Lucky boy Jim Fergus has given us a wonderfully idealized hero in 17-year-old cowboy Bogart Lambert. Bogie, whose exploits open Fergus’ new, self-published The Memory of Love, leaves his family’s Colorado ranch in 1916 with his stallion, Crazy Horse, to fight the Germans in France. Bogey is something of a perfectly formed hero — an accomplished athlete, a rodeo star, an expert in fast-draw shooting, and a skilled pugilist, who, early on in the novel, knocks out an aggressive horse auctioneer with a single punch. Luck also seems to be with him. After arriving in New York, he’s hired to be the bouncer at a house of ill repute, a job with pay and benefits. Later, Bogey, who has somehow managed to get Crazy Horse to the front lines, is seen galloping across no-man’s-land, leaping the highest tangles of barbed wire.
Remarkable though Bogey is as a character, the book focuses as much on an actual person, the expressionistic painter Chrysis Jungbluth. Her controversial painting Orgie, completed when she was 18, serves as a common thread of creativity and spirit. Fergus, in what’s one of the most personal, maybe even embarrassing, forewords to a novel, reveals his longtime partner’s fondness for the sort of freedom the painting depicts, along with his daughter’s surprising reaction to that. Needless to say, Chrysis and Bogey are made for each other, the two meeting in Paris after Bogey heals from his war injuries and spends time as a pub fighter. The result of that meeting and the intensity of their relationship are captured in the painting. Fergus might stand to tighten up his writing a bit, but he certainly knows how to construct an entertaining story about two larger-than-life people. Keep this one away from the kids. When Fergus reads at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226), he’ll be introduced by local literary figure Frederick Turner.
— Bill Kohlhaase