Books: Psychological Chiller

HANGSAMAN (280 pp.] — Shirley Jackson — Farrar, Straus & Young ($3).

Slack your rope, Hangsaman,

O slack it for a while,

I think I see my father coming,

Coming many a mile.

O father, have you brought me gold,

Or will you pay my fee?

Or have you come to see me hang

Upon the gallows tree?

—Old English Ballad

The rope around the neck of 17-year old Natalie Waite was homemade. Her father had made up his mind that his imaginative child would be a writer; Natalie tried to please him, even if it meant dressing up in a personality that wasn't hers. But the...

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