AFTER LYLETOWN by K.C. Frederick

Book Quote:

“In his mid-forties, he feels he’s come to a pretty good place in his life, and he couldn’t have got there if he hadn’t been able to survive some of his earlier selves, forgiving, maybe, but also forgetting, even erasing. From his present vantage point, it isn’t exactly magnanimity he feels toward the passionate but confused graduate student he’d been twenty years ago. From that time onward he’s been acutely aware of the importance of chance in the affairs of human beings, and he hopes it’s given him a better understanding of people who are down on their own luck. But what he feels toward the person he’d been then is mostly relief that he’s been able to move beyond him.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (AUG 1, 2011)

It’s 1968 and Alan Ripley is a graduate student. He is definitely a man of his era, tuning in, turning on and, to some extent, dropping out. He is attending a party and the posters on the wall are of Dylan, Che and Stokely. “Like the saints in old churches, Alan thinks, the measure of our dreams and aspirations, our doubts about ourselves.” At this party, Alan meets Lily, a true revolutionary who wants to provide guns to oppressed black people.

The problem is how to get the guns. Alan is attracted more to Lily and her drugs than to her politics but he goes along with her as Lily machinates a caper designed to provide weapons to the oppressed. The idea is that some students, along with two ex-cons, will rob a gun store and give all the guns to the oppressed black population. Alan agrees to participate as a watchman. He will be in the car and be a spotter for anything suspicious going on. On the day of the heist, however, Alan feels sick and he ends up in the hospital getting his appendix out. A man named Rory takes Alan’s place. The caper fails as an off-duty policeman sees the suspicious goings on and gunfire erupts. One man is killed and the policeman is injured. Rory gets caught by the police and spends fifteen years in jail. The heist is known as the Lyletown Five, after the five participants.

Despite being caught by the police, Rory never gave them Alan’s name though he did give the police other information including the names of the other participants. Alan has always been thankful that he hasn’t been implicated in this debacle though he is not sure why Rory spared him. He never visits Rory in jail as they really didn’t know each other very well.

Fast forward to 1988, “After Lyletown.” Right after the caper, Alan spent some time in solitude in Vermont and later decided to study law. Alan becomes a successful attorney near Boston. He is a partner in a law firm that represents a housing project and Alan gets to work with both renters and tenants. He has a wife and son and is happy. He plays tennis, has a weekend home in Connecticut and is living the good life. Out of the blue he gets a phone call from Rory. Alan is scared, not knowing what Rory wants. Is it blackmail, money, just catching up, or what? He agrees to meet Rory for lunch.

Rory tells him a bit about his time in jail and informs Alan that the other Lyletown Five, have never been seen or heard from again. There are rumors that one of them died in a car crash and that Lily owns and runs a bakery in Washington. Rory does ask for some money but it’s for a “business venture” and he assures Alan he will pay him back with interest.

The novel examines who we are now and who we were in the past. Which one of our selves is the real one or are all our selves real, past and present? The parts of the book that deal with Alan and Rory are psychologically astute and excellent reading. The book flounders some in the middle when it takes a turn and focuses on Alan’s legal work which is not really all that relevant to the book.

The language is crisp and the dialogue right on. I found myself back in the sixties remembering C.O.R.E., SDS, the Weathermen and other political movements. Images of Timothy Leary popped into my head and I remember the immense allure of “flower power,” trying to make real change in the government and protesting the war in Vietnam. K.C. Frederick gets all of this along with the picture of baby boomers – their paths to the present and their lives in the past.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 6 readers
PUBLISHER: Permanent Press (July 1, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Award winning author
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August 1, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Facing History, y Award Winning Author

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