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Passion, Privilege Fuel Russell Banks' 'Reserve'

In Russell Banks' new novel, The Reserve, love, romance and mystery literally take flight.

Banks' protagonist, the internationally known artist Jordan Groves, swoops into the Adirondack Mountains on a pontoon biplane looking for love. He lands in the middle of an enclave known as The Reserve, where a beautiful heiress and her family are relaxing at their country estate.

But the heiress, Vanessa Cole, is also mentally unstable. Groves falls quickly for her magnetic personality before he realizes that she's imbalanced and carries dark secrets. Set on the eve of World War II, the lushly romantic plot is a new turn for Banks, the author of more than 20 books.

In previous novels such as Affliction, Sweet Hereafter and Continental Drift, Banks masterfully depicts gritty inhabitants of small, hardscrabble towns. In The Reserve, working-class characters serve the rich and act as mountain guides.

Banks also weaves in historical events in scenes that flash forward. Readers learn of Groves' exploits in the Spanish Civil War, and Cole ominously takes a ride on the German airship Hindenburg.

Jacki Lyden spoke with Banks about his Depression-era tale.

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