Random House Trade, Paperback, 9780345468024, 256pp.
Publication Date: April 12, 2005
With Flying Crows, veteran newsman and bestselling author Jim Lehrer has written his most powerful novel, a work that moves masterfully from past to present and back again to solve the mystery that is American mayhem.
In 1997, police discover an old homeless man in the Kansas City train station. “Birdie Carlucci” claims he has lived there since 1933, hiding out in the storeroom of a Harvey House restaurant. Kansas City cop Lieutenant Randy Benton decides to discover the truth behind Birdie’s tale—and finds himself on a ride that leads ever backward into our country’s bloodstained past.
Benton’s investigation reveals the story of young Birdie, incarcerated in a brutal insane asylum where the preferred method of treatment is beating with a baseball bat. In that hopeless environment, though, he’s befriended by another patient, Josh Lancaster, once dismissed as a lost cause but snatched back from the brink by a compassionate doctor. But what is the secret of Lancaster’s involvement in an infamous Civil War encounter between Confederate bushwhackers and Union soldiers? And what truly happened after Birdie escaped from the asylum on the famous Flying Crow train?
As Benton returns to the present day, he wonders: How much, if any of it, really took place? What were the true public and private traumas of these two troubled men who can’t forget what they’ve seen or merely imagined?
Inspired by real events, Flying Crows is a novel that moves as inexorably as a train in the night to a shattering conclusion—one that reveals the many meanings of imprisonment and escape, and all the eccentricities and tragedies of the American soul.
“[A] touching novel about lost souls, loneliness, and life’s small triumphs . . . Lehrer’s 14th novel is an expertly researched, warmly told tale, rich in suspense and drama. . . . A highly personal story, quiet in tone and scope, yet booming in emotional intensity.”