Friday, February 9, 2018

FFB: Art in America by Ron McLarty

Ron McLarty’s 2008 novel Art in America is part comedy, part tragedy, and part crime story, peopled with well drawn characters.

In the first few pages, Steven Kearney, a struggling, middle-age, New York City writer with few if any produced plays and several unpublished books, is dumped by his girlfriend, kicked out of his apartment and hit by a taxi. But he is taken in by his old friend Roarke, a theater director who believes in Kearney's talent.

His luck changes when he is offered a paying gig by a small Colorado town to go there and write a play about its history.

The town of Creedemore is filled with residents trying to get along with one another and usually failing. There is nonagenarian Ticky Lettgo a cantankerous old, gun-toting, tough-talking, land owner and his dispute with newcomer Mountain Man Red Fields, the owner and guide of a river-rafting company. When Mountain Man takes customers down a waterway cutting through Ticky’s property, Ticky shoots up the rafts, scares the bejabbers out of the timid tourists and winds up in court fighting to uphold his rights as he sees them.

The trial attracts a crowd of spectators including old-style Westerners supporting Ticky, and protestors on Mountain Man’s side. Some of the protestors get so carried away that they plot a terrorist act to make a point.

Trying to control all this is Sheriff Petey Meyers, a former Boston cop whose partner was killed in the line of duty. Petey talks to his dead partner regularly and out loud, especially when situations get dicey.

Through all this, Kearney toils away at his art, filled at first with self-doubt, but finding his way and a new life, new friends and even love.

Ron McLarty is a long-time character actor whom many would recognize from dozens of TV appearances, including several episodes of “Law & Order” in which he played a cranky judge.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason's blog. He is compiling this week's Forgotten Books list for Patti Abbott.)

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