In the 1970’s churches began to burn in Burlington, Vermont. Travers' Inferno places these fires in the dizzying zeitgeist of aggressive utopian movements, distrust in authority, escapist alternative life styles, and a parasite news media. Its characters—colorful, damaged, comical, and tragic—are seeking meaning through desperate acts. Protagonist Travers Jones is grounded in the transcendent, mystified by the opposite sex, haunted by an absent father, and directed by an uncle with a grudge. Around him: secessionist Québecois murdering, pilfering and burning; changing alliances; violent deaths; confused love making; and a belligerent cat.
“L.E. Smith takes the Novel of Ideas in his two hands and then, in masterly fashion, proceeds to rip its guts out -- replacing those guts just as deftly with all the mystery and sex and incomprehensible violence that powers the best thrillers. The result is something like a dialogue between Nietzsche and Plato and James Joyce, a dialogue conducted in a dark room about to be consumed by fire, and slowly filling with smoke. Smith gets Burlington right, Vermont right, Boston right, and his characters always feel painfully human for all their philosophical confusion and existential peril. Best of all, as the mystery unfolds Travers Jones finally does manage to transform into the warrior philosopher that all thinking readers have, at one time or another, struggled themselves to become.”
—Philip Baruth, author of The X-President and The Brothers Boswell
“I can think of no other novel so dense with image, concept, and language; every sentence is rich and toothsome. While in arc it's a mystery yarn, Travers' Inferno is much more: it's scholarly, sexy, philosophical, crazy, and full of troubling and amusing characters. The telling reminds me of Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes) because its humor strikes first while irony and pathos slip in unobserved. But L.E. Smith must also have genes in common with the brilliant Flann O'Brien (At Swim Two Birds) and with Gully Jimson, the hero of Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth -- similar absurdity, language play, and mad, wise rant.
Throughout runs the terrible, powerful image of the mysterious burning churches, echoed in Travers' epileptic seizures. The churches, the relentless moral predation of evil Uncle Gerrit, and the implacable menace of the murderous brothers Quebecois, are reminiscent of Howard Frank Mosher's best tales of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.
Take time reading Travers' Inferno; chew on the language and savor every bite.”
—Daniel Hecht, author of Skull Session, The Babel Effect, and the Cree Black series
About the Author:
L.E. Smith lives in Vermont, writes books and teaches English, has tried to make it as a tennis pro and as a recording artist for Columbia Records, has trained guard dogs, worked as a security guard for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, delivered mail on the back roads of Vermont, worked as head chef in a restaurant, and for one day sold Fuller Brushes door-to-door in Los Angeles.