The flamboyant musician Wayne Coyne, lead singer and songwriter for the Flaming Lips, has been one of Oklahoma City’s most recognizable assets since the 1960s. As Wikipedia notes, “Flaming Lips concerts feature confetti cannons, lasers, laser pointers, images projected on to a screen, dozens of large balloons, a stage filled with dancers dressed as aliens, and yetis.” And in Lou Berney‘s prize-winning novel of suspense, The Long and Faraway Gone, which is set in Oklahoma City, an aging rock star who resembles Wayne Coyne plays a major role. Berney teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University, so he knows whereof he writes.
Two of the crimes at the center of the story in The Long and Faraway Gone took place in 1986, the third twenty-six years later in 2012. Survivors of two of those original crimes are the principal characters. Wyatt Rivers was fifteen and a doorman at a movie theater in Oklahoma City when he was unaccountably the sole survivor of a robbery and massacre that left behind six dead. Julianna Rosales was twelve when her beautiful seventeen-year-old sister disappeared one night at the Oklahoma State Fair and was later presumed dead. Both Wyatt and Julianna are obsessed with those experiences. Wyatt is desperate to know why he survived when all his friends did not. And Julianna wants nothing more in the world than to know what happened to her big sister.
The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney (2015) 467 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Winner of the Edgar Award
A prize-winning novel of suspense
Now, in 2012, Wyatt has returned to Oklahoma City as a favor to a client. He’s a private eye in Las Vegas, sent on a seemingly quixotic quest to help a young woman who has inherited a night club and is complaining of harassment. But Wyatt is troubled with the assignment. He had long ago left Oklahoma City behind and changed his name. Only his aging uncle still lives there. And he discovers that the night club owner is a difficult woman whose demands induce him to spend time investigating the movie theater massacre instead of what seem to be adolescent pranks at the night club. They are, of course, nothing of the sort, as Wyatt will soon learn.
Lou Berney writes with a sure hand, demonstrating not just skill at plotting and character development but also deep understanding of human psychology and the impact of trauma on the soul. The Long and Faraway Gone is a superior effort, entirely worthy of the many awards it garnered, including not just the Edgar but also the Macavity, Anthony, and Barry Awards.
For additional reading
I’ve reviewed an excellent nonfiction book about Oklahoma City, Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding… Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis by Sam Anderson (America revealed through the lens of a single mid-sized city). One of Anderson’s featured subjects is Wayne Coyne.
I’ve also reviewed the superb novel, November Road, by Lou Berney at A desperate woman, a passel of gangsters and JFK’s assassination.
You might also enjoy my posts:
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers;
- 5 top novels about private detectives; and
- Two dozen outstanding detective series from around the world.
For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).
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