Robert Olmstead’s latest, Far Bright Star, grabs one from the get-go via the novelist’s spare yet descriptive prose style. From early in the first chapter: “There was a drought and the land was parched and dry and the country bleached, burned out, and furnacelike. At first, dogs attended the troopers, but then they experienced a plague of fleas, so the order went out to shoot the dogs.”
The year is 1916, and the enemy, Pancho Villa, is hiding out in Mexico’s sun- and dust-drenched mountains.
A group of horse-bound soldiers led by seasoned cavalryman Napoleon Childs are charged with finding the elusive Villa. Olmstead uses this simple premise to investigate the often unforgiving impact nature has on human beings and to unfurl a vivid, tension-riddled story that leaves readers groping for water along with its parched characters.
Olmstead, who is a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University when not cranking out visceral novels, reads from and discusses Far Bright Star at 7 p.m. Thursday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Free.
Find details about the event and Jo-Beth here.