We have a friend who has regularly suggested, that as we get older, she, my wife and I, retire to the Med or Devon and Cornwall and buy an old farm or a couple of connected villas and live in a sort of Commune…. If you were born in the fifties or sixties, then Commune’s were not so much a fad, as an accepted part and parcel of the era of free love. They were the equivalent of our Spa retreat, although you didn’t nip off down to an exclusive hotel in the country to have a deep tissue massage and a Bellini. You smoked weed, drank, tried to live a more simpler life, maybe even walked around naked. I don’t think our friend has aspirations of us doing that (not the naked part anyway), just to live a quieter life away from the rat race in a place where the cost of living and climate is easier on the pocket and aching bones. This month’s first book review involves a commune and the after effect of what went on there back in the sixties. Its Coyote Fork by James Wilson and was published by Slant Books (www.slantbooks.com) in September.
Seasoned British travel writer Robert Lovelace is sent to California to write a piece on social media giant Global Village and its founder Evan Bone, who has just bought up the newspaper Robert works for. Lovelace is disturbed when he sees a colleague who should be in the UK, in a parking lot, shortly after arriving in the states. But when he goes after her she disappears, only to discover later,that at the same time her saw her, she has taken her life in the UK, after being trolled by Global Villages members. Following a trail of old friends of Evan Bone, and finding out about the disappearance of a local native American, Robert finds himself dragged into a mystery surrounding the Tech Moguls past and the mysterious Coyote Fork commune. As his travels take him from San Francisco to the Midwest and eventually to the site of the commune in Northern California, can he elude the reach of social media which seem to follow his every move and get to the truth behind what happened at Coyote Fork?
With all that’s been going on in the US this week. I, as well as quite a few others could’ve done with heading off to a commune or at least needed some sort of distraction to take us away from the 24-7 furore engulfing every news channel around the world. I felt sorry for James Wilson’s thriller, having to compete with the madness which is transfixing the planet not just now but in 2020 in general. But Coyote Fork does go some-way to competing. In less chaotic times, it would have held me gripped from page one, but in these fraught days, I was loosely engaged, from the first half of the book until Wilson threw in a few well placed grenades in the second half to ramp up the pace and pressure on his hero.
The plot is credible, and the setting and writing lovely. Having not been to California for ten years, and had my planned trip to the states this year postponed due to the Pandemic, any thoughts of long distant travel especially to a Covid hotbed like the States are gone for at least another 12 months. This was a decent panacea, with a likeable main character in the form of Robert Lovelace and a believable support cast, plus the smouldering threat of Big Brother, in the form of social media, looking over your shoulder, which helps build the both hero’s and reader’s paranoia .
This is English author James Wilson’s seventh book (www.jameswilsonauthor.com) he’s written six other novels The Dark Clue (2001), The Bastard Boy (2004), The Woman In The Picture (2006), Consolation (2008), The Summer Of Broken Stories (2015) and a book of narrative non-fiction The Earth Shall Weep : A History Of Native America (1998). Which won The Myers “Outstanding Book” award. Wilson has also written for TV and radio and now lives in South London.
Like the smell of burning wood which hangs over northern California from nearby forest fires in the latter stages of book. We may still have to contend with the lingering diatribe and odious tweets of a recalcitrant Bigot in the White House for another couple of months. But as we head toward Christmas and see what type of weird , Covid restricted, festive season we have, this book would be an ideal escape, maybe paired with a nice glass of Californian wine.
So, head down to your local bookshop, in these economically restricted times and keep it local (or click and collect from them). Then join Robert Lovelace in a race across the Midwest to unearth the dark secrets of Coyote Fork.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This Blog is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.