Monday, July 28, 2008

Godfrey Daniel! Another Great Book From Ed Wright!

Damnation Falls is Edward Wright's first thriller since his terrific series about 1930s cowboy movie hero turned crime dog John Ray Horn. As he proved in that series (Clea's Moon, While I Disappear, Red Sky Lament), Wright is a brilliant writer, and his new book confirms my original comment on the Horn series -- "the kind of art that stirs up old memories and pierces the soul."

Damnation Falls leaves Horn back in Hollywood in the 1950s, and moves on to Randall Wilkes, a top Chicago journalist, fired for making stuff up (could that really happen?), who takes a job writing the biography of Sonny McMahan, a former Tennessee governor who was the journalist's boyhood friend. Sonny wants to use his biography, and an economic regeneration project around his home town of Pilgrim's Rest, to relaunch his stalled political career. To complicate matters, Randall's estranged father is the head of the new museum that will be the center of the regeneration project – and he hides a dreadful secret about the town's history.

When Sonny's mother is found hanged from a bridge over Damnation Falls, a local beauty spot, just hours after telling Wilkes about dangerous secrets that threaten her son, the journalist begins to ask questions that nobody seems to want answered – not Sonny or his wife Tish (who was Randall's first girlfriend at Vanderbilt). As he did in his John Ray Horn series, Wright doesn't waste a word as he describes Pilgrim's Rest and its cast of characters in impeccable detail. It was Elmore Leonard who said, "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it" -- and Wright has followed that rule to the letter.

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