I absolutely love Richard Yates’ writing, and made the decision to add a couple of his books to my Classics Club list. The 52nd entry is his fourth novel, Disturbing the Peace, which was published in 1975.
Disturbing the Peace centres upon a salesman named John Wilder, who is in his mid-thirties, and an alcoholic. We as readers find out a lot about him in the novel’s first passage, in which he refuses to return home to his wife Janice and son Tommy for the following reason: ‘”You really want to know, sweetheart? Because I’m afraid I might kill you, that’s why. Both of you.”‘. Following this revelation, and a further spiral downwards, John spends a short spell in Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital. He essentially disturbs the peace of the community in which he lives, and sends shockwaves through his once-perfect family life.
As with a lot of Yates’ other works, a large portion of his cast of characters are beset by a slew of problems. The whole is very well written, and we really get a feel for the muddle which John’s life has so quickly become. Yates deftly captures the human psyche and reveals it for us to see. Disturbing the Peace is very gritty, more so than Yates’ other books. In places, it feels a lot darker than many of his other plots; or, rather, the darkness within it is more sustained. Unfortunately, the novel is not as gripping or as well-developed as his other novels. Whilst it is certainly of interest, it is definitely not a book which I would recommend to begin reading Yates with.