Yesteryear is a crime novel, a plunge into the Great Depression, and heartbreaking evocation of the tough lives of the time in Buffalo, New York—all woven into the retelling of how a radio scriptwriter named Fran Striker came to imagine the Lone Ranger with his horse Silver and his ally Tonto, during a time when despair floated in the very air for most Americans.
The eventual value of the Lone Ranger to struggling Americans huddled hungrily around their radios is central to this rich and evocative novel. Fran Striker is the breadwinner for his household, which keeps growing with homeless relatives. With nine mouths to feed, his radio job is vital, precious—but not enough to make ends meet. He pounds his typewriter keys at night, then catches a few drinks at the local speakeasy after midnight.
When his determined tugging at a radio script to bring out more of its power begins to connect with the longing around him for an all-American hero, Fran begins to hear voices that add to his efforts. Generous dashes of such magical realism spread among his friends and co-workers. He plunges into the gritty crime of the city in an effort to locate stolen property, runs afoul of organized criminals, and suffers a gypsy curse. To handle that, “Striker rolled a sheet of paper into the Remington Sixteen and pounded the keyboard, his fingers moving so fast it was as if his typewriter had grown spurs.”
Magical realism needs to walk a fine edge between fantasy and a deeper reality. As the Lone Ranger comes into focus for Fran Striker, Eoannou hits all the right notes to deepen an enchanting story of friendship, desperation, and dogged creative labor.