Filled with charm and the nostalgia of bygone days, dk’s LeVick’s tale of five boys and their daylong hero’s journey is reminiscent of Steven King’s Stand by Me.
It’s 1962. Five teenagers, bored with small town life in Niagara, make a fateful decision that will end in tragedy. Kevin and his friends Chuck, Wayne, Lennie and Billy, embark on a forbidden adventure. Chuck, the rebel of the group instigates it. Billy, the innocent, gets badgered into it, along with reluctant Kevin. Lennie, a black kid surviving in a racist era, tags along too.
Interspersed with the boys’ day, which gets steadily more harrowing as the book progresses, dk gives us four other tales from Niagara’s long and colorful history.
He begins in 1831 with The Hermit’s Tale: the story of a music prodigy fleeing crowds of adoring fans in Europe to live alone on an island and seek inspiration from the river.
Henry’s Story, set in 1848, touches on the origin of the fall’s reputation as a favorite honeymoon spot and recounts one of the worst disasters in Niagara’s fascinating history.
Lizzie’s Story in 1859 is the moving tale of a young slave’s escape to freedom via the underground railroad. She and her parents are aided by none other than abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whom they know only as Mother.
And lastly, The Drummer Boy’s Tale recounts the struggles between the Iroquois and the English during the early days of England’s domination of North America. A sixteen year old English boy, unwillingly conscripted into the king’s army, is saved from death by an Iroquois boy.
One my favorite threads in this story followed a peacock feather. This talisman makes its long way from Africa to the slave quarters of a plantation in the South. Given as a gift of thanks to a white abolitionist, it becomes the cherished family heirloom of the main character’s father, a racist who has forgotten his family’s proud past.
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Have you ever hiked the gorge you describe so vividly in the novel?
Yes, but not in winter, I’m not crazy like my boys were.
How long did it take you to write Bridges?
Between 2 and 38 years. In September 2008, I had cause to go through some old papers and I came across a short story I had written 36 years earlier. It was 12 typewritten, yellowed pages and was about an old picture of the ice bridge of Niagara Falls I had seen then. Reading it on the floor I grabbed a pencil and immediately started rewriting it. One year to the month and 350 pages later “Bridges” was written. One year and 22 rewrites after that, “Bridges – a Tale of Niagara” was done. So, I guess you could say it took somewhere between 2 and 38 years (although I’m still making edits).
Did you have any help from a writers group?
No. Tried to hook up with a couple of them but it didn’t work. Seems they don’t follow through and work at it and things don’t work without work.
Are the stories within the story true?
Each one is based on real historical events but is fiction built around them. There was a ‘hermit of Niagara’, but the clarinet and reason for isolation was fiction. The water did stop in 1848, but Henry and Sam came from space. There was an underground railroad and Pontiac’s war, but the characters portrayed weren’t there.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
For that particular story – from the picture itself. It’s one I seen in an antique shop once and it started me thinking about it. At the same time I was writing about the 60’s which was the most ‘changing’ decade in our history and the two came together.
Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Well I’m not traditional for certain. Am I self-published? I’m not sure. Langdon Press is a support house but it’s all been on me so I guess I am.
Why did you choose to publish the way you did?
After being encouraged at the writer’s conference, I went out all pumped up and excited ready to meet the writing world. It wasn’t ready to meet me. I had been given two leads at the workshop to pursue, both being for small presses. I ignored them and sent out 49 query letters to agents. 49 rejections later I went back and revisited those small press leads I’d been given and I immediately received a positive response from one and sent in my manuscript. They seemed very interested but then I didn’t hear anything for weeks from them. Following up, I found out they had gone bankrupt. Back to square one, but I now focused on the small presses. Next one showed an interest and took the project on.
Tell us something about yourself most people don’t know.
I grew up in Buffalo – Niagara Falls but never saw Niagara Falls until I was 16.
Here are some links if you’d like to learn more about dk LeVick and his novel: