“Traynor” is an excerpt from John Renehan’s debut novel, The Valley (2015 Penguin). Renehan, a former US Army Third Infantry Division Captain, presents a gripping portrait of a ragged fighting division holding a remote and dangerous outpost in Afghanistan. The Valley tells the story of Lieutenant Black, whose last assignment before resigning from the Army, is to investigate an incident of alleged misconduct in the heart of the Valley.
Renehan was interviewed in The Huffington Post by Mark Rubenstein:
This is your first novel. How did you learn to write fiction?
I’m forty-two and have probably thought of writing fiction for twenty years. When I was younger, I was just too scattered to turn ideas into actual words on a page. I’d done some magazine and newspaper writing while in the Army; mostly about leaving the civilian world for the military. After our kids were born, I was exhausted, and began reading detective and spy fiction, which was the only thing I felt could hold my attention.
When I got the idea for The Valley, I thought I was writing a police procedural, but one in the mold of the outsider going to an unfamiliar place, where things aren’t what they seem. The protagonist must play amateur detective, and becomes obsessed with finding out what’s really going on. I thought I was writing a genre novel, set in the midst of war. When it was purchased, the editor said, ‘You wrote a war novel.’ So, maybe I wrote a mystery, hiding inside military fiction.
Praise for the book:
“John Renehan’s The Valley is no conventional war story…. The Valley is an acid-rock infused thriller, a police procedural camouflaged in a mind job. A detective story becomes a heroin- and concussion-fueled dreamscape that crosses genres.” — Brian Castner, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“John Renehan’s The Valley is both a gripping, tightly-wound mystery as well as a sharply observed look at the complex internal politics of the U.S. Army, the deterioration of men tasked with too vague a mission and too little support, and what happens when they trifle with the intricate power structures deep in the mountains of Afghanistan.”
— Phil Klay, New York Times bestselling author of Redeployment