Midway through this enthralling ``fictography,'' as McCammon calls it, the young hero learns of a book ``about [a] town and the people in it...maybe there wasn't a real plot to it...but the book was about life...[it] was sweet and deep and left you wishing for more.'' That's a perfect description of McCammon's fictional autobiography as well, an exuberant celebration of childhood mystery and marvel that's a giant step apart from his popular horror/suspense novels (Mine, 1990, etc.). It's 1964, and both Zephyr, Alabama, and aspiring 12-year-old writer Cory Meckenson, who narrates, are about to grow up from the idyll of small-town America--an idyll that McCammon paints with a score of bull's-eye details, from Cory's delirium on first hearing the Beach Boys to his delight on joining his father on his milkman's route in the cool of a summer's dawn. It's on this route that Cory begins to come of age, as he and his dad witness the sinking in the town lake of a car carrying a brutally murdered man. Who was the man? Who killed him and who sank the car? These questions cast a flitting shadow over the next year, brimming with earthly wonders--a raging flood, a shootout, a showdown with bullies--but also with purely, often darkly, magical wonders as well--a living dinosaur; precognitive nightmares; the grotesque life after death of Cory's dog. And throughout the loose-jointed tale--teeming with smartly realized characters, from the ancient black ``Lady'' whose voodoo wisdom rules Zephyr's ghetto to the wimpy boy with a Nolan Ryan arm to Cory's high-strung mom and quietly courageous dad--the mystery of the man in the lake grows in intensity until it implodes, in one of the rapturously sentimental story's few false notes, into a jarringly melodramatic climax. Strongly echoing the childhood-elegies of King and Bradbury and every bit their equal: a cornucopia of bittersweet fantasy storytelling that is by far McCammon's finest book. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for September).