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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glen Larum, whose lengthy resume includes a stint as managing editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer during the George and Frank Baker era, has written his first novel, “Waltz Against the Sky,” published by Walking Three Bar T Publishing, Inc.
A Montanan who often said he “came to Texas (in general) and Fort Stockton (in particular) as soon as he could,” Larum and his wife, Pat, currently reside in Midland after a brief sojourn in Austin following his retirement as public information officer for the TxDOT Odessa District.
Waltz Against the Sky
Walking Three Bar T Publishing
Hardcover, 978-0-9966865-0-1, 400 pages; $28.95; 2016
As you open Austin and Midland writer Glen Larum’s debut novel, get ready for a dance with characters who are caught in swirls of life’s randomness, its chance convergences, and their own spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Waltz Against the Sky has echoes of mysteries by such writers as Tony Hillerman and Elmore Leonard. But Larum also has his own style, and he’s good at building tension and suspense within seemingly commonplace moments and everyday encounters.
What you do not get in this 399-page book is a fast foxtrot of familiar actions and conventional plot.
Larum’s novel is set mostly in a small, fictional West Texas town known as Indian Springs. (Yes, the Lone Star State has at least two communities—one in Southeast Texas and one near San Antonio—that call themselves Indian Springs.) Waltz Against the Sky takes place in a town where five highways converge. People arrive, depart, or pass through all the time. But only a few linger.
At night, as travelers approach Indian Springs on the darkened roads, they can believe they are seeing the lights of a big city up ahead, “a glowing miniature galaxy strewn in a south to north arc across that desolate corner of the universe known as the Chihuahuan Desert,” Larum writes. What they find once they get there, however, is a shrunken oasis with “not that much of a selection in the way of hot food, gasoline, or soft beds.”
In Larum’s Indian Springs, four young men arrive in town at roughly the same time, from different directions. Two are brothers on the run from a crime in Florida. One is a teenaged hitchhiker from New Jersey who intends only to pass through on his way to California. And the fourth is an unemployed country newspaper editor from Montana who’s hoping to resurrect his career with a fresh start as “the new guy” at the Indian Springs weekly newspaper, the Dispatch.
Quickly, they begin encountering local residents, including motel clerks, law enforcement officers, a judge, and a Good Samaritan, plus others who know the rhythms and steps of how daily life generally flows in their town. At some moments, the new arrivals are welcomed. At other moments, suspicions rise, often for reasons that soon will become violently clear.
Larum employs multiple character viewpoints, plus a technique he calls “flashback layering.” One character may trigger, in another character's mind, some related or barely relevant event from the past, while they are conversing in the present. Moral ambiguities also abound — life and choices are seldom simple, even in a small town where seemingly nothing much happens.
Readers should keep handy this well-written book’s list of “main characters, in order of appearance.” There are fifteen main characters, and for some readers this will be the novel’s Achilles’ heel. When a name such as “Ridgeway” or “Whitcomb” suddenly pops up in the text again after a gap of a chapter or two, it sometimes can be difficult to remember exactly who the person is and what they do, amid the crowd of interesting, interacting characters.
Glen Larum’s Waltz Against the Sky can linger in the mind long after reading it. No matter how hard you try to make your life a structured dance, anything can happen under the big sky. Snap decisions or a few words blurted out can have long-lasting, even fatal, consequences. Or, they can lead, unexpectedly, to new opportunities and or even love.
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