cover image The Winter Rider

The Winter Rider

Berry Fleming. Permanent Press (NY), $24 (173pp) ISBN 978-0-933256-76-7

Originally published in 1960, this novel by the long-neglected writer ( Col. Effingham's Raid ) who died this past September at age 90, features a gently exhilarating ending. It is a quiet story: Bill Johns, a 50-plus author, is delivering the long-delayed and much-anticipated manuscript of a novel to a Georgia airfield to meet a deadline in New York. He gives a lift to a strange, plain young woman named Jo Seeley who wants to be the best violist, if not in the world, then the best she can be. After the car breaks down in a desolate area, the pair trek into the woods where they become involved in a primitive country funeral. Then they're piloted through coastal waters by a taciturn, possibly sinister Indian. All along they discuss art, and eventually Jo's sharp opinions goad Bill into realizing his ``comeback'' book may not be the best he can do. Fleming's usual wry tone is here, with some brilliant set pieces, especially the grave-digging scene where Jo plays for the dead: ``Bach always manages a happy ending.'' (Jan.)