Books: An Early Death

WHITEWATER by Paul Horgan. 337 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $6.95.

Voices, indistinct, across dark water. One is heavy, asking; the other soft, answering. It is almost possible to make out words. Two boys, wild with the dark, swim near to listen, from the island where they have been camping. As they approach the neighboring island of the voices, a splash betrays them. The heavy voice rages. A shot slaps the water. The boys dive, frog-swim, drift, reach shore, and lie safe and ignorant in the chill. What were the voices saying?

Years later,...