As an avid reader and wannabe writer I love following Martin Shepherdâ€™s Permanent Press blogâ€”the Cockeyed Pessimist. It was there that I learned of my first Permanent Press author, Chris Knopf, and a free gift from the blog began my great enjoyment his Sam Aquillo books. Knopfâ€™s mysteries are beautifully written, with very real characters, humanly flawed and powerfully intriguing, perfectly matching the flawed and glorious scenery of the wrong side of the Hamptonsâ€”a great introduction to a fine publishing house.
When the blog, which has often discussed the vagaries of publishing, prizes and reviews, included a request for people to review pre-publication copies of 2010â€™s books I was eager to try, but completely surprised and honored to find myself picked. The Chester Chronicles by Kermit Moyer, coming out in February 2010, is the first of three books they sent me, and a truly amazing read.
I should mention here that I really like short stories. The only thing I have against them is they take so long to read. A good short story will leave me on a precipice at its conclusion, breathless, wanting to know more yet somehow agreeing that this was the perfect place to endâ€”like standing in front of the Mona Lisa, knowing sheâ€™s never going to smile and knowing thatâ€™s exactly how itâ€™s meant to be. Itâ€™s those pauses for breath that make short story books read so slowly for me. But The Chester Chronicles is a novelâ€”really it isâ€”with all the advantages of a tale well-told, plus the treasures of reading short stories; each chapter beautifully crafted and complete, each ending leaving me delighted and satisfied, and eager for more.
Thereâ€™s a narrator who fast becomes a real person; I hang on his every word. Chester (or Chet) Patterson, grows from gawky elementary-school kid, through junior high and high school, travelling the world as the army moves his father around, and heading for college and beyond. Meanwhile history and his family go through the many crises and tragedies of the 50s and 60s. And people, not just Chester, grow and change, becoming more than they seemed before and filling time and space as well as pages.
Most beautiful of all, to me, is a story set soon after JFKâ€™s assassination. Chester gets to meet a movie hero of his, and conversations and musings on heroes end with stunning realization as he speaks on the phone to someone he felt had persistently betrayed him in the past. Heroism suddenly takes on a deeper and more powerful meaning for the reader.
More than a coming-of-age novel, though Chester indeed goes through all the traditional stepsâ€”love, drink, sex and embarrassment among others; more than a memoir of an era, though the era, its books, its songs and its events are all brought to memorable life; more than a set of short stories, though each carries the stamp of lingering images and well-timed completeness; Kermit Moyerâ€™s novel transcends any genre I define. Told in first person present tense, with past memories intervening and future dreams, immediate yet just distant enough, funny and poignant, innocent and scheming, itâ€™s one of the few books Iâ€™ve wanted to reread almost as soon as I finished.
Iâ€™m so glad I offered to review some books for Permanent Press, and so very glad they chose me and chose this as one of the ones to send me.
Author: Kermit Moyer
Published by Permanent Press
Pub Date Feb 2010