Thursday, April 13, 2017

Experience Natural Enemies, Latest by Warren Adler!

Medicine Bow,
Routt National Forest
Even before George realized that the beige Ford van was following them, he had felt a sense of growing anxiety. He did not like to drive in the dark, especially along strange roads. His calculations had not allowed for the fact that the sun would dip behind the high Western peaks at least an hour or so before the published time of the Colorado sunset. He did not like human error, and that included his own. “Getting darker,” he mumbled between clenched teeth, glancing, with some guilt, at his wristwatch. Birdie smiled, amused by his irritation. “Poor baby. Lost without your computers,” she teased, digging her fingers into the funnybone above his knee. 
He had agreed to drive west from Denver only if he did not have to drive in the dark. “Cut it out,” he snapped with mock waspishness. But her gesture had cheered him. “You couldn’t foresee that the plane would be an hour late or that it would take nearly an hour to rent the car or that those peaks would be so high. Really, George, you can’t control everything.” She rubbed her thin white hands along his thigh to placate him.
Placing his hand over hers, he squeezed. “We could have stayed on the outskirts of Denver,” he said. But the girl at the Hertz desk had suggested the scenic route, old number 40 to 125, through the Arapaho and Routt national forests, then up to Rand. They had a Holiday Inn reservation near Rand. Tomorrow they would drive through the Arapaho wildlife refuge, then double back to 40 via Route 14. 
“It’s like a foreign land,” Birdie said, settling back to watch the spreading shadows along the timbered mountains, the play of odd light effects, especially above the timberline, where snow coated the peaks like heavy white paste. 
“We were supposed to relax. And already it’s not relaxing.”
“Go with the flow. That’s what the Doc said,” Birdie replied. She was always amused by his carping. It gave her a chance to tease. Besides, it was the freedom of breaking routine, of doing the opposite thing, that made this Western vacation romantic, she thought. Something completely different, as the comedian had said on the Monty Python Show. Different from Manhattan. Different from their jobs. Different from the routine of city life. And they had never seen the West. 
He pulled the car over near the road’s shoulder. Taking the map from the glove compartment, he studied it while Birdie traced the red Magic Marker line with a slender finger. Designating their path, it arced imperfectly between the major interstates from Route 70 to Route 80. 
“It’ll get dark just when we’re in the middle of the forest. Nothing is scenic in the dark.”
“Except you,” she said gaily, snuggling up to him. “If you like we could sleep in the car.” She kissed his ear. “You’re being L and L.” It was one of their many little code expressions. “L and L” meant lecherous and lustful. 
“The height,” she agreed. 
He put the map in the glove compartment and gunned the motor. It was then he noted that the beige van, which he had observed only peripherally, had stopped a few hundred feet behind him. When he started his car, it started. Coincidence, he decided, pushing the idea from his mind. Because the road wound in sharp hairpin curves as it climbed, he guided the car carefully up the sloping terrain. City living had made his driving rusty and the tires squeaked as he wrestled the wheel on the sharp turns. The van, he noted, was more stable in its maneuvers, indicating a more experienced driver. 
“Hard to believe,” Birdie said, admiring the passing slopes. “Don’t you look!” she cried, as the tires squeaked on a curve. “Don’t worry about that,” he said with annoyance. The road dipped and climbed, following the harsh contours. He had also not made allowances for this obstacle course. On either side now was solid forest with barely a break in the treeline. Occasionally even the peaks disappeared and he seemed to be navigating in an impenetrable sea of timber. As they climbed, the sporadic traffic thinned and there was only their little rented Plymouth Fury and the beige van on the road. 
“Damn,” he cried, as the car made too wide a swath rounding a curve. He had been looking into the rearview mirror, and hadn’t seen the curve come at them so swiftly. “If there was a car coming from the other direction— zap, splat!” He wasn’t really good at hiding his anxieties. 
She looked at him curiously and noted his eyes shifting between the review mirror and the windshield. Turning in the seat, she looked back...

Imagine the experience of days and days with nothing around you but woods...

As many of you know, I live, alone, in a log cabin surrounded by acres of trees...except I have a road in front of my cabin, and neighbors... Still, I have been snowed in many times, unable to get from the door of my cabin to the road which has been cleared...

In the woods, the sounds are either of silence or of nature surrounding me... I have wind chimes on my porch and they ring loudly as the wind blows against the cabin walls, trying to find any method of seeping into my home... Thunder and Lightning is so much louder and brighter in the country than if I were still living in the town where I worked before retirement.

Deer, coons, 'possums, wild turkeys are normal neighbors for me... I tell you all this because as I read Warren Adler's latest novel, there was no way that I did not begin to actually experience the story. It's an exhilarating, raw, adventure that, for me, pulled me in right from the beginning... And the silence of facing the unknown day after day is...terrifying...This reader felt quite grateful reading about it rather than the potential reality of it that we all know has happened! And yet, I just couldn't stop reading...

Especially because the author begins with a first-chapter which readers will consider as what will be happening in the book... Then we immediately switch to meeting the two main characters--a young married couple who are, I must spotlight, very much in love. 

George is a VP at a city bank and works entirely with computers. He has had a good life, with loving parents who totally supported him whenever possible. 

On the other hand, Birdie, who goes by a nickname that was given years ago, is a graphic artist who works from home. Her family background was not a happy one. Her father left the family, unable to live with his wife, and Birdie was left with a bitter, vengeful mother who derided the father she loved, as well as did little to keep the family going. Birdie was left to take care of her mother, the house, and anything her father would have contributed. She learned early how to use tools to repair and/or create useful items to respond to needs...

Their two backgrounds had created a relationship of two people who were almost opposites in personalities and abilities. In the marriage, they complemented each other, with George doing the cooking and Birdie doing most everything around the house.

But they had come to a problem when George began to make it clear that he wanted children, while Birdie wasn't enthused, given her background as a child. She was willing to try but they had been unsuccessful. With counseling, it was suggested they go on a vacation together. Their travel agent gave them the "scenic route..."

And when they got on that scenic route, with nothing surrounding them but deep forest, they began a cat and mouse chase with two men in a large vehicle...who were out, for whatever reason, to place the couple in dangerous situations...

When they succeeded...those characters are never seen again.

George and Birdie were left with no vehicle, in a deep wooded forest, with only their clothes and what few things they carried with them... and lost 

George and Birdie had been fairly certain what they would face if the two men had reached them...

They had no idea that their greatest...natural enemies...were the land, the trees, the weather, and all that lived and surrounded them there... especially at night...

No matter what the story, Adler has the ability to pull readers into the book itself. This book, however, went beyond that for me... I felt like I was in the midst of that forest, experiencing what was happening as this couple searched for water, first, and what they might be able to eat. They quickly learned how and where NOT to set up camp, as one night they built on an ant hill and woke with ants everywhere... Fortunately that time there had been a stream nearby and they leaped in to wash the insects off their bodies! The other enemies they were to meet were not so easily dealt with... The adventure is  highly tense as they seemed to be facing formidable enemies with whom they'd had no experience. They were citified, yes, but one of them had never known fear, until now... That was when Birdie was at her best...

The tension started to build between the couple. Feelings of insecurity, loss of confidence, blame, guilt and more were brought out unintentionally, hurting the other when it was done, only to go through apologies and making up. For me, it was the emotional trauma, the inner introspective of each individual as they faced the unknown... Yet, no matter what came up, they were able to handle it because of the other.

For those who love romantic suspense and thrillers, I believe you may find this book one like no other--it certainly was for me. This is not so much a page-turner, as an impossible story to leave until you know the ending. Even then, the ending was somewhat anti-climatic, but, yet, so satisfactory that anything else would have seemed inappropriate. Kudos to the author!

For those who love action and adventure and books pitting individuals against nature, this I must say is better than any I've read, which includes Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon, forest ranger, best-selling series and others in that genre. The reason is that Adler has pitted his characters against one calamity after another. There's no room to take a breath before they must face rain, floods, snow avalanche, wild animals, lack of food, water, and being physically hurt in one or more of these situations.

Then Adler adds some comic relief, as they meet their first person who critically asks why they are wearing bear skin clothes... Ahhhh, back to the world of human enemies who speak before they think... You know, in a way, I'm curious as to how these two adjusted to being back in "civilization..." But that's maybe another book... But I surely loved this one, and easily added it to my personal favorites for 2017...


Warren Adler is best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In addition to the success of the stage adaptation of his iconic novel on the perils of divorce, Adler has optioned and sold film rights to more than a dozen of his novels and short stories to Hollywood and major television networks. Random Hearts (starring Harrison Ford and Kristen Scott Thomas), The Sunset Gang (starring Jerry Stiller, Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Doris Roberts), Private Lies, Funny Boys, Madeline’s Miracles, Trans-Siberian Express and his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series are only a few titles that have forever left Adler’s mark on contemporary American authorship from page to stage to screen. Learn more about Warren Adler at

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