Devil's Dance

By Richard R. Karlen
Scotch Plains, New Jersey : Ironbound Press, 1998
ISBN 0-9660831-0-5

Reviewed by Renette Davis

This is a novel about two brothers, Harry and Roger Stone. Harry is an English professor and Roger is a physician. The story begins with a phone call from Harry's wife, Sandy, informing Roger that Harry has been in a motorcycle accident. Harry is not seriously hurt, but when Roger later examines his brother he notices that Harry's right hand has an odd little dancing movement and his walk has a slightly widened gait.

Sandy tells Roger that Harry has been acting very strange lately with big mood swings. One minute he is sullen and brooding; the next minute he's a maniac. He has also been messing around with college girls, and in fact one of his students was on the motorcycle with him when he had the accident.

Harry quits going to work and moves in with the girl, Mitzi, who is pregnant with his child. Roger tries to be supportive of them, as well as being supportive of Harry's wife and son, Alan. Roger suspects some kind of neurological disorder as Harry continues to degenerate, but Harry won't go see a neurologist.

Roger then learns, when his mother is dying, that the man he always thought was his father is actually his step-father. Roger and Harry's biological father had been a lawyer, but without warning his mind had started to deteriorate. He would fly into rages over nothing. One day in court he began to quarrel with the judge and was held in contempt. He was sentenced to jail unless he apologized, which he refused to do. The next day he hung himself using his suspenders.

Roger's step-father gives him the name and address of his biological father's brother, and when Roger goes to visit his uncle, he learns that his father had Huntington's Disease. Although Roger has been in the practice of internal medicine for 15 years, he has never treated a patient with Huntington's Disease. He knows enough, however, to realize what is probably in store for his brother and what might be in store for him.

The rest of the book is about Roger's relationships with his brother, with his brother's wife, and with himself. I really liked this book. It has everything - love, sex, humor, and mystery. It also explores the tough issues relating to degenerative illness. Some people, however, may be uncomfortable with the frank discussions of suicide in this book.

This is a book of fiction, but the author is familiar with Huntington's Disease since he had a close friend who had HD. The author has a website for the book, which includes some good information on Huntington's Disease, as well as links to other HD websites. The URL for the website is:

The book can be ordered for $15.00 plus shipping and handling from:

Ironbound Press
55 Highlander Dr.
Scotch Plains, New Jersey 07076
Fax 1-908-755-8537

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Created: Jan. 28, 2000
Last updated: Nov. 28, 2010