, his beautifully written follow up to The Memory of Running
, Ron McLarty has created a character who returns home to an awakened sense of responsibility after a note arrives telling him of the death of his first love. Jono Riley is a middle-aged actor in New York City. He has gotten the occasional commercial, but is more likely to get bit parts in very small way-off Broadway plays attended by zero to 300 persons. He is in love with Renée, a fireperson, but is afraid to commit and move in with her. As an eleven year old boy he fell in love with Marie D'Agostino in East Providence, Rhode Island. While they are making snow angels one afternoon, she is shot in the back where the bullet remains throughout her life and is the ultimate cause of her death. The bullet finally "travels" through her body until it hits a vital organ and killes her. It is with this knowledge that Jono returns home.
Alternating chapters vividly re-create Jono's childhood, his too large head, his prowess as a high school hockey player who led his team to two state championships, the foes and friends who still affect his life. Jono returns and learns that the events of his youth still compel events of today as he becomes a more willing investigator into Marie's death and the seemingly connected deaths and disappearances of others.
Jono learns that he can travel home again, that "home" never leaves one in this richly evocative novel of love lost and regained. Our sense of place never leaves us and is the platform from which we are launched into our lives. An aunt of mine who nurtured dozens of writers in high school (including the likes of David Brinkley) said that we are always becoming what we are to be. So it is with Jono, whose return home changes his life.
Traveler is a realistic mystery rooted in McLarty's own childhood and his efforts as an actor. The dialogue, the characters, and the milieu seem perfect; McLarty's ear is finely tuned. The solution to the mystery of who shot Marie comes about through talking, listening, and traditional police work, not through some CSI-inspired discovery of an arcane fact which everyone saw but no one recognized.
Ron McLarty is a new favorite writer. The Memory of Running
was published to critical acclaim after Stephen King heard it on tape and interceded with publishers. As an actor he's had recurring roles on "Sex and the City," "Spenser: For Hire," and "Law and Order." Most remarkably, he actually writes his novels in longhand; he does not use a computer. He has written some 44 plays, ten of which have been expanded into novels, and he continues to act.