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by Louise Fabiani

AFTER OVERCOMING a fewinitial misgivings, I found Herb Curtis`s The Lone Angler (Goose Lane, 262 pages, $14.95 paper) an old-style page turner full of engagingcharacters caught in interesting predicaments. The Lone Angler continues the story of brothers Dryfly and Palidin Ramsey,and Dryfly`s friend, Shadrack Nash, last seen in Curtis`s previous two novelsset in Brennen Siding, in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick. The threeyoung men spend most of the year as river guides for wealthy anglers, so thereis plenty of talk here about fish, lures, and boats. While The Americans Are Coming and TheLast Tasmanian focusedon Dry and Shad, respectively, The LoneAngler followsPalidin as he travels to Texas in search of the eccentric sporting-goodsmillionaire he hopes will buy the secret to his magic fish lure. Instead, helearns how greed can lead to the extinction of wildlife. In a book of thisnature -- generally light, folksy, surreal in places (a Canadianversion of magic realism?) the introduction of loftier passages interrupts thenarrative. The environmental theme dovetails nicely with the ample wit andwhimsy, but Curtis is shamelessly sentimental and trite elsewhere. Here`s thedescription of how Dryfly and his girlfriend become lovers: She took Dryfly`shand and led him first up one path and then another in search of Ecstasy --Ecstasy, that warm, lilac- scented, life-filled dale in Paradise...She recognized it immediately by the throbbing rhythmical music that came fromits depths. Andit goes on. I have to wonder about the failure to excise this and similarsections from an otherwise cleverly written story. Curtis is a fine storytellerwith a strong sense of place and a good ear for dialogue, but his rewritingpencil could do with some sharpening.

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