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FICTION : A FLATLAND FABLE by Joe Coomer (Texas Monthly; $12.95).

August 10, 1986|Taffy Cannon

Joe Coomer's third novel, "A Flatland Fable," chronicles one day in the life of 40-year-old Horgan, the one-man fire department and Little League coach of the tiny isolated town of Eckley. Eckley is dominated by a grain elevator, an autocratic spinster businesswoman, the sky, and lots of dust. Horgan, to put it mildly, is a pretty passive fellow. "He'd been in the service only because they'd come after him; he'd joined the railroad in the same manner that he'd joined high school or the service--it was there and you were expected to go if you didn't work at the elevator; the fireman job was a pure gift from Dinks; and finally, it was Kidder who had pursued him. He'd never had the courage to take the responsibility for his own life, much less someone else's." His father is dying, his wife Kidder's unable to conceive, the Little League team has more enthusiasm than athletic ability, and his firefighting primarily concerns occasional minor grass fires.

Midway through the book things start happening with a rather contrived vengeance, and Horgan discovers that "life is what happens while you are waiting for something else." At 27, Joe Coomer already has two widely-praised novels, "The Decatur Road" and "Kentucky Love," behind him. This third book provides ample evidence that Coomer is a gifted writer. For the most part, however, "A Flatland Fable" is just flat.

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