|Local authors vary the fare for your summer reading
Death in a Double-Wide
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, not exactly, but there was a very dense fog. So
dense that it could cover up a murder. The first murder in Hocking County in 50 years, and
it happened almost right in my own backyard. While the county sheriff fished Lake Logan
for bass, shots rang out just hundreds of yards away. A local lays sprawled in his desk
chair at the office of Green Hills Trailer Sales--shot with precision once through the
heart and once through each -- well, you'll have to read the book to find THAT out.
Meanwhile, a caravan of police cruisers streaks through the fog on Route 33. One veers
abruptly onto Lake Logan Road. With lights flashing and siren blaring, the cruiser slides
into the newly delivered white sand on the beach. The deputy meets the sheriff on the
shore as each alights from his respective conveyance. "Okay, what's happening?"
asks the sheriff, as he steps from his rowboat. "Some idiot dynamite the
No, it seems that the bureaucrats are safe this time (at
least until Cron's next novel), as the killer stalks a seemingly unconnected string of
"civilian" victims from a trailer salesman to the sheriff's comely wife. With
more twists and turns than the Buckeye Trail, Just a Piddlin' Little, Two-Bit Murder takes
you into the
backwoods of Hocking County and as far north as Michigan's upper peninsula as author
Rodney Cron weaves a tale of sex, violence, and revenge that could only take place in --
my back yard? I don't think so!
||As a long-time
resident of Hocking County, I've never seen anything more violent than a frog dining on a
June bug. But when you lead a quiet life, it is sometimes fun to pretend that danger lurks
at every turn, and that is why I love a good mystery. And it is definitely murder he
wrote. Just about everyone in Cron's book has a reason to kill, and I guarantee that even
the most adept armchair sleuths won't figure this one out until they close the cover for
the last time.
Getting to whodunit in Piddlin' is a
challenge, and you'll be entertained all along the way if, like me, you like to read books
that take place in a locale that you know well. The realistic setting and familiar
character types make the story of a sensational murder in the tranquil town of Logan seem
more than believable. After you read Piddlin', don't be surprised to find yourself looking
twice at the people you pass on East Main or see at the Dairy Queen.
Because the killer is still out there, by the way.
Of Cabbages and Kings and Other Important
Now, when you're ready to turn down the jets on the hot tub and relax a bit, pick up
Backwoods Musings, a collection of essays by Ed Fassig. Fassig writes about everything
from history to highway litter, but he says it better: "of cabbages and kings and
other important things" is how he puts it. Oh, Fassig writes about killing, too, but
it's more like what we're used to here in the country. A goshawk swoops down on some furry
critter, and then a turkey vulture moves in to feast on the remains. No sex, sizzle, or
complicated motives, just lunch. Most of Fassig's stories have a happy ending, like the
hummingbird who got tangled in a spider web and then was bitten and left to die, but
didn't. And the wild turkey, the quail, and the deer -- all at one time endangered species
here that now thrive in the regrowth of Ohio's forests.
Fassig lives in a cabin in the woods, so a lot
of his stories are about nature. But not everything he writes about has fur or feathers.
"I study nature from my home in the woods almost every day," he says. "But
every once in a while, I get the urge to study people." Readers will be glad that he
gets that urge, as Fassig conjures a cast of characters that rival those in any work of
||He relates many
anecdotes from his days growing up in Columbus from the late '30s to the '50s. These are
fascinating slices of life from the days when that city earned and deserved the
appellation "cow town."
In later years, his
occasional forays out of the woods into "civilization" seem to always turn into
adventures, especially when he gets into vehicle (which almost always seems to be borrowed
and underpowered) and out on to the highway. Read these stories, and maybe driving on
Route 33 might become a bit more bearable (you'll swear you've passed this guy more than
once!). At least it might help you to better understand your fellow traveler and get by
with a little less of what Fassig calls "horn blaring and finger waving."
Yes, a trip to Lancaster these days is excitement enough
for a man who learned to drive when the speed limit was 35 miles per hour. Each time he
leaves the big city, Fassig welcomes the return to that first Hocking Hill at Horn's Mill
Road. "It feels like I'm coming home," he says. Once safely back in the Hills,
Fassig can relax. He draws a glass of well water and sits down on the porch swing to watch
the gray squirrels that entertain him daily and manage to invade the bird feeders no
matter what. "I ain't got much learnin'," he says, "but after living
twenty-three years here in the woods, I think I've learned a thing or two a lot of college
perfessors don't know. I just ain't learned how to outwit a squirrel, but I'm workin' on
Backwoods Musings is about life, human and otherwise.
People and nature, both striving to hold on to the past while moving forward, trying to
balance what was with what must be as "progress sneaks up on us." Still, much of
Musings is lighthearted. And in many places, the book is downright funny. But all of it is
serious. And don't let the dialect fool you. Fassig's editor allows him an occasional
indulgence that only enhances passages of well crafted prose. Fassig has more
"learnin'" than he lets on, and powers of observation that are honed from years
of keenly watching man and beast.
Just a Piddlin' Little, Two-Bit Murder by Rodney L. Cron
(AmErica House, $21.95) and Backwoods Musings by Ed Fassig (The Backwoods Publishing
Company, $12.95) are both available at Great Expectations Bookstore and Cafe.