Books: Gun-Shy

A MIDNIGHT CLEAR by William Wharton Knopf; 242 pages; $12.95

The gentle hero of William Wharton's third novel explains: "Our family name is Knott. My parents wanted to call me Bill or Billy, but because there's no Saint Bill or Billy, I was named William. They insist no joke was intended. By third grade at school, I was Will Knott. I learned to live with it, my private martyrdom. So I was more or less prepared to grit it out again in the army, Willingly or Knott (Ha!). What I wasn't ready for was the conglomeration of certified wise guys and punsters...

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