The just-published story is dedicated to Johnson and his wife Maurine. "Howard considered himself a simple man," Hampton adds, and the novel, inspired by his life, faith, love for his blended family and especially for his wife, "is a story about how significant and precious a seemingly ordinary life can be."
"Behind Picketwire" ($15.95 in paperback from HuckleberryBlue Press; also for Amazon Kindle, with more at mdayhampton.com) is a flat-out terrific novel, a can't-put-it-down, edge-of-your-seat tale that will drive readers to laughter and to tears.
Red Johnson, married for three decades to Addy, is a cranky 68-year-old man who has a difficult time expressing his deep love for his wife. After a freak accident he finds himself alone in his house, off Coutolenc Road in Magalia, save for his dog, Jake. Really alone. Out past his door there is no sign of civilization, no roads, no other humans.
Eventually he embarks on a walking journey to Colorado where his family had vacationed years ago, convinced that Addy will be there. He leaves a note which says in part: "If someone else finds this letter, use this home with care. Know that it was here, where I loved my wife and raised my family."
What follows is more than a survivalist story (though it is that as well, including encounters with mountain lions, bears and more). Red's dreams are so real. "Everything seemed to remind Red of his past life. Memories he hadn't thought of in years all felt like pieces of the puzzle connecting one with another.... He was being allowed to see his life as others had."
Behind the mystery is the key to a man's heart.