Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review of Truly Like Lightning by David Duchovny

review by Michael G. Vail

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           Several novels set in the Morongo Basin have appeared recently and received their share of attention. A few years ago, it was Ivy Pochoda’s highly acclaimed Wonder Valley, which follows several folks living on the edge, including a pair of criminals hiding out in the book’s namesake eastern portion of the Basin.

          Now David Duchovny, the star of the popular TV series The X-Files, has published Truly Like Lightning. It’s the tale of Bronson Powers, a former Hollywood stuntman and Mormon shaman who lives on a huge tract of inherited desert (“an Eden of cactus and rattlesnakes”) with his three wives and ten children.

          Would-be real estate magnate Maya Abbadessa finds out about their land, supposedly the potential source of untold future profits, and concocts a scheme to try and acquire its use.

          The novel’s initial chapter is slow going—a reminder of why writing coaches from time immemorial remind their progeny to “show, not tell.” But the story Duchovny has to tell is fairly interesting, and there’s some good writing in Truly Like Lightning. Unfortunately, one of the most important turns in the plot is also the weakest—and most unlikely.

          Maya convinces Bronson and his wives to place three of their home-schooled children in Rancho Cucamonga schools and agree to sell her part of their precious land if the kids do better in the suburbs than with their family. A county social worker is a party to Maya’s con. I couldn’t buy any of this. Maybe you can.

          With its creaky plotline and often cartoonish characters, Truly Like Lightning sometimes comes across as a story that’s destined to become a made-for-TV movie. Coincidentally, Duchovny mentioned in a recent Los Angeles Times interview that the novel is being shopped in Hollywood for just such a project. And he said he’s looking forward to playing the part of Bronson.

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Michael G. Vail is the author of the novel The Salvation of San Juan Cajon, and the short story/poetry collection High Desert Elegy.

    

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