felt it was gonna last. So there was the fear, some of it desperate, that the feeling was gonna go. Wear off. And so they gulped.”

Mr. Duff’s writing continually rings with depressing authenticity. While his story is set in Auckland and Wellington, the issues it raises — poverty, racial tension, family strife and social decay — will be all too familiar to American readers.


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