A great price on Lincoln Perry e-books! $2.99 for a limited time

For the month of August, St. Martin’s Press is doing a special promotional price on e-book versions of the Lincoln Perry novels “Tonight I Said Goodbye” (first in the series) and “A Welcome Grave.” They are just $2.99 on all e-readers. “Tonight I Said Goodbye” was nominated for the Edgar Award and won the Private Eye Writers of America prize for best first novel and the Great Lakes Book Award. “A Welcome Grave” was nominated for the Quill, Shamus, and Barry awards. Check them out at a great price!

Interviews abound as PROPHET release week begins

Michael is on the road this week for THE PROPHET. Please check the “events” page to see if he is in a city near you! Remember that signed and personalized copies are available via mail-order from Murder by the Book, Poisoned Pen, Mystery One, and Big Hat Books. Phone numbers for the stores are available on the events page. Please call and reserve your signed, inscribed copy from these great independent bookstores! 

In the meantime, a few early articles about THE PROPHET:

Author Michael Koryta to visit Rocky River Public Library in support of new novel

Published: Thursday, August 02, 2012, 12:02 PM Updated: Thursday, August 02, 2012, 12:05 PM
Eric Sandy, Sun News By Eric Sandy, Sun NewsSun News
MIchael KorytaView full sizeMichael Koryta

With a new thriller fresh off the presses, author Michael Koryta is looking forward to talking with crime fiction fans and avid readers at an upcoming event in Rocky River.
“The Prophet” is a 400-page novel that filters the story of two estranged brothers through the shocking aftermaths of two violent crimes.
While the story reflects the author’s longstanding literary focus on gritty crime and the pain it inflicts on ordinary people, it also is one that’s been building in Koryta’s thought process for years, influenced by a tragedy his family experienced in Cleveland decades ago.
“You’re never guaranteed that you’re going to have another day with someone,” he said, offering a sobering insight into the horrors of crime.
Koryta began writing as a young boy, idolizing wordsmiths of all styles. His career first brought him to work as a reporter for the Herald Tribune in Bloomington, Ind. Early experiences as a news writer helped shape his professional foray into fiction and novels, he said. Both in terms of writing on a deadline and researching the facts of life around him, Koryta has taken what he learned in one career and employed it in another.
“That was invaluable — the chance to be an observer in a lot of different worlds,” he said.
For instance, when he decided mid-way through writing “The Prophet” that one character should be a high school football coach rather than a priest, Koryta spent time hanging out with the coaching staff of a local high school team in Bloomington.
But geographically speaking, his writing references places much closer to home for West Shore Sun readers. His novels are often set in Cleveland or other Northeast Ohio locales.
In fact, Koryta’s research into the world of crime and police procedure brought him into contact with Sgt. George Lichman of the Rocky River Police Department. Lichman had read several of Koryta’s books and offered to talk shop with him.
“He has become a good friend. He’s an incredibly bright guy and he reads voraciously,” Koryta said, adding that Lichman is one of the very few people he’ll trust with an early read of his books.
Koryta will host a book signing and launch event at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Rocky River Public Library, 1600 Hampton Road.
“It’s always fun to be in Cleveland. It feels like coming home,” he said.
The event is free and open to all. Barnes and Noble will ensure that copies of Koryta’s books are available for sale.

Gritty gridiron: Local author’s latest novel has family strife, murder, football

By Laura GleasonSpecial to the H-T
August 5, 2012, last update: 8/5 @ 12:52 am

Novelist Michael Koryta, photographed in downtown Bloomington in late July, divides his time between his hometown and St. Petersburg, Fla. His ninth and newest book, “The Prophet,” set in small-town Ohio, is out Tuesday. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

North head coach Scott Bless celebrates the Cougar win after the Bloomington South vs. North football game at Bloomington High School South on Sept. 9, 2011. Author Michael Koryta shadowed Bless for his new novel, “The Prophet,” out this week. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

BLOOMINGTON — The quiet man hanging out with the Bloomington High School North football team last year was not a scout, nor a parent or a lackluster assistant coach. He was Michael Koryta, a Bloomington native and bestselling mystery writer, doing research for his latest novel, “The Prophet,” which comes out Tuesday.The premise for the novel sprouted from a theme that Koryta had been wanting to tackle for a long time. He wanted to write a story about brothers torn apart, their relationship essentially severed, with football as a backdrop, he said during a recent interview at a downtown coffeehouse. Koryta approached his childhood friend Tyler Abel, the offensive coordinator at Bloomington High School North, to ask if he might be able to shadow head football coach Scott Bless.“It’s sort of a sentimental attachment, but they’re also playing the best football in town. When I was at North I don’t think we scored a point against South,” Koryta said. (That memory is correct, with North losing the four games from 1997 through 2000 — the author graduated in 2001 — by a cumulative score of 185-0.)Following footballKoryta, who is just shy of 30 years old and recently married, spent a year shadowing the team, focusing on the lives of the coaches. “I end up finding different worlds than I ever would have without the books; that’s one of the great blessings of what I do,” he said.Bless found Koryta’s presence fun and enriching. “It’s not every day that high school coaches and football players get to spend time with an author, so I thought it was a great cultural experience,” he said.It was also intriguing to see his professional life reflected through Koryta’s eyes in the pages of “The Prophet.”“Our coaching staff is very close and we’re around each other so much, so we probably think alike. So when someone spends time examining what you do, it kind of gives you a little perspective on it, and that’s really enjoyable,” Bless said.Staying connectedDuring his months of research, Koryta became very close with the North football community. “One of the things I’ve discovered is that once I get involved in one of these places for research, I find it very hard to walk away from them,” Koryta said. He frequently still attends Bloomington North football-related events, just as he continues to participate in rescues with the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, where he did much of the research for a previous novel, “The Ridge.” “The Prophet,” called “‘Friday Night Lights’ meets ‘In Cold Blood’” by Kirkus, the online review site, is a return to crime writing. Koryta had delved into supernatural fiction — “So Cold the River,” set in French Lick, featured ghosts. “The Prophet” instead deals with ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and has been praised for its intricate plot. Back when Koryta was a student at North, he was already writing prolifically, intent on becoming a well-known crime novelist. When asked for advice he might offer to young writers, Koryta said it’s important to focus on learning the craft.“When you raise your skill level to a certain point, the audience will be there. If you chase the audience before you worry about getting better, you’re going about it backward,” he said.Help from HammelHaving a mentor can aid the process. Bob Hammel, then a Herald-Times sports writer, began serving this function for Koryta when the writer was 16 and interning at the newspaper.“He handed me something, and I couldn’t resist putting some marks on it,” said Hammel, now retired.“I had the impression that he might be one of those real cocky kids who thinks everything he does is gold, so I marked that first paper up pretty severely. I didn’t know if I would see him again, but not only did he come back, he wrote a whole new paper, incorporating all the changes right away. It was very impressive,” Hammel said.The mentoring relationship continued for years, and Koryta still sends Hammel manuscripts of his books before they are published. “I would probably be on my second published novel by this age if not for Bob Hammel, but instead I’m on nine, because of the time he spent teaching me,” Koryta said.All but one of his novels, including “The Prophet,” are being considered for film and TV projects right now. Koryta has partnered with writer and director Scott Peters to create a television series based on “The Ridge.” Peters is currently one of the directors of “Burn Notice.” And “The Prophet,” set in small-town Ohio, has been acquired by producer Nick Wechsler (“The Player,” “The Road”), with writer Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) set to adapt. “It’s really exciting,” Koryta said.When asked about his next project, Koryta’s answer is cryptic. “It’s going to be my wilderness feel-good story, like (James Dickey’s 1970 novel) ‘Deliverance.’ That’s the way I describe it.”


Meet MichaelWriter and Bloomington native Michael Koryta will read from and sign copies of his new novel, “The Prophet,” at two area locations this week. He’ll be at Bloomington’s Barnes & Noble, 2813 E. Third St., 7 p.m. Wednesday. And Koryta will visit Big Hat Books, 6510 Cornell Ave., in Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple neighborhood, 6 p.m. Thursday. See www.michaelkoryta.com for more.

Nationally known author’s creative roots are planted in Cleveland soil

 
Detective novelist Michael Koryta may have grown up in Bloomington, Ind., but his storytelling inspiration flowered in Cleveland.
“My extended family is from Cleveland. Both of my parents grew up on the west side. My dad was born and raised on Clark Avenue, and my mother lived on Chatfield, near Rocky River Drive and Lorain Road,” said Koryta, during a recent phone interview. He will be visiting the Rocky Public Library on Tuesday at 7 p.m. talking about his latest book “The Prophet” and his Cleveland connections, which include Rocky River police sergeant George Lichman, who will introduce Koryta.

“I absolutely love Cleveland,” continued Koryta, who, in the process of packing for a move, has been reminded that this love, as well as a flair for writing, goes back a number of years. “It was interesting to see every story that I started to write from the time I was 8 years old all took place in Cleveland.”
He added that his favorite setting is the corner of Rocky River Drive and Lorain Road, better known to westsiders as “Kamm’s Corners.”

This inspiration came from the many holidays and school breaks spent visiting family here. “My friends would head for the beaches of Florida and I would head for the beaches of Lake Erie instead,” recalled Koryta, adding that instead of being disappointed, he stored up family tales to use as threads to weave through his novels.

“Part of being around family when you’re young is hearing stories and telling stories. Storytelling is paramount to the relationships I’ve had,” he said. Koryta especially remembers walking around the Clark Avenue area with his father and grandparents further nurturing his “storytelling roots.”

Aside from the family connection, Koryta said he was drawn to Cleveland’s atmosphere as a perfect setting for his detective novels. “I was always such a fan of detective novels and movies which are usually set in an urban environment. There’s something about Cleveland from the architecture and the bridges to the feel of the neighborhoods and the history that just felt very noir,” he recalled.
His interest in detective work led Koryta to a high school independent study project under the mentorship of noted private investigator Don Johnson. The study led to part-time, then full-time work as a private investigator.

With the writing muse still calling, Koryta got a part-time job with a Bloomington newspaper writing sports, features, columns and the police beat. “There’s nothing that prepares you more for trying to make a living as a writer than learning how to turn things around on a deadline,” said Koryta of the experience.

Transitioning between the factual world of journalism to fiction was not difficult for Koryta. “The jump is not hard. I’ve been trying to write fiction since I was a kid,” said Koryta, who observed that writing news stories actually recharged his fiction writing. In fact, he said his fellow reporters were “stunned” that he would work at the newspaper all day, then go home and write some more.

“For me it was such a different mental mechanism. It didn’t feel at all like what I’d been doing all day. It’s always been fun,” he stated.

After his early novels were published about five years ago, Koryta’s West Shore connections strengthened through his friendship with Lichman, who talked about their meeting. “His first few books were fabulous, so after I read them, I emailed him and told him I was a police officer and asked if he was interested in getting together the next time he was in town.”

The two met, and Lichman gave Koryta a tour of the Cuyahoga County jail and other points of interest. “Ever since then we’ve gotten together when he’s in town,” said Lichman who has assisted Koryta with his questions about Ohio legal issues.

“It’s so amazing to see than creative spark,” said Lichman.

“When a resource like that is offered, you’d be really foolish not to use it,” commented Koryta.

Recalling his first meeting with Lichman, Koryta added, “From that point on, George has not just been a big help with the books, but has become a really dear friend. He has a really special mind.”

Because of his love for writing, Koryta said there is not much self-discipline involved for him to get behind the keyboard. “That’s like asking where you find the discipline to eat ice cream every day,” he said with a laugh.

Aside from reading, Koryta advised aspiring writers to continually hone their craft. “It’s really important to get a draft done, then work on improving your craft. It’s easy now to get lost in epublications and things like that. Keep improving the craft and those things will come.”

An interview with Dean Koontz, author of ODD APOCALYPSE…and a few other bestsellers you might have heard of.

Had the true privilege of doing an author-to-author interview with the great Dean Koontz. Talk about a guy who can make you feel bad about your work ethic! It was an honor to have him take a little time out of those legendary 80-hour work weeks (he is NOT exaggerating on this, I assure you, the man is always writing) to answer a few questions. And we have a lot of fun with it, so I hope you’ll check out the interview. It was awfully hard to limit it to 10 questions.

My interview of Dean is here.

Dean’s interview of me is here.

The new volume in the Odd Thomas series might be my favorite yet. Highly recommended.

Come visit at Book Expo

BEA is open to the public for the first time, or so we are told, so come on down for Coffee With Koryta (really, this is what it is called, I’m not sure what it entails, but I’m guessing coffee) at the Javitz Center in New York on Thursday. Details below.

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM ET
BOOK EXPO AMERICA 2012
Coffee with Koryta In-Booth Signing
HBG Booth 3627
Jacob K. Javits Center

And if you are one of those people who, you know, prefers to meet quality writers, you can STILL see Michael Koryta, cleverly disguised as someone who belongs with the following: Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, and Brad Meltzer. (Noted: I haven’t told anyone I’m joining this panel, but they’ll be fine with it. Trust me. They’ll be fine. Nobody will call security). On Wednesday:

2:30 PM to 3:15 PM ET BOOK EXPO AMERICA 2012
Panel with Meltzer, Connelly and DeMille
Javits Center- 655 W 34th St
The Downtown Stage
New York, NY 10001
Contact: Sabrina Callahan

Nelson DeMille, Brad Meltzer, Michael Connelly and Michael Koryta on a panel moderated by Skip Prichard, President & Chief Executive Officer of Ingram

If you can’t attend either of these events, fear not, I’ll shame myself on a taped interview or two as well.

A few new covers…

New editions of SO COLD THE RIVER, THE CYPRESS HOUSE, and THE RIDGE will be out in June, July and September respectively. Take a look at the covers. I love them all, but there’s no question that THE RIDGE is my favorite. Really like to see the West Baden Springs Hotel image captured on the cover of SO COLD THE RIVER as well…

A personal request

Below is a short, personal parody I wrote of a camping trip I took with friends a year and a half ago. We hiked across the Beartooths (they’re plural, and it is tooths, don’t argue with me) in Montana, a truly incredible trip and great experience. Along the way was a friend named Bob Bley, and in my parody account I captured something close to the reality — he was in far better shape than any of us, with far better poise and trail skills and every quality you’d want in a fellow outdoorsman. He’d crossed the Atlantic in a two-man sailboat, biked the Canadian Rockies, hiked the Alps twice. You know, little things. He was planning more adventures. Then came a spring bike ride near his home, a slip in wet sand, an impact so powerful it shattered his helmet.

And left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Bob is in the mix for the opportunity to win a handicap accessible van right now, one that he could dearly use. Like everyone else in the mix, of course. So I’ll share that link

http://www.nmeda.com/mobility-awareness-month/heroes/indiana/bloomington/826/bob-bley

and share my memories of a great trip with him, and encourage you to go to the site and vote — if not for Bob, then for whatever story moves you the most. That’s what he’s encouraging, I know. It’s certainly worth your time. Use promo code 967 to get five votes.

With thanks,

Michael

Bounce Across The Beartooths, September, 2010:
The daily log of an intrepid expedition.

Day One:
Easton and I are met in Minneapolis by the third of our four-man party, Captain Bob Bley. He mentions that his real first name is William, but that he changed it after “some issues with subordinates on a little trip we took once.”
In Minneapolis, our first delay is encountered, and Bley and Easton wisely counsel that it should be viewed as an opportunity for provisions. Thus several pints of provisions are consumed.

Following the flight into Billings, a rental Tahoe is procured and we begin the final leg of our engine-aided portion. Why we are not using engines for the entire trip, I cannot imagine. Captain Bley handles the wheel and we get our first glimpse of the Beartooths – visible in all their majesty for as many as eleven feet in front of the vehicle before disappearing into the blowing snow. A fine sign. Bley and I discuss the group’s readiness for such weather and arrive at a similar conclusion: it would be best to leave wills and testaments behind.

We clear the pass and arrive in Silver Gate just after six, where we find our host and commander, Mike Hefron, missing and the door to his cabin locked. Fortunately, he left no note. After admiring the beautiful sight of our breath fogging in the air for a time, we venture back into town in search of our commander. Unable to locate him, we determine that it is a fine chance to stock up on provisions. The Miner’s Saloon is our first stop, and all of the lights are off. It is unclear whether this is a power outage or simply a courtesy to those who dine on the Miner’s cuisine. We settle for a few bottles of provisions and then return to the cabin.
This time our commander is present. While he cooks us a light meal of 48-ounce strip steaks, he informs us that all supplies in the cabin are to be cleared before he leaves for the winter, including the contents of the beer fridge. Easton and I exchange a confident nod, knowing for the first time that Hefron has indeed called upon the right team for this mission. Easton has been training for months by drinking beer with sandbags on his back.

Day Two: We rise to a beautiful dawn, and I imagine the radiant sunlight could be seen for miles if not for the sleet and clouds. Having just had a large dinner, we settle for a light breakfast of a dozen eggs, seven pounds of pepper bacon, two loaves of toast, and a dairy farm’s supply of butter. Properly energized, a journey is made to see our outfitter, Jay, who apparently is nicknamed Jesus. I think this more than a good sign, as survival will clearly require the hand of the divine.

While Easton and Bley and I purchase our final goods (Jay has not the faintest idea of the prices of his own equipment, but he is willing to accept small amounts of cash for them, though he views the pieces of green paper curiously and would clearly rather barter for pelts and beads) Hefron learns how to assemble his pack. And then another pack. Before going back to the first pack. Or maybe it was the third. After a time, it becomes hard to keep track. Bley and I stand together at the window and watch as the day warms and the beautiful sleet turns to gorgeous hail.

Our outfitting complete, Jay wishes us well and assures us that the trip will be a wonderful time. Hefron, remarkably, seems to believe him, but I am able to detect a powerful sorrow in Jay’s gaze, perhaps because he knows he will never see us alive again, perhaps because he has traded perfectly good equipment for strange green pieces of paper.

We return to the cabin and ready our packs. With careful gear selection and wise choices on what to leave behind (one of the three sinks and the recliner) we get our packs down to an easily managed 230 pounds each.

Our final day at base camp concludes with a light five-course meal at the Log Cabin (also owned and operated by Jesus Jay). I am initially surprised to see that Bley orders yet another steak, but in conversation he reveals that he ordinarily burns 17,000 calories per day, done through a simple routine of 200-mile bicycle rides, log-rolling, and trapeze work.

We return to the cabin, where Easton and I continue to assist on emptying the beer fridge, reassuring Commander Hefron and Captain Bley that when given a task we will pursue it with dogged determination.

Day Three: To my deep horror, I wake to discover that the other three are actually intending to go on the hike. Perhaps they do not understand what this entails: hiking. With packs. And sleeping in tents. On the ground. And then hiking again.

We set out from the Clark’s Fork trailhead, and initially all seems well, as my perfectly balanced pack manages to keep my feet from actually touching the ground and allows me to move along using the vertebrae instead. Then, disaster: the trail begins to move on a strange incline. We take our first break, bewildered, and discuss the unanticipated appearance of an uphill slope on a mountain trail. I vote for giving up and turning back, as the Tahoe is only nine strides behind us and I believe I can make it that far before darkness, but I am overruled.

We march on, and Captain Bley casually mentions that he once crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a small boat with one other man. No, really. Bley has crossed the ocean in a two-man boat. Easton and I crossed Lake Monroe once, but it can’t really be considered a two-man effort since the guy who towed us had something to do with it.

The farther we hike, the steeper the trail becomes. Fortunately, Hefron is able to intimidate the slopes with spectacular shows of profanity, and they yield enough to let us pass. He sets the pace, and Bley follows, usually walking on his hands to increase the degree of difficulty. He is concerned because his heart rate has not moved from its standard resting rate of 30. I walk third in line, which is troubling because being wedged in the middle reduces the likelihood that I will be allowed to wander off the trail, fall to my knees, and wait for death.

I am overwhelmed by fatigue, and try to distract myself by engaging Bley into conversation, asking if he has ever hiked before. He mentions that he once crossed the Alps while blindfolded and carrying a canoe, but reassures me that “no, don’t feel bad, this trip is hard for me, too.” I would have an easier time believing him were I not slung over his shoulder at the time.

Following lunch we continue to climb. And climb. And climb. Initially, I attempt to gauge the elevation changes through the numbers on the topographic map, but then I determine that it is simpler to use Hefron’s sliding scale: the more profane adjectives (or verbs) attached to the word “mountain,” the greater its height.

We pause a few times along the trail, and at one point Bley and Easton are kind enough to prop me up onto a rock for a photograph so that it will appear as if I, too, have been walking. If they have tired of carrying me yet, they have not said anything.

We reach a campsite just past Ouzel Lake, which would be a lovely spot to spend the night if protected by four walls and a roof. Easton and I set up camp and prepare to lift the food bag to protect it from bears, using a simple technique involving seven trees, 600 feet of parachute cord, a camp saw and two guns. Things are going along just fine and we’ve hardly been at it for two hours before Bley wanders down and observes that the bag has been hoisted nine inches off the ground and is still at risk of being plundered by moles. He then suggests a technique using one tree branch, fifteen feet of rope, and thirty seconds of preparation. Easton and I exchange a bemused shake of our heads, as the man clearly thinks all of this is as simple as crossing the ocean in a 30-foot boat, but we know that it will be good for camp morale if the rubes are allowed to feel useful and involved, and so we decide to use his method just this once.

After dinner, we relax by the fire. Commander Hefron has demonstrated faint traces of fatigue at times, but he quickly buoys himself with analgesics and returns to form. He mentions that our outfitter, Jesus Jay, has just been married, and Bley asks if there are plans for any little jesuits. With our keen wits, it takes Easton and I only 39 minutes to get this joke and begin to laugh. Hefron takes the opportunity to do a bit of wondering aloud about religious theory.

We retire to our tents after the campfire burns down, and I am relieved by the knowledge that hypothermia is a silent killer and I should go peacefully in the night. Easton and I have shrewdly positioned our tent on a 70-degree decline, which allows us to slide gracefully into the foot of the tent throughout the night, thus helping to build a higher degree of warmth and keep the muscles limber. It’s working perfectly until I make the mistake of beginning my backstroke with the wrong arm and feel a neck tendon shear in half. Fortunately, this is where my pack strap will rest for the remainder of the trip.

In the other tent, Hefron carries on a fascinating, albeit hostile, dialogue with various zippers. Bley, exhausted from the rigorous day, performs only 5,000 jumping jacks before going to sleep. It is a wise choice – for the remainder of the night, their tent is filled with the sound of what is clearly an enraged grizzly and the occasional bugling moose. Bley insists this is only Hefron snoring. He has surprising wit.

Day Four: I am dejected to wake, having felt certain that death’s soothing hand would come for me in the night. Easton and I lower the bear bag, laughing at the absurd simplicity of Bley’s design, which allows the bag to be dropped from the tree without the use of even a single catapult. The temperature could not be lovelier; at times, when the wind drops to 50 miles per hour, it must reach nearly 0. Easton prepares for breakfast by boiling water, and it occurs to me that dipping my feet into the pot might warm my toes. Sadly, it causes the water to freeze instead.

The initial portion of this day’s trek is discouragingly vertical. I detect a new variation on Hefron’s altitude assessment formula: lack of creativity joined with redundancy = steepest slope. “This f&^%* up is f&^&^ up.”

The trail here is at least three inches in width, sometimes four, but with the night’s snow melting over the loose rocks it isn’t quite as safe it appears. The ascent is steep and the altitude makes the climb more difficult. Even Bley is affected; his heart rate has soared to 42.

While the others hike, I work on perfecting a technique known as the stumger, a unique personalized hybrid of the stumble and the stagger, designed to put maximum stress on the knees and ankles. It appears to working magnificently. Bley mentions that he recently completed a 3,000-mile bike ride through the Canadian Rockies and into California. It would be nice if he’d keep his mind on the intense difficulty of the task at hand, as these 26.5 miles won’t hike themselves.

Easton, still guarding the rear of the expedition from mountain lions, bears, and apparently the threat of insurgent combatants, routinely stops to pick up the jackets, water bottles, and food that fall from my pack. Eventually, I grow frustrated with his repeated hindering of my efforts to dump weight and give up that approach. Easton has shown remarkable strength throughout the journey, and I finally discover the source: he consumes a Power Bar every nine minutes.

After a pause for lunch, Hefron reveals that the “Bounce across the Beartooths” was not a nickname for the trip but a plan. I suspect, after the second rib breaks, it is a plan he regrets, but it does provide him with the forum for the line of the trip. After hoisting himself out of the rock pile in which he landed, he gathers his toilet paper and trowel and announces: “I’m going to go over that hill and take a shit.” And so he does.

Once we return to the trail, Hefron takes 11 prescription painkillers and suddenly is bounding across the rocks like an NFL kick returner. The rest of us struggle to keep up; even Bley begins to use both feet. This scorching pace lasts until we reach the lake where we will camp for the evening. If there was flat ground upon which to camp. Which there is not. Now phrases such as “we’re going to run out of water soon,” and “we’ll have to put on the headlamps to see the trail” are being said in total seriousness. I try repeatedly to plunge to my death but cannot move the weight of the pack enough to fall off the trail. After descending through a series of switchbacks that have to number in the hundreds, we actually reach a suitable campsite. Tents are assembled, dinner is cooked, and the bear bag is carefully stowed by leaning it against a tree branch that is at least four feet from the tent. Fatigue is savaging us all; Easton climbs into his sleeping bag fully dressed, deciding only after he is in the bag that he has enough energy to at least remove the camp saw. Considering that I’m sleeping four inches away and he thrashes a good deal in his sleep, I support this decision. Pondering the potential dangers of the day ahead, knowing that there’s much trail left to hike and that our commander is wounded, Easton and I take stock of our emergency equipment, and he is vastly reassured by the presence of cartoons on my cell phone. I have not gone into this mission without some forethought. We fall into an exhausted sleep, lulled by the wind in the trees and the sound of Bley counting out his one-arm push-ups.

Day Five: The homestretch looms ahead of us, and Commander Hefron, now known as “Mikeodin” breakfasts on painkillers and fearlessly leads the way. If the grinding of his shattered ribs over his internal organs is a problem, he does not speak of it. In fact, he does not speak of much at all, except to conjugate all possible forms of his favorite word. When it comes to grammar, the man has no equal.

As we near the end of the journey, it becomes clear that Easton has tired of the reconnaissance mission and hungers for combat. He engages a pine tree in battle and loses. Bleeding, he retreats to study its tactics and look for a weakness.

We pass a few fly fishermen who assure us that it’s all downhill from our current point. Interestingly, their version of downhill requires climbing. I establish a rhythm by counting along with the clicking sounds my knees make where once pesky cartilage existed.

It is but a few short hours more before we reach the trailhead and discover that Jay has indeed driven Hefron’s truck around the mountains, and it awaits us in beautiful splendor. Victory is ours. We head to the Grizzly bar and grill in Roscoe, driving like mad fools in our dash for beer. Bley runs beside the truck, finally pleased with the pace.

WINNER: Most fit, most competent, most responsible for keeping us alive:
Bob Bley.

WINNER: True Grit: Michael Hefron.

WINNER: Hardest-working, best-dressed: Ryan Easton.

WINNER: Best Bear Bait: Michael Koryta.