Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What is John Renehan reading?

Featured at Writers Read: John Renehan, author of The Valley.

His entry begins:
For Homework: Lord of the Flies, Peter Pan

When I’m sketching a new project (he says with exactly one book under his belt), I end up assigning myself a lot of background reading. Sometimes it’s simple research, and sometimes I can’t really articulate why a book wants to be read. Usually it ends up being fruitful, though I’m not sure which is the cart and which is the horse there. Right now I’m re-reading these two classics while I’m working on a second war book. (Don’t ask; it makes sense to me.) I last read Lord of the Flies in middle school. Turns out it’s a grown-up book. I know it’s still taught in middle/high schools, and at the time I thought I understood its symbols and themes, but reading it now at 42, and as the parent of a son, I see that I wasn’t really equipped as a teenager to appreciate it. I got the boys wrong, too. Ralph is not the self-possessed, tough-but-comfortable-in-his-humane-rationality, Christian-Bale-in-Reign-of-Fire leader I remembered him being. He’s a scared kid who’s in over his head, and he’s got a cruel edge to him that I’d forgotten. And Jack is not the simple malevolence I remembered him as. He’s not a sociopathic personality (though...[read on]
About The Valley, from the publisher:
“You’re going up the Valley.”

Black didn’t know its name, but he knew it lay deeper and higher than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Everything about the place was myth and rumor, but one fact was clear: There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst.

When Black, a deskbound admin officer, is sent up the Valley to investigate a warning shot fired by a near-forgotten platoon, he can only see it as the final bureaucratic insult in a short and unhappy Army career. What he doesn’t know is that his investigation puts at risk the centuries-old arrangements that keep this violent land in fragile balance, and will launch a shattering personal odyssey of obsession and discovery as Black reckons with the platoon’s dark secrets, accumulated over endless hours fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land.

The Valley is a riveting tour de force that changes our understanding of the men who fight our wars and announces John Renehan as one of the great American storytellers of our time.
Visit John Renehan's website.

Writers Read: John Renehan.

--Marshal Zeringue