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Formats
Hardcover Book Details
  • 11/2022
  • 9781737322870
  • 382 pages
  • $29.00
Shadow Valley
It’s 1988 and Heath Walker, who spent most of his life in group homes, bartends and sells weed to keep the lights on for his ailing foster mom. When Heath meets and quickly falls for the brazen and beautiful Rori Burke at his bar, he kicks off a series of events that leave both his mother and a cop dead, and Rori’s father—a crooked small-town police chief—on their trail. As the young couple tears away on their journey from Santa Cruz communes to cartel territory in Baja, Heath carries with him a ring that may hold the answers to what he’s been searching for his whole life: the identity of his real parents: a retired Mercenary and AWOL CIA Agent. As Heath and Rori’s journey grows ever more perilous, Heath not only has to stay one step ahead of Burke and the cartel, but begins to question why he is so surprisingly good at hurting the dangerous people who cross his path, and whether he is really any different than the men hunting him. Finally, south of the border, all of Heath and Rori’s past and present demons converge, bringing Heath closer than he’ll ever know to the Angel of Death who wears his same ring.
Reviews
Poet and surfer Wolf makes his fiction debut with this ambitious ‘80s West Coast lovers-on-the-run thriller, an odyssey of blood and bullets, cartel killers and crooked cops, all centered on Heath and Rori, a pair of young Californians with bleak family lives who aren’t quite sure what they’re living for before they discover each other. Their relationship is born in warmth and empathy, qualities rare in their world, with Rori taking an interest in Heath’s sick mother. It’s also born in barroom violence, a dust-up with Central Valley bikers scored, in Heath’s vivid narration, to e.e. cummings.

That vital blend of connection, passion, brutality, and poetry powers the novel that follows, which finds the pair immediately on the run in Heath’s Crown Vic—turns out that biker whose head Heath cracked open was “connected.” Wolf invests this classic setup with tenderness and terror, a romantic’s love of doomed heroes trying to outrun their pasts, and a deep love of his milieu, as his leads, thrilled to be shaken out of their lives, relish the “new world” they share together. One glittering passage finds them taking time to ride an iconic Santa Cruz roller coaster, rising above the fog line to behold “the soft churn of white from the waves crashing over the black, shadowy shore.” Passages about surfing, sailing, cocaine, and downing shots at a beach dive bar boast that same pared-down lyricism, finding beauty in life without overstating it.

This is a thriller, though, with the threat of violence sharpening every reverie. The chatter and scheming of killers, cartel chiefs, and others hunting (and eventually setting a trap) for Heath and Rori is always sharply etched, but scenes without the leads lack the electric connection that powers the novel, settling instead into good crime writing rather than something more transcendent. The ending, though, is killer … and surprisingly heartening.

Takeaway: This epic late 80s Cali noir thriller finds lovers on the lam, seizing life in the face of death.

Great for fans of: Kem Nunn’s Tapping the Source, Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Formats
Hardcover Book Details
  • 11/2022
  • 9781737322870
  • 382 pages
  • $29.00

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