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Likely Stories - The Guide by Peter Heller

A fisher’s delight for all over the country.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Another of my favorite writers is Peter Heller. His first book, The Dog Stars, immediately captured my mind. More vivid and thrilling stories followed: The Painter, Celine, The River, and now, to my mind, his greatest story to date: The Guide. Peter is a national bestselling author. He holds an MFA from the renowned Iowa Writer’s Conference and lives in Denver Colorado. These novels are not to be forgotten.

The story begins with a prologue. “They gave him a bunk in a cabin by the river. A wooded canyon, spruce, and pine, with rimrock up high, and spurs that tumbled to the water. // Jack dropped his pack on the porch. It was a cool afternoon with high running clouds that tugged their shadows over the canyon. He looked around. The cabin was on the edge of a steep bank in the shadow of the pines, and a staggered rush rose from the creek below and was carried by the sift of wind in the trees. A creek, really. They called it a river, but up this high it was his favorite kind of stream: an easy toss of a stones across and shallow enough in places to wade bank to bank” (3).

“That was the manager, Kurt Jensen, stepping onto the porch and handed him a card with the key code to open the heavy art gage at the head of the drive—two rusted cams that rocked apart with a grinding of heavy chains and cogs that slid thick steel doors etched with leaping trout. // ‘You’ll need to get out, and in.’ // ‘Why do you need a code to open it from the inside?’ // ‘Door’s sticky,’ Kurt said. “I can get you a palm sander tomorrow.’ // Jack said, “Forget it, I’V got a flat file in the truck, should work.’ // If Kurt heard him, he didn’t say. He was already inside” (4).

Chapter One.  “He’d fished the mountains of Colorado all his life, and he had a good idea what bugs would be where. He tied on a dry and a dropper, a tufty elk hair simulator on top and a bead-head pheasant tail on the bottom. Clients loved fishing this rig and he did, too. // He stepped into the icy water, caught his breath at the first clinch of cold. And then he waded in up to hie knees and began to cast.” // The rhythm of it always soothed him. Laying the line out straight over the dark water, the blip of the weighted dropper, the dry fly touching just after, the-- // tuft of the elk hair barely touched and the surface broke. The lightest tug and he set the hook and the rod bent and quivered and a colossal brown trout leapt clear of the water into a spray of sunlight. (13).

Chapter Two.  “That night he dreamed of Wynn. They were fishing a creek together, a creak out of some myth that ran in a braid of silver between two counties: one burned to black, black earth blown with swirls of ash, black stumps charred to daggers and still smoking. And on the other side green woods, lush with late summer, and along the banks tall grass and pink fireweed, the swaying limbs of spruce, and birdsong. The stream ran like a shining cord between them, and they were fishing together.

Peter Heller’ The Guide, is a fisherman’s dream. This story would make a wonderful gift for the trout-lover in your family. 5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a Production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy reading!