The Boy Came Back

The book at the center of the State Library’s 1953 bookbanning controversy was The Boy Came Back, a 222-page paperback written by Charles H. Knickerbocker in 1951.

Set in the small town of Rockport Falls, Maine, The Boy Came Back tells the story of a young man known simply throughout the book as the Boy. A troubled youth who had enlisted in the Army in 1940, the Boy returned 10 years later to find the populace still wary of his misdeeds.

But it is his wife – merely called the Girl – who causes the most consternation. Her beauty catches the eye of most of the men in the town, including the middle-aged Dr. Robert Snow. Although they are both married – and she is less than half his age – Dr. Snow and the Girl engage in a flirtation that results in a sexual tryst. Dr. Snow is hardly alone in his want of the Girl’s affection. Lea Alden, a married lawyer who experiments with pain infliction on mice, and George Salisbury, a widowed newspaper publisher, also are attracted to the Girl, who is usually scantily dressed and never shy about interactions with the opposite sex.

However, the Girl meets a dark end. She is repeatedly battered by her alcoholic and disturbed husband, who eventually murders her. Her death sets off much distress in Rockport Falls. Lea Alden, extremely shaken by her demise, himself dies in a high-speed car crash, caused by the loss of the Girl. The Boy flees town after the murder, re-enlists in the Army, and dies in battle in South Korea.

The Boy Came Back received many favorable reviews when published, although the book contains countless controversial passages, including frequent sexual references. Although The Boy Came Back touched off the greatest controversy in the history of the State Library, the book is largely forgotten today. Copies can be found today only