Thursday, November 5, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown: No. 56

Here's another novel with which I have both a geographical connection and a weird personal connection. When I was working at the newspaper in Lawrence, Kan., I happened to look at applications for internships that had come into the paper. One of them was from a Princeton student who was interested in reporting and who had grown up in Kansas City -- Whitney Terrell. Years later, I came upon his novel "The Huntsman" at the Washoe County library; I started reading it, but I gave it up, even though much of the landscape was familiar to me. My wife and I lived in Kansas City when we got married; I was a reporter for a year at the Examiner in Independence, Mo., before becoming arts editor in Lawrence. I drove around Kansas City quite a bit, and I liked to go into the city on weekends even after we moved to Lawrence for my job. "King of Kings County," I thought, was a much better-written story, although it generated some negative, somewhat defensive reviews on Amazon. The novel looks at how the suburbs in Johnson County, Kan. (called Kings County in the novel), grew up in the wake of block-busting in central Kansas City, as the white population moved out. The main character, the son of a real-estate wheeler-dealer, falls hopelessly in love with a rich girl, and of course there's a tragic secret in their past. I liked the landscape of the novel as much as the characters; it brought Kansas City back to me. Also, I read this novel to take my mind off things the week after my mother had died.

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