“The Man from Primrose Lane” by James Renner (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG, 365 pages, $26).
James Renner’s first true crime book was called “Amy: My Search for Her Killer.” In our interview, Renner revealed his early concern over the disappearance of young Amy Mihaljevic.
“I was the same age as this little girl when she was murdered in 1989... I was 11 years old at the time and I’d see these ‘missing’ posters all over the place. Even back then I’d go to area malls and try to look for her in the crowd. Maybe she had just gotten separated from her mother or something? That was the worst I could think of...”
“About four months later, they found her body. That was the moment in my life when I realized there were adults out there who could really be evil. That case had a big impact on me. When I became a reporter, it was one of the first stories that I pitched. I wanted to take a new look at it and see if I could find any suspects, any good solid leads that we hadn’t had in 20 years... The case is still unsolved.”
Renner describes his next book “The Serial Killer’s Apprentice” as “a collection of about a dozen strange stories, unsolved crimes from northeast Ohio.” One story inspired Renner’s new novel, “The Man from Primrose Lane.”
He said “one of those stories was what I called an unsolved suicide: turns out this guy had been living under a fake name for 30 years. To this day, nobody knows who he really was. So that kind of got the wheels turning.”
“I pictured this guy hiding, laying low from the police, the Mob or whoever, and his day-to-day routines. I pictured this guy needing to wear mittens at all times to cover up his fingerprints and DNA. That was the nugget that led to the story. The greater mystery is: who was this guy? Might he even be connected to the reporter who is looking into his case?”
In his novel, an eccentric elderly “Man With a Thousand Mittens” lives as a recluse in Akron. David Neff is the investigative reporter who has written a best-selling book.
Renner writes: “Royalties from David’s first book, “The Serial Killer’s Protege,’” had climbed to the seven-figure mark a couple of years ago and remained strong... David no longer kept track of how much he had in the bank, but he knew it was more than he’d ever imagined making in his life.”
When “The Man From Primrose Lane” is found dead, Neff investigates. While this book was inspired by actual events, be ready to embark on some fanciful flights of fantasy. The author expresses it like this: “It’s a crime story. It’s a love story. It’s also science fiction.”
Prepare to encounter the mysterious “Loveland Frog.” The first reported sighting of this creature occurred near Loveland, Ohio, in 1955. This sci-fi beastie reportedly smelled like alfalfa.
Renner takes his readers forward into the past and backward into the future as we decipher the abundant mysteries of “The Man from Primrose Lane” and “the Loveland Frog.”
Try it. I think you will be entertained.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Friday at 1:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 11 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). Visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.