The scarifying events of Sewell Smith's youth had left him shattered and embittered. On his return to his home town of Thebes, Michigan, morally and financially bankrupt from a writing career in films, these early experiences began to take on a different hue, no less corrosive but illuminating the moral climate of the place.
In the background are the sly seduction of a lonely high school girl, the mental derangement and commitment of Sewell's mother, his father's strange death, the boy's malicious acts of vandalism, his flight and Army enlistment, his brilliant war record, his successful novel, his meteoric Hollywood career and this return to Thebes. Fate hands Sewell the means of crucifying the local leaders who he hates, when the dissolute mother of a fourteen-year-old girl reveals to him that one of these town pillars has corrupted her little daughter. As it turns out, six of the town's elders are involved.
As Sewell's ruthless plan evolves, we learn in flashbacks and belated revelations the innermost secrets of the community, which are universal in their human meanings. We can see Everytown in Thebes, and perhaps some readers will say, "There but for the grace of God . . ."
Glendon based his third "big book" on a real event that scandalized the little town where he grew up -- Lowell, Michigan, a half hour east of Grand Rapids -- and this sexy Peyton Place type novel was perhaps his most personal, for it vividly describes some of the citizens in a small part of the country he was intimately familiar with as a boy. Consequently this tragic Grecian drama caused the adult author quite a bit of stress during its creation and he found it one of his most difficult novels to write, after the added pressure of his first two big bestsellers and films being so successful.
Welcome To Thebes has potential as a TV mini-series set in "1950's Midwest America."
"Glendon Swarthout is a skillful, even a brilliant writer. The book throbs with a blistering vitality. Welcome To Thebes is a tour de force of a high order." David Dempsey, New York Times Book Review
"High tension." Newsweek
"This is not a pretty novel and it perhaps administers too many shocks to its readers but it contains passages of the utmost eloquence (Swarthout has a vocabulary reminiscent of James Gould Cozzens') and it is beautifully and intricately constructed." Theodore O'Leary Kansas City Star
"A twentieth century contender for the classics . . . a whale of a book." Fort Wayne, Indiana News
"Glendon Swarthout has moved into the realm of a modern melodrama in his newest novel, Welcome To Thebes. He has succeeded in all respects and the result is an exciting and vigorous piece of fiction, peopled with believable characters even though they are not attractive. The style of the novel is something of a major marvel. The flow of beautiful passages of prose is somewhat incongruous at first glance when it is put against the violence of the theme, but when you are used to Mr. Swarthout's methods, you will be captivated by the overall impact that his style has. When you read this book, don't reveal the ending to anyone. There is genuine shock and surprise in store for you. It is handled with a master's touch, but it will be completely unexpected." Howell Pearre, Nashville, Tennessee Banner.
"This is not a quiet book about a quiet village. It is a violent book about a town badly scarred by violence. Suicide, madness, multiple rape, depravity all figure in its pages. Swarthout's language is an odd mixture of the harsh, uncompromising and the scholarly. Scores of recondite words mingle with the boldest of Anglo-Saxon terms. But the classical has always existed amid the vulgar. The writing, however, is consistently powerful. And the tale never palls . . . Welcome To Thebes will shock some. It will offend others. And it may anger many. But it will be read." Gerald Elliott, Grand Rapids, Michigan Press.