Review

Art in America

by Ron McLarty

Steven Kearney is a plump, forty-something part-time playwright
who, despite having written pages and pages of material, has yet to
have anything produced or published. After his girlfriend dumps him
for another man, and taking construction jobs to make ends meet, he
moves in with his best friend, Roarke, a lesbian theater director
desperate for inspiration just like he is. Seemingly out of nowhere
comes an offer to be the playwright-in-residence in the small town
of Creedemore, Colorado. With this honor comes the responsibility
of writing a play to memorialize the town and its history. Kearney
quickly accepts the position, thinking that this could be the job
that gets those creative juices flowing. Colorado, here he
comes!

Kearney lands in Creedemore, right in the center of a bitter land
dispute that has locals pitted against one another. In an effort to
take advantage of the breathtaking natural bounty around him,
Mountain Man Red Fields has cleverly started his own whitewater
rafting business. But old Ticky Lettgo has taken issue with the
rafts floating through his land, although Mountain Man contends
that no one owns the water. Ticky decides to make his point the
best way he knows how --- with his shotgun --- and gets a little
too close for the tourists' comfort, not to mention safety.

Amiable Sheriff Petey Meyers, a transplant from the Boston Police
Department, is brought in to handle matters. Meyers is trying to
adapt to life in Colorado but just can't seem to put his Beantown
days behind him. His constant referrals (and sometimes flat-out
conversations) to his slain partner lay bare just how his heart is
not really in this job. He arrests Ticky, which kicks off a
firestorm of media with everyone taking a very vocal side. Soon it
doesn't seem to be about a dispute over land, but more a clash of
the old chaffing against the new. After his arrest and his
subsequent trial, Tick's ninety-something wife, Minnie, stops
speaking and takes to her bed, with only the medal of her deceased
Marine son to comfort her.

Meanwhile, Kearney is struggling to get a handle on the job at
hand. How can you commemorate a town when it's not your own?
Luckily, he meets muralist Mollie Dowse, who has been commissioned
to paint a mural for the town celebration. Mollie, with her quick
wit and survivor instinct (she's bravely going through a strong
course of chemotherapy after suffering from breast cancer), quickly
becomes Kearney's muse, and the two set out to inspire each
other.

Ron McLarty has been known as a very prolific character actor for
years. He first came to people's attention as a gifted novelist
with his debut, THE MEMORY OF RUNNING. In this, his third outing,
McLarty has all the requisite charm and colorful characters, but at
times, the sheer number of individuals and situations seems to take
away from the main narrative. Although it lacks the clear vision of
his two earlier novels, ART IN AMERICA does display McLarty's
talent as an author, which manages to shine clearly through the
haze, as readers get caught up in the story unfolding before
them.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 5, 2011

Art in America
by Ron McLarty

  • Publication Date: July 28, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143115545
  • ISBN-13: 9780143115540