In 1968, at age 17, James Lockhart Perry penned his first and last collection of poetry and fortunately lost it somewhere in the shade of Canterbury Cathedral. Ten years later, his angst-filled novel, The Secret Weapon, burst out of the New York Adirondacks and again vanished, this time in a fit of absent-minded garage cleaning.
Another two decades onward, he wrote the single line, “I love my wife.” And watched The Messenger, his first not-misplaced novel, spring out of nowhere. Kirkus Reviews called it “an absorbing read for lovers of great writing, the philosophically minded and appreciators of slick dramas.” Lockhart called it a scatter-brain’s relief.
Lockhart’s characters never last a novel in the same refuge. Exposure takes them careening out of Los Angeles and down the Baja California. Daddy’s Girls and Cat Flight From Birdland wander from Hollywood to Bruxelles, through the Swiss Alps and Congolese rainforests, into Mexico City and, via Death Valley, back to Manhattan.
Several characters hazard a visit to Death Valley, whether to tussle with the Manson Family in a remote mining camp (Until I Die), or to dig stolen millions out of the side of a hidden sand dune (Cat Flight From Birdland). Nearly all of them arrive sooner or later at the center of the known universe on the Right Bank of Paris. Lockhart claims meticulous personal research of all these settings, especially those Parisian wine bars.
When they aren’t bobbing and weaving to prevent the reaper from catching them with his scythe, Lockhart’s characters are falling in love. Evil parents, tiresome husbands, irritated, foot-stomping wives, and baffling children–it doesn’t matter–these hopeless romantics get little say in the matter. And although it might cause a few manic-depressive characters to grumble, the author can’t bear an unhappy ending. Sooner or later, everyone muddles through in the name of love and/or a chilled martini.
Every twenty years since 1969, Lockhart has moved another three thousand miles westward–from Europe to the American East Coast, to Los Angeles. This locates his next happy home on a raft somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Make sure to wave as you cruise by. That gorgeous babe hanging onto the tattered sails and hovering overhead with a wagging finger will be the wife, muse, and perennial Lockhart character Tuesday. If she doesn’t lose patience and toss him overboard, expect another novel in the next few months.