I think Robert Redford first embraced the notion that environmental causes could be advanced through story-telling. Thus came inspiration for my debut novel, a Denver Post best seller and a Colorado Book Award nominee.
My first-draft manuscript received an award in a novel manuscript competition where the reviewer compared it to Norman Maclean’s classic, A River Runs Through It.
I call CHARLIE my literary love child, and my book is a tribute to his unyielding devotion to a river. Charlie is a half-blood Native American, tormented in middle-age by his past and by identity conflicts between his Indian and Scots/Irish heritages. Not until I finished a manuscript revision did I realize that I had also written the story of a modern-day “Last Mohican”.
“An intriguing novel about a great river.”
From Jimmy Carter, who is also an avid fly-fisher who also writes about his favorite outdoor recreation.
“This wise, unusual and haunting novel mingles legends of the great Klamath River with the life of a remarkable central character you won’t forget — a fly fisher, a guide, a man who loves deeply, a man who seeks to protect a threatened natural world.”
From Nick Lyons, author of Spring Creek. Nick has written and published (Lyons Press) more nonfiction about fishing than anyone.
BOOK PASSAGE, FROM “WHERE THE RIVER SINGS”
Finished with his cleanup, he looked at a narrow opening in the forest beside his cabin. He felt a familiar emotional tug, a longing so strong it was almost physical, and he raised his eyes to the sky. Should be enough daylight left, he thought. Suppressing his fatigue and ignoring his shoulder pain, he headed toward the path.
When his time off-work permitted, which was becoming more frequent now, he liked to walk down to the river. He spent quiet evenings there with memories more pleasant than those that greeted him at dawn. He felt less lonely with the Klamath beside him and its dense riparian growth around him. It wasn’t far, maybe 300 yards down a switchback trail that wound through Douglas fir and big-leaf maples. In Indian summer the changing season left no imprint on the stately firs, but maple leaves boasted autumn’s artistry in a yellow and brown mottling, which late-day sunlight mixed and displayed in brilliant orange. He’d built his trail, not by hewing it out but simply by following the same course to the river year after year. His path was like those of his ancestors — carved by moccasined feet. How many evenings had it taken him? Maybe a thousand.
Now he shared his path only with deer and other forest creatures. The soft earth in front of him was pockmarked with their tracks. As a young couple, he and Doreen had raced down the path together, like young deer in springtime. Now he moved alone and slowly. Like an old buck in winter.
His path ended at a bar of pebbles and sand that stretched for a hundred yards adjacent to the river’s shore. Flooded by high water during spring, the bar was fully exposed when the river receded, generally by mid-summer. A large black lava boulder lodged at the head of the bar. Neatly form-fit to hold a seated person, the boulder’s southwest face absorbed afternoon sun, holding heat until long after evening shadows enveloped the bar. He shuffled across the sand and sat there, listening to the river. Thermal heat radiated from the boulder and eased the ache in his stiffening shoulders.
From his sun rock Charlie surveyed a long back eddy where, even in late season, a powerful surge of water foamed off a rock ledge and forced part of the current to reverse and surge back upstream. His private beach owed its existence to detritus washed up by the back eddy. But by autumn the swirling sediments were gone. Now maple leaves blanketed the Klamath. Some road high on the surface like miniature golden gondolas, some floated dull and lifeless just beneath the surface. The back eddy captured many of autumn’s discards, and they swept by him in long, elliptical paths. First they drifted upriver. Then, snared at the current edge, they raced back down and into the eddy again. Their confinement to a continuous repetition was broken only when an evening breeze gusted, freed those who could still ride the wind, and whisked them far out into the main current where they could escape the back eddy’s contrary pull. Just like me. Discarded and trapped in the damned backwash of this river, until something I can’t control pushes me out of it.
SLIM TO NONE, a Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment
A few copies may still be available through your local bookseller, or from an online bookstore.
Written using a pseudonym (Gordon Hendricks), my first book was also a Denver Post best seller and a Colorado Book Award nominee. Used by John’s Hopkins in its medical curriculum, it’s still the only book out there about eating disorders written from a non-survivor’s point of view and mostly in her own words.
My daughter’s story has a tragic ending.
Her book had a tragic beginning. Diagnosed with a terminal illness a week after we inked our contract, my first agent had to close her agency. My second agent worked for a large New York City firm that closed its doors after Nine-Eleven. She lost her job before she had a chance to contact any publishers. Not a great legacy to support the continuing search for a publisher.
Then I got lucky. A young editor with McGraw-Hill, found SLIM TO NONE through the Authorlink website. She asked for the manuscript and stayed up two nights reading it. I still carry a mental image of Michele standing at the podium in an austere McGH auditorium where junior editors pitch their nominees to a panel of senior editors, willing her conviction to overcome intimidation, pounding the gavel and insisting, “We must publish this book.”
A chapter excerpt from the book received first prize for narrative nonfiction in a national literary competition. Another chapter excerpt received an award in an international short story competition.
Sometimes nonfiction reads like fiction…and vice versa, I hope.
BOOK PASSAGE FROM THE PROLOGUE, “NO TIME LEFT FOR ME”
I should’ve died in the nursing home where I was supposed to, when Dr. Steiner said I would…four months ago. I was in a safe place called Resthaven where I could hear meadowlarks sing after a spring rain, like at home when I was little. I could’ve died peacefully with my family around me.
But I didn’t.
Mom tried so hard to orchestrate a perfect death… to make up for such an imperfect life. She even slept in the vacant room next to mine so I wouldn’t be alone. After all those years of feeling abandoned, I liked thinking of her being there to comfort me in case I cried out in the night. She called my brothers and sisters home to say good-bye: Brian from college in Boulder, Janis from San Antonio, Nancy from Portland, and David all the way from Australia.
Then I disappointed everyone again, including myself. I guess I wasn’t ready to die. I thought I was. Nancy and Janis were ready for my death. I could tell. For the first time they felt needed in a way they could respond to. They forgave me and were really nice. We smiled a lot and talked easily together… about comfortable things, our childhood and their busy lives. They touched and hugged me, even rubbed my arms and legs to keep me warm. They said, “We won’t leave you Jenny.”
But they did, after I ran away. They had to, of course. They could be with me and comfort me in death, but not in life. They rejoined happiness and left me to resume misery…my choice.
“An important book…Jenny Hendricks’s diary entries speak to us directly without manipulation, but with the plain truth of who she is, and what she perceives about others…a valuable head-start to understanding one anorexic’s personality.”
From Steven Levenkron, psychotherapist and author of The Best Little Girl in the World.
“This book is a cry from the heart of an anguished father who has enriched our understanding of anorexia as described by his remarkable daughter Jenny in the journals she wrote leading up to her death.”
From another anguished father, the late Senator George McGovern, author of Terry: My Daughter’s Life and Death Struggle with Alcoholism . He too knew the pain of a child lost.