A nostalgic, humorous chronicle about coming-of-age in 1975 rural America.
Retired Marine Scanlan (Dink-Gadink, 2005, etc.) revisits his Circleville, Ohio, birthplace, the backdrop for this big-city-thugs-meet-small-town-kids caper, for his third novel. The story opens as two boys huddle around a night fire on Logan’s Hill–a young Alex Wellesley and his best friend Jake pinprick their thumbs as part of their initiation as Blood Brothers of the Night. Innocence abounds in this postcard-perfect town as Alex, Jake and their bike-riding pals engage in the yearly ritual of summer vacation and its typical boy play. Enter the bad guys: Kevin Kiley and his two henchmen, Goon One and Goon Two. After fleeing a crime spree in the Big Apple, the three stop for gas and heedlessly forget a doctor’s kit stuffed with stolen something-or-other (its contents unknown until the novel’s last page) in the men’s room. The plot unfolds as Alex, operating under the old adage â€œfinder’s keepers,” stumbles across the kit and decides it would make a good bag in which to stash his toys. From the sheriff and his sidekick, to an old-timer gas attendant and Rosie the local waitress, the whole town gets involved in the mystery of the black bag. Although the premise (the bad guys forgetting their loot) is somewhat implausible, Scanlan throws together a motley cast worthy of Disney’s zaniest such as Jake’s mom, Saint Dorothy and a wayfaring ex-con named Butch. Little details–returnable Fanta bottles, a stack of Life and Look magazines, kung-fu grip G.I. Joe dolls and Foghat on the radio–provide added charm as the book harkens back to the ’70s and simpler times. Aside from the occasional expletive, the book’s simple style makes it a tale that could easily double as young adult literature. Scanlan’s explorations of doublespeak (followed by italicized true thoughts), coupled with his masterful shifts between young and adult points of view, keep the pages turning.
Enthralling potboiler that looks not at innocence lost, but innocence that perseveres.