Open main menu

A Gathering of Old Men

A Gathering of Old Men is a novel by Ernest J. Gaines published in 1983.

A Gathering of Old Men
Book Cover of A Gathering of Old Men.jpg
1st edition hardcover copy of the book from 1983
AuthorErnest J. Gaines
CountryUnited States
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
813/.54 19
LC ClassPS3557.A355 G3 1983

Set on a 1970s Louisiana cane farm, the novel addresses racial discrimination and a bond that cannot be usurped.

Plot summaryEdit

One afternoon, Candy Marshall, a white plantation owner, discovers that a Cajun farmer, Beau Boutan, has been shot in Mathu's, a black man's yard. She enlists the help of seventeen other old black men by having them come to Mathu's yard, each with a shotgun and one empty number 5 shell. She and the men all claim to be responsible for the murder in an effort to protect the guilty party. Meanwhile, Sheriff Mapes arrives to the scene to arrest the real murderer (most likely Mathu, as he was the only black man who stood up against racism and the Boutans and capable of shooting a shotgun). The sheriff also wishes to keep Beau's father, Fix Boutan, from coming to lynch Mathu, who he presumes killed Beau.

Film adaptationEdit

In 1987 Volker Schlöndorff, a famous German director, made a film, also titled A Gathering of Old Men (aka Murder on the Bayou), which adheres closely to the novel. It stars Richard Widmark (as Sheriff Mapes), Louis Gossett Jr. (as Mathu), Holly Hunter (as Candy), Joe Seneca (as Clatoo), and Will Patton (as Lou Dimes).