OKC's past and present explored in new book 

click to enlarge Lou Berney, author of The Long and Faraway Gone - PROVIDED BY AUTHOR
  • provided by author
  • Lou Berney, author of The Long and Faraway Gone

Memory lane

For his new book, The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney had two objectives: He wanted to tell a good story with two mysteries at the center, and he also wanted to explore Oklahoma City’s growth into a dynamic city over the past quarter decade. Two decades old unsolved crimes drive the action, a mall shooting leaves one teenager inexplicably alive, and a young woman disappears from the Oklahoma State Fair the same year.

The book follows the path of those connected to both tragedies. Unraveling at an easy pace, readers see the city as it was in 1986 and at present. We see most of the action through the eyes of the protagonist, Wyatt, as he navigates terrain he last visited as a teen. The book is in part a classic whodunit, with twists and a cast of characters that keep the reader guessing.

The story also delves into the heart of memory, the concept of home and if there are ever any easy answers. Readers follow the narrative as the characters attempt to make sense of their lives and the events that shaped them.

The finished product goes on shelves Feb. 10 and there is a release party at 7 p.m. at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway. The author will spend weeks making a tour of public appearances and signings to promote the novel.

Life imitates art

Berney knows the feeling of looking at two different Oklahoma Cities at once. Like the protagonist, he left Oklahoma City in the 1980s to attend college. Except for visits, he didn’t make Oklahoma home again until he moved with his family in the late 1990’s. Like many who leave for a significant amount of time, the transformation was astounding.

He was also thrilled to find his memories crystal clear — easy fodder to recreate the city of his youth.

“When I drive down the street now,” he said. ”I’m like the characters in the book … I see what was there 25 years ago and then I see what’s here now, I’m always seeing things in two dimensions.”

The author admits he used some artistic license with some places and people but they are simply sly nods to the real articles.

Reading the prose, there are several hat-tips to the local color, both present and past. It’s part of what makes the effort such a joy for native Oklahomans to read.

Two major characters spend some time at Cuppies and Joe, the cupcake and coffee shop on Northwest 23rd Street. The iconic Rainbow Records, once on the corner of NW 23rd Street and Classen Boulevard plays a part in the action in 1986. Readers who know OKC will find several more incognito people and places.

“I have complex feelings about Oklahoma City,” he said. “There are parts I love and there are parts I don’t love and it’s a complex, fascinating, gritty, dynamic place. I wanted to touch on that, and I hope those reading will appreciate that someone’s taken a good look at this place … it’s not just flyover country.”

Day job

In addition to writing, Berney teaches in the Red Earth Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) program at Oklahoma City University. He enjoys teaching and helping other writers hone their craft.

“OCU has done a great job with the program, and I’ve had a great time working with them,” he said. “I have such phenomenal students.”

His advice to those in his charge is to write everyday, something he does 6 days a week.

When he is not working on his current project, he spends time with his family and his network of crime and mystery writers he has come to know since starting work in the genre years ago.

You can find more about the author including upcoming signing events at louberney.com.

The Long and Faraway Gone book signing

7 p.m., Tue.

Full Circle Bookstore

1900 Northwest Expressway



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