Modesto writer Clive Riddle founded a health care business information company and the work he does is decidedly non-fiction. He grew up in Alturas, in northeastern California, and attended Shasta College for a time (his son went to Chico State University). What a setting to create a story weaving memories of a small-town boyhood with half-whispered legends, mixing in a murder mystery with hints of the supernatural.
"Dorris Bridge" ($19.95 in paperback from HealthQuest Publishers; also available for the Amazon Kindle and in formats compatible with Barnes and Noble Nook and most other e-readers) is the name of a small and dying town near Alturas in fictional Paiute County. The author explains on his website (www.dorrisbridge.com) that there was a real Dorris Bridge, renamed Alturas in 1876, but that the Dorris Bridge of the novel is not the real Alturas (since characters in the story often refer to Alturas as well as to Chico and Redding).
The aptly-named Riddle will sort things out when he is interviewed by Nancy Wiegman on Nancy's Bookshelf this Friday, January 27 at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO in Chico (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7 FM).
The moral center of the tale is Randall Burgess, Chief of Police of Dorris Bridge. One of his sons, Kyle, is about to graduate from Paiute High School. A good kid for the most part, he is not averse to drinking with his buddies (Riddle calls it the "national pastime" in Dorris Bridge) and his practical jokes are constantly landing him in trouble. It's the mid-Seventies, and the author revels in mixing in contemporary movie and music references. To capture some of the mindset of the times, there's even sheet music for an original (off-color) song.
Then there are the Lights. An aging Paiute, Toronto Highsmith (Tornado for short) is convinced that he sees strange Lights during his benders. A sober Kyle sees them, too, but mostly from a distance. And they seem to be associated with a series of hit-and-run murders that take place near the homestead of the most powerful man in the county.
Add the mysterious disappearance of a Japanese-American decades earlier, a group of fundamentalist Mormons and Basque wanderers, season with a surprise ending, and what one has is definitely not Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.