Howard Owen, . . Permanent, $26 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-103-2
Spurred by a nighttime encounter with a mysterious old man, a faded football hero–cum–long-distance trucker risks everything to become—a fiction writer. Jack Stone of Speakeasy, Va., sells his rig so he can take the 68 pages of "Lovelady," the story of a serial killer the mysterious stranger left in Jack's possession, and turn them into genius. Owen treads the familiar ground of artistic aspiration and the pursuit of lost dreams; his hero can sound like just another guy who insists he's got a novel in him. But Jack really does, and he really writes it, even as money begins to run out, his troubled son from his first marriage reappears with legal problems and both his relationship with his second wife, Gina, and his own peace of mind begin to falter. An encounter at his 30th high school reunion with book editor Jerry Prince (a former nerd, natch) convinces Jack that his old classmate is the key to his destiny. Jack's italicized present-day reflections alternate with third-person backstory, and the book's tension stems primarily from Jack's fateful journey to New York to confront Jerry and ensure that his novel is published. Owen writes much like his main character acts, deliberately and doggedly in pursuit of his goal, but his portrayal of the agonies an aspiring writer faces are definitely nerve-wracking.
Reviewed on: 05/24/2004