Playing Out the String

B. J. Leggett


"Set against a convincingly portrayed backdrop of university life, and entertaining from start to finish, 'Playing Out the String' is a tricky, many paneled mind bender - a fine postmodern mystery."  --Shannon Burke

If Alfred Hitchcock had lived to direct a movie about the abuse of political correctness, it would have been Playing Out the String. This is a frightening novel of rabid political correctness, mistaken identity, mounting circumstances, and the will to destroy a man. Robert McCabe is a professor of film at a Tennessee university. Until this semester he’s passed his time trading film quotes with another professor to make a game of current events. Then a woman accuses him of exposing himself over the summer in the university library, and the quotes take on a new seriousness, starting with Ernest Borgnine’s “playing out the string” from his movie The Wild Bunch. Borgnine says this directly to indicate a fatalistic will to continue despite overwhelming odds. And sure enough, he and his friends are killed by gunfire. Amid mounting accusations will McCabe end in a similar spiral? Especially after he refuses to hire a lawyer and contacts a local journalist to give his side of the story . . .

ISBN, trade paper: 1-931982-44-9, $14.95               Sale $7.50

ISBN, library edition: 1-931982-43-0, $25.00            Sale $12.50

About the Author: 

B.J. Leggett grew up on a farm in West Tennessee.  After receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Florida, he joined the English Department of the University of Tennessee, where he holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Humanities.  A study of the last poems of Wallace Stevens, LATE STEVENS: THE FINAL FICTION, will be published next spring by LSU Press.  PLAYING OUT THE STRING is his first novel to go public.

 Excerpt From the Book:

He traced its beginning more or less arbitrarily to a Saturday morning in October when he stopped at a liquor store on Kingston Pike and found that he was missing a credit card. The lost credit card was of little consequence—it had no real connec­tion with what hap­pened subsequently—but there was a link in his mind since it was in retrieving it he first realized he might have a problem. 
    Robert McCabe is a professor of modern litera­ture and film. He is also a theor­ist, a fact not unrelated to what follows. He ex­plained to me, inno­cent as I am of literary theory, that the concept of begin­nings, like that of endings, is a fiction, an illusion of language. Behind every begin­ning is another begin­ning, behind every source another source, beyond every ending another ending. (This is a princi­ple of what is now called post-­structural­ism, and it is derived from a Nietzs­chean concept that is said to have enormous consequences for Western thought, although I could not tell you what they are.) But even if begin­nin­gs are arbitrary, McCabe said, you have to begin some­where, and he chose to begin with the Saturday morning when he stood at the counter of Sequoyah Liquors with a bottle of Bombay gin trying to remember when he had last used his Visa.
     He was recounting the story as we sat at his kitchen table in a small rented apart­ment in Knox­ville, Tennessee, not far from the campus of Western Appalachian Univer­sity, where he teaches. He and his wife Catherine, a psy­chol­ogist in private practice, were building a house that was several months behind schedule. The temporary apartment was dark and cramped, the rooms stacked with packing boxes.