Joyce Maynard’s new suspense novel is called “After Her.” Should she ever sit down to write another memoir (she’s already written two), “After Him” would be the logical title. Maynard is a good writer whose fate is to be forever overshadowed by the Great Writer she had a relationship with in her teens. Maynard was 18, and J.D. Salinger was 53 when he wrote her a letter about her now-famous New York Times Magazine article, “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back On Life.” After a series of letters back and forth, Maynard left college (Yale) at the end of her freshman year to move in with Salinger; 10 months later, he abruptly ended their relationship during a Florida vacation. Maynard wrote about her time with Salinger in her 1998 memoir, “At Home in the World,” which was reissued this month. She also appears in Shane Salerno’s new documentary, “Salinger.” Given all the buzz right now over Salinger, “After Her” feels like an afterthought, which is a bit of a shame.
As she did in her 1992 novel, “To Die For” (which was based on the real-life case of a New Hampshire high school administrator who persuaded her teenage lover and his friends to murder her husband), Maynard develops this suspense novel out of a kernel of true crime. In Marin County, Calif., during the late 1970s, a serial killer known as “the Trailside Killer” assaulted and murdered several women on the hiking trails of Mount Tamalpais and the surrounding San Francisco Bay area.