On Parson’s Creek
Reviewed By J. Aislynn d’Merricksson for Readers’ Favorite
On Parson’s Creek by Richard Sutton is a story of mystery and intrigue, of myth and legend come to life, and of one boy’s quest for the truth. Jack and his family have moved to a small town nestled in the forest at the feet of the Cascades. Being a curious young man, Jack goes exploring in the forest around his home and stumbles upon a long abandoned mining site. Intrigued by the history, Jack seeks to learn more, but what he finds doesn’t at all match the ‘official’ story gleaned from old newspapers, interviews with townsfolk, and his own knowledge of steam engines. Determined to discover what really happened, Jack digs deeper and deeper. What he finds is something that defies rational explanation, at least as we know it.
Jack is new to the area, a close-knit, rural community. Sutton did a wonderful job of portraying a young man trying to fit into a new school and make friends when he’s seen as an outsider. This doesn’t get easier when he starts snooping in things the locals don’t like talking about. Jack doesn’t find quite all the answers he’s looking for, but then, that’s how life really works, isn’t it? And we, as the reader, are left with a bit of mystery and wonder for we’ve brushed against something that is perhaps better left in shadow and the dancing eddies of time.
Sutton’s On Parson’s Creek pulled me in right from the beginning. I couldn’t put it down. I felt as if I were right there with Jack as he went about his adventures. Great descriptions helped flesh the scenes out, making it easy to ‘live the story.’ I enjoyed it so much that I’ve added this delightful read to my class reading lists so my students have the option of choosing it for an assignment.
“…a very American story, in more ways than one.”
An outstanding new, in-depth review from British author J.S. Watts, reprinted courtesy Clockwise Cat Summer 2015 edition, a progressive magazine of verse, reviews and invective…
It is 1967, the U.S. is waging war in the jungles and forests of Vietnam and young Jack Taylor is having to settle in to yet another new school in yet another new town because his parents are always packing up and moving on, but this time things are slightly different. His family are relocating, no change there, and this time they have moved near Parson’s Creek, deep in the heart of one of America’s own forests, but from day one something isn’t as expected. The deer are behaving oddly and there are strange scents and shadows amongst the trees.
Jack wants to understand what is happening in the woods and in the process he comes across adults who know more than they are saying, old native American myths and more recent tensions, as well as cataclysmic historic accidents. He also has to deal with a first Homecoming Dance date, the ongoing uncertainties of a new school, learning to drive and the fact that not everything in life has clear-cut answers and explanations.
The mysteries deepen as Jack penetrates further into the woods and the locale’s past history, but it is possible that the mystery is, in return, insinuating itself in day to day life (and death).
This is an atmospheric tale for young adults, set deep in the wilderness myths of America. I confess to being well past the young adult stage of my development, but as far as I can tell Sutton’s novel seems well–pitched at its intended audience in terms of tone, style and subject matter. The story is relatively simple, but the underlying explorations of American history and the nation’s relationship to its past (and its present) are intriguing.
Indeed this is a very American novel. Yes, its author, Richard Sutton, is American and yes the story is based in the States in the Cedar forests of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, but it’s more than that. In its woodland/wilderness setting there are echoes back to the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. Given Emerson’s belief that truth could be experienced directly from nature, it’s interesting that one of the more knowledgeable adults says, “there’s lots of different kinds of truth out in the woods, you know?”
Then there is the telling juxtaposition of the forests of Vietnam, (which American troops were defoliating at the time) and the white pioneers’ use (and abuse) of their own forests. Jack’s constantly moving and somewhat dysfunctional family is a reflection of the pioneer’s stated approach to their environment,
“They came in during a time when there was always some other place to go once a place had just been used up… you know? Pioneers. But always having the ability to just pick up and move isn’t always the best way to build a society. Sometimes, you gotta stay…” She seemed at a loss and rested on her elbows while staring at the blotter on her desk.
Then a bell went off in my own head. I knew a phrase my grandfather had used once in my presence. He was a dairy farmer and it seemed perfect for the situation, even if it used a bit of profanity. “You don’t shit where you eat, Mrs. Lynch. Is that what you meant to say?” ”
An approach that contrasts negatively with the long term empathetic approach of the Native American tribes to their environment, which seems more akin to the views of Thoreau and Emerson. Within the book there are also social references to historic and present-day tensions with (and within) the tribes and, of course, the ever-present myth of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, in contrast to references to more modern white settler folk tales such as Casey Jones, who is name checked at least once. All of which serve to make this a very American story, in more ways than one.
On Parson’s Creek by Richard Sutton was published in 2014 by Saille Tales and is available (in both print and eBook formats) from www.sailletales.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.Amazon.com, www.smashwords.com, www.kobobooks.com and many other book sellers
Be sure to read J.S. Watts’ compelling gothic mystery/fantasy novels…
J.S. Watts is a British writer. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. J.S. has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications, as is a subsequent multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her novels, A Darker Moon – a work of literary fiction and dark psychological fantasy and Witchlight – a paranormal tale with a touch of romance, are published by Vagabondage press. Her second novel, Witchlight, is due out in Spring 2015. For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk
# # # #
New, Great Review from Retro-Fortean Blogger…
“Here is a retro-Fortean novel with a difference. It wasn’t written in the 1960s, and it isn’t a pastiche of the 60s style. But it’s set in the 60s, and it takes the reader back to a time when the subject of Bigfoot was a lot newer and fresher than it is today. On Parson’s Creek, written by Richard Sutton last year, is told from the present-day perspective of a grandfather recalling events that took place when he was a teenager in 1967. The book probably isn’t as well known among cryptozoologists as it ought to be, because it’s marketed as a Young Adult novel – aimed at readers the same age as the protagonist was when the events occurred. But I found the book equally gripping, even though I was closer to that age in 1967 than I am today!
On Parson’s Creek is a very clever story, and a refreshing change from all the usual clichés of Bigfoot fiction. The basic concept of the novel sets two major challenges for the author, which he then proceeds to solve in a surprisingly effortless way (it surprised me, anyhow).
The first big challenge is the 1960s setting. Of course, that does simplify things in some ways, because there was far less cultural baggage associated with Bigfoot then than there is today – no childishly bickering squatchers versus skeptics, no endless cycle of student hoaxes on YouTube, no urban legends, no internet memes. “Reality TV” is mentioned in the initial framing scene, while the main story refers to Ivan Sanderson’s book on the Yeti and the Patterson-Gimlin film (which was brand new at the time)… but that’s it. Aside from that, the protagonist has a clean slate to work with, free from socio-cultural preconceptions.
So why do I say the 60s setting is a challenge for the writer? It’s obvious if you think about it. Despite all the reality shows and YouTube videos, Bigfoot is just as much a mystery today as it was then. So we know, from our present-day perspective, that the story can’t end with the public outing of Bigfoot as a giant bipedal hominid (which would be the standard ending for a story set in the present or near-future). So how does On Parson’s Creek end? With my limited imagination, I could only think of two rather disappointing outcomes: either the supposed Bigfoot sightings would turn out to be a Scooby-Doo style hoax, designed to keep inquisitive teenagers from discovering criminal activity of some form or another, or the whole thing would end with a vague, open question: Was it Bigfoot or wasn’t it? I’m pleased to say, though, that Richard Sutton manages to come up with a more satisfying resolution than either of those!
The other challenge becomes apparent in the first pages of the novel. This is a hyper-realistic narrative, not a work of escapist fiction. To be honest, this put me off a bit at first. As regular readers will be aware, I have very little patience with anything except escapist fiction! But again, the author makes it work, and it’s the avoidance of all the usual escapist tropes that gives the novel its impressively fresh feel. The protagonist doesn’t just plunge straight into a search for Bigfoot, which then occupies him single-mindedly for a few days before reaching a dramatic climax. Yes, he investigates local Bigfoot rumours – not just by physical exploration but by talking to people and reading books – but it’s something he does on and off, over a period of months, in between other more mundane activities. There are other local mysteries, too – such as forgotten industrial relics and decades-old tragedies no-one wants to talk about – which may or may not have a connection with Bigfoot. Perhaps the most “realistic” aspect (for anyone who can remember being a frustrated teenager) is the way all the adults tell conflicting accounts of the same events – all with equal apparent sincerity!
There are a number of subplots running through the novel, including one relating to the protagonist’s fascination with Newtonian physics. This sits rather awkwardly with the broader narrative, but it really appealed to me because I too was a big fan of Isaac Newton as a teenager. And I still am… my book Pocket GIANTS: Isaac Newton is out tomorrow!”
Andrew May, author, thinker, publisher: fully-engaged brain
Retro-Forteana Blog: http://forteana-blog.blogspot.com/search/label/Cryptozoology
The paperback version is now available!
“An engrossing read from start to finish, the story has suspense, mystery, old half-told tales, recognizable ‘facts’ and interspersed with some teenage angst.”
Five Stars from Reviewer Chris Graham
On Parson’s Creek is now available in paperback on Amazon and your favorite booksellers sites and stores. It’s also available for Kindle on Amazon, in all eBook formats on Smashwords, and all your other favorite booksellers including those on the street!
Recommended for 16+ YA readers.
# # # #
In a perfect world, I suppose the baggage we carry around from childhood onward, wouldn’t affect our adult lives. You know the stuff: unanswered questions, perceived slights, actual emotional injuries, those times when you are deeply disappointed in yourself. They all pile up, higher and higher. By the time we’ve begun living an adult life, they may be pushed to the back of our consciousness, only affecting our waking lives in sneaky, devious ways. Once we sleep, though, they can have a field day with our dreams, which is something that most writers can use to their advantage. Nothing in my experience, can kick a muse into action and story-sparking, as well as a nice jolt from old memory.
In that blissful, perfect world, a writer can cheerily pursue engrossing series of books to hold and entertain their readers, without any distractions, but we all know that is only an optimist’s dream. Sometimes a story just pushes right in, without any consideration for any projects on the table. On Parson’s Creek was like that. The first draft was completed in less than a full month, last year. The target reader was selected by the voice of the story and the material. It wasn’t my choice at all. I’m calling it a Young Adult (Age 15 to 18) Mystery read, but it is probably for the more sophisticated young adult reader.
Adult readers too may enjoy this story, set all the way back in the ancient age of 1967, when a teenage loner, plays the new kid again, in a tiny, Oregon Cascades logging town. It’s a town with some secrets, though. The teenager, Jack Taylor, just can’t keep himself from asking questions and taking long walks in the ancient cedar groves near his new home. He’ll find more questions than answers and at the end of his sleuthing, will any of the answers he finds be truth? It might not matter at all, or it might matter a great deal. This question becomes part of Jack’s lifelong baggage and it will be up to the reader to answer it completely.
On Parson’s Creek is available for Kindle on Amazon, for Nook on B&N and in all eBook formats on Smashwords. A print version will follow by October first on Amazon and B&N. Watch here for interview Q&A, comments from writing partners and beta readers. There is something lurking in those woods, after all.
ARCs: Free review copies are available for download from Smashwords. Please email your requests to infoatsailletalesdotcom for your coupon.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to a formatting issue with the conversion software, some sections of text have been reported to show underscoring. Brand new revised editions of all versions have been uploaded to both Amazon KDP, to B&N and also to Smashwords. Hopefully this has, after checking several times, been corrected in the new revision. Please download new, free copies of the book. I’m so sorry for your inconvenience.
UPDATE: It was an issue in Word. I hate the program, so I use it in a bare-bones manner, but it seems I inadvertently toggled the “track changes” switch., so that despite changes appearing to have been made on screen, they weren’t actually saved. This goes back two versions at least. I’m in the process of updating the entire document to make all the editing corrections that were dropped. I hope this nails it down. Again, please accept my apology for the trouble, and please download the new version as soon as I’ve given the all-clear signal here.
# # # #
The Print cover…