Heywood’s fourth (The Domino Conspiracy, 1992, etc.), a mystical, irreverent wisdom quest, imagines a vast international conspiracy that links spies, loquacious sexpots, bumbling journalists, a famous macho writer, and trout fishers hunting for a mythic insect.
Born in 1945 in a shack deep in the Michigan forests, Bowie Rhodes grows up tall, spectacularly good-looking, reasonably adept at writing, and ever-curious about the relationship between his father, a taciturn, chain-smoking trout-fisher, and his powerfully dominant mother. He’s haunted by memories of a dead man his father pulled out of the local stream, as well as by the beguiling attractions of Raina Chickerman, the brilliant, sexually precocious, trout-fishing daughter of the closest neighbor upstream. Later on, as Bowie matures, gets a scholarship to Michigan State, and studies journalism, he becomes positively obsessed with Raina, who appears at odd moments, teases him sexually or intellectually, then blows away before he can touch her—and with a lost manuscript about the snowfly, a legendary insect that hatches once every 20 to 40 years and is simply irresistible to big trout. Bowie’s journalistic pursuits take him to Viet Nam, England, and Russia, where he finally tracks down the manuscript, which is written in some kind of unbreakable code by a mysterious German scientist. Naturally, other good and bad folks want this item, too. The trail leads to a passel of renegade mountain men, led by Raina and that famous macho writer (clue: he didn’t commit suicide), all of whom are waiting for the snowfly to help them land the biggest fish of all.
More Pynchon than Percival, this madcap fish story updates the Grail quest with unsettling violence, preposterous schemers, and an abundance of randy women who dispense pithy statements on the meaning of life—and can’t wait to jump into the nearest trout stream.