cover image Art in America

Art in America

Ron McLarty, . . Viking, $25.95 (366pp) ISBN 978-0-670-01895-6

Ambitious and consistently charming, this overstuffed third novel by the author of The Memory of Running is brimming with gems of richly observed smalltown life. In Creedemore, Colo., a land-rights dispute pitches locals against one another and attracts national media attention. Into the fray arrives Steven Kearney, a prolific New York author of unpublished novels, poems and plays, who has been invited by the Creedemore Historical Society to write and direct a play dramatizing the town's history. Steven's relocation sparks a colorful fish-out-of-water story populated with cowboys, environmental activists, hordes of reporters, performance artists, ecoterrorists and bona fide outlaws. Keeping the peace is sheriff Petey Myers, whose recollections of (and occasional conversations with) his slain partner provide some of the novel's finest moments. Sparkling, at times hilarious dialogue keeps many—perhaps too many—subplots moving. The depth of characters like Steven and Petey is contrasted by some of the minor characters, who can come off as stereotypes. Still, readers will root for the residents of Creedemore as they alternately divide over a trial and come together to stage the new play. (July)