Perils. Ron Carlson presents the character Mack as a 2009 Everyman in his short novel, The Signal. Set over six days in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, Mack is camping with his ex-wife, Vonnie, in the hope of restoring their relationship. He withholds from Vonnie a second reason for their trip: Mack is trying to make some money from crooks who want him to find a piece of military hardware that crashed in those mountains. The title refers to the transmission that Mack is trying to locate via a BlackBerry that will allow him to recover the missing hardware. Mack was recently released from jail, he’s losing the family farm, drinks too much and continues to make bad choices. Mack is also competent: he knows these mountains well, and even when he’s at his worst, he’s able to move forward. Like each of us, Mack has made mistakes, chosen poorly, and has worked in ways that make him skilled. Carlson wastes no words on the pages of The Signal: his prose includes vivid description, clear dialogue and ways of moving the plot forward efficiently.
Rating: Three-star (Recommended)