The Trackers by Charles Frazier: A review
It tells the story of a painter, Val Welch, who secures a New Deal assignment to paint a mural in the Dawes, Wyoming post office. The mural is supposed to represent a vision of that region of the world. Val considers himself very lucky to have landed the job when so many are out of work.
He travels west to Dawes prepared to get busy with the project. A wealthy rancher, John Long, and his wife, Eve, have invited Dawes to stay in one of the bunkhouses that serve the cowboys who work for them. He settles in and starts planning his work.
The Longs are the subject of a lot of gossip in the town. John has hopes for a political career. He had served in the army in World War I, but that service seems a bit shady in that he was a sniper. Rather than facing the enemy head-on, he killed while hidden. It's not clear how that will play in the rough tumble of a political campaign.
Moreover, his wife is a bit of a question mark. Before marrying John, she had lived the itinerant life of a singer in a Western swing band and she seems to be loathe to settling down to life as a rancher's wife. In fact, she doesn't settle. One day she absconds taking with her a valuable painting. Her husband hires the mural painter, Val, to go after her, find her, and bring her home.
Val travels across the continent in his search for Eve. Through his eyes, we see the ramshackle settlements that were called Hoovervilles that sprang up around the country. We also experience the nightlife of San Francisco in that era and finally, we travel to the swamps of Florida.
Charles Frazier has done his research well and he brings all of that to life for us and makes the reader feel the desperation of the period. He does have a knack for writing about ordinary people who are just trying to get through the day and then tomorrow and the next day and the next...
And that is exactly the story he has given us with The Trackers.