Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – John J. Dwyer, one of the Sooner State’s most honored writers and author of seven books (both fiction and nonfiction) will in May release “Mustang,” the widely anticipated sequel to his unforgettable “Shortgrass.”
That earlier work brought to life Dwyer’s best-yet fictional creation, Lance Roark, raised by Mennonites who lived in love and friendship with neighboring Comanche in early statehood days.
Dwyer’s efficiency as a writer in all his works, including that stirring novel, might make most readers unaware of being pulled into a compelling narrative of strength and deeply affecting nostalgia – yearning, even – for a long-gone world. “Unaware,” that is, until time has passed and reflection yields understanding and awareness of what the word “masterpiece” means.
In “Shortgrass,” the hero Roark faced life-changing choices as his horizons expanded far beyond the beloved (and often parched) farmland of his youth. In that installment, Roark was steadily pulled into a world of power and money, in and around the early days of aviation and radio entertainment. Along the way Lance feels the tug of love a couple of times as he manages to meet an all-star cluster of heroes and villains in the tumult of the years 1933-1943.
An emotional and powerful conclusion in ‘Shortgrass’ has set the stage for this new, second book. Each work will undoubtedly stand the test of time in its own right.
‘Mustang’ seems layered with complexity. Even as Dwyer deftly honors the brave audacity of Americans who fought in the air against the powerful Luftwaffe, he peels back layers of patriotism and fond remembrance of a “good war” to understand the 1940s equivalent of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Dwyer’s main character – true child of those beloved pacifists – is caught in the depths of armed conflict in the most consequential and important war of the Twentieth Century.
Roark is complex, a man of flesh and blood the reader comes to know, or want to know, even as the hero is given to bouts of introspection and faith-challenging uncertainty.
The new book takes Lance to a break point over Dresden, the German city devastated in a firestorm as the conflict comes fully home to those who never understood the full horror of Adolf Hitler’s hateful regime.
Anticipating a book like this one, perhaps, William Murchison of The Dallas Morning News reflected, “John Dwyer brings eloquent Christian conviction and learning to literary tasks great and small.”
Dwyer is a historian (and teacher at Southern Nazarene), a newspaperman off and on through the years, and author of ‘The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People, Volume I.”
Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma History Society (my classmate at Oklahoma State University in the 1970s) asserts confidently that “The Oklahomans” is “The best Oklahoma History book ever.” Blackburn also has explained simply and directly why Dwyer stands head and shoulders above the rest of us scribes: “The difference between John Dwyer and other historical authors is that he doesn’t just tell what happened, he shows why people did what they did.”
The national release book party for Dwyer’s new novel, “Mustang,” will be held Thursday, May 23 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Full Circle Bookstore (1900 N.W. Expressway, Oklahoma City, 73118). That time at Full Circle will feature swing music, good food and the opportunity to engage with one of the best writers in the western United States.
Complete information on the book follows: “Mustang – A Novel of World War II,” John J. Dwyer, Tiree Press | May 2019, Hardcover 312 pages | ISBN-10: 1633734277 | ISBN-13: 978-1633734272 johnjdwyer.com.
Pre-orders are available from Full Circle Book Store, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.