This is the Fiction Warehouse, so I suppose I should occasionally discuss works of fiction.
Last night I finished Charles Frazier’s latest book, “The Trackers.” I liked it quite a bit. Let’s say four stars out of five. Five is an amount I reserve for works I find profoundly moving or revelatory or funny, to the extent that I keep thinking about them long after turning the last page.
“The Trackers” isn’t quite any of those. But it’s a pretty good read, kind of a Western and kind of a noir, both of which were pretty popular during the era in which it’s set: 1937, late in the Great Depression. A young artist is commissioned to do a historical mural in a Colorado post office, part of the Roosevelt administration’s effort to uplift the rural masses. A wealthy rancher and his beautiful young wife take an interest in the artist and offer him a place to live.
So: Beautiful young wife and lonely young artist: You know where this is going. But Frazier, to his credit, has a better story in mind. The young woman abruptly decides to leave her husband – and not, as one might expect, so she can be with the artist. She leaves both men without so much as a kiss on the cheek. The rancher dispatches the artist to track her down.
No need to reveal much more. The search spans the continent, from Colorado, to Seattle, to Florida and back again. I particularly appreciated the Florida scenes, since they mesh precisely with my own view of the state as a place where civilized people were never meant to live.
For my money, Frazier’s first book, “Cold Mountain,” remains his magnum opus. It’s a true classic. “The Trackers” is a lesser work, but I’d still say it’s among the best of the 30 or so books I’ve read this year.