Monday, July 21, 2008

The Blue Cheer - Ed Lynskey

Frank Johnson left his home in Pelham, Virginia, for what he hoped would be the serenity of Scarab, West Virginia. A cabin in the woods; living a more naturally. What he finds instead is Stinger missiles, walking fish insignias and t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

When Jan Maddox, the wife of his only friend in West Virginia is found brutally murdered shortly after Johnson witnesses a Stinger missile being fired, he finds it's too much of a coincidence for the two events not to be related. He and Old Man Maddox set out to find the murderer, but this endeavor turns deadly as well. Johnson and Maddox are ambushed in a hotel room. Johnson is able to take out the two assailants, but not before they kill Old Man. Johnson isn't sure where to turn, but he knows he is in this mess up to his neck. That's when he calls in reinforcements in the form of his old bounty hunter friend, Gerald, from Virginia.

A short while ago I received an e-mail from Ed Lynskey. He had visited Jen's Book Thoughts and told me he would be interested in participating in a Q&A. I, of course, am excited to have volunteers, but I needed to check out Ed's books so I could create the Qs. The Blue Cheer is the only one of Ed's three books presently available through my library, and I'm going to have to contact them about this. The Blue Cheer is great, and I want to read the other Frank Johnson books in this series now.

Lynskey does a fabulous job with character development. Frank Johnson has so many layers to him, and every one is intriguing. While he comes off very likable, he has few friends. He's more of a loner, and he's a simple man. Bluegrass music is what he favors. He doesn't have the Internet or a television in his cabin home, and that suits him just fine. Life's made him a bit of a sceptic, and yet he is out to do good and help those who are important to him.

Gerald's sub-purpose in the novel is comic relief. What a stitch he is, and quite the charmer. He can be violent when the situation necessitates it, but overall he is carefree and a devoted friend.

The plot contains a little extra fluff. There is a bit of a subplot dealing with Frank's cousin which doesn't really play into the main plot of the novel. It probably could have been eliminated without any negative overall effect. However, the main plot is well developed. I couldn't help but think of Reba McEntire's song, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," especially the line "the judge in the town's got blood stains on his hands." Frank is in a "backwoods Southern town" and the law enforcement is questionable at best, but definitely dead set AGAINST Frank.

The book moves quickly and seems to speed up the further in you read. While "who done it" isn't necessarily a mystery throughout, what's going to transpire is. There was an incident early on in the novel dealing with evidence from a crime scene. I remember thinking, "hey, that's not right." But later I saw the purpose Lynskey had in mind for it, and the "ah ha" moment came. Lynskey even leaves a bit of the plot unresolved - on purpose. It works, and it works well.

There were some areas where I thought the writing was a bit rough around the edges, but sections such as this more than made up for the rough patches:

Shouldering the duffel bag with the Marine Corps bulldog, Old Man knocked Jan's photo off the bed table. He turned to stone staring down at the photo. His face then splintered into hurt. Tears seeped into his eyes. He grappled for the nearest bedpost and slumped forward on extended arms. His shoulders jerked and head sagged a little while his heart broke. Old Man cried the mute cry of men of his generation.
If that isn't a vivid image, I don't know what is. That image was incredibly powerful to me as I read it. It was writing like this that really enabled me to "enter" the story; be a part of it.

If you can hunt this book down, it is definitely worth the effort.


Ed Lynskey July 23, 2008 at 9:36 AM  

Thanks for reading my THE BLUE CHEER, Jen, and for your kind (and extensive) remarks.

Ed Lynskey

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