Monday, December 31, 2012

REVIEW: Dry Camp by Alfred Cool


The year is 1977. Over 7 days in October, this true-story, first person narrative takes place on the central coast of BC. During a record month of storms, the action picks up when the 2 spirited BC boys blitz across hundreds of kms of dangerous back roads to get to the closest cold beer store.

Cool withdraws from SFU, broke and cynical, to replenish his funds by returning to logging, finding work on Northern Vancouver Island. After travelling all day Cool arrives at Beaver Cove, a ‘No Booze Allowed’ camp, as gales begin howling during torrential rainfall. Within hours, the rain and the melt-off of higher-elevation snowfall combine to cause floods and slides. Within 2 days they are isolated. Roads close, ferries over-book, planes are grounded and Health Department regulations close all bars, stores and restaurants. Cool has no money for travel or food anyway. Work stops and management leave the camp with little food and no heat, lights or clean drinking water.

Cool devises a plan which involves Drake, the other guy left in camp, and his car. Drake has his girlfriends’ broken-down 1964 Vauxhall Viva. That’s enough to get Cool scheming and them moving, giving them an outside chance for self-rescue if they put it all on the line. With only the vague notion of a ‘4x4 back road’ to Campbell River as their map they quit the camp, ‘heading for the barn’. For hours, they negotiate deserted mountain roads and near-deadly detours across raging creeks, down mud-slides and through bogs, running on only fumes and luck. Arriving, finally, at a town amazed at their survival, they discover they’ve popped up at a totally wrong destination. Most of their money goes to gas, oil and beer leaving them no choice but to continue into the night, nursing the car through a further four hours and 250 kms of storming weather. Eventually they arrive, exhausted, back in Vancouver where Drake is turned out by his girlfriend and Cool has to confront unpaid bills and night shift taxi driving. Inspired again, he makes plans to keep the adventure alive and go to the ‘Charlottes. 

Through the eyes of some of the characters who lived and worked here - before the province we live in today evolved - this fast-paced comedy-quest champions the lure of adventure and the devil-may-care attitude it takes, sometimes, to win against the odds.

About the Author
from Amazon

Alfred Cool was born and raised in BC. He attended Simon Fraser University where he took English and Computer courses. He is a member of the Canadian Authors Association. He worked and travelled extensively on the Coast of BC for most of his life. For 26 years, as an accomplished computer professional, he lived in various northern BC communities where he harbored the simple truth that writing would eventually take over his life.

Now that persistent dream, to his great satisfaction and pleasure, has become reality.

This novel is the third of 5 to be produced by the author and his travels around the coast of BC. 'The Five-Cent Murder' is expected to be published fall of 2012.

My Thoughts

The author recounts a period of a few days in the '70s when he escaped a logging camp during a fierce flooding rain.

I requested this book through Netgalley, since I lived a time in the logging country of the Northwest and loved the area. I believe that this story actually takes place in Ontario, rather than the northwest, but it reminded me of my time around the Olympic mountains of Washington.

Generally speaking I don't think that the author is a great writer, but that he is simply a good storyteller. He's the guy you want there when you're sitting around the fire pit on a cold winter's night, regaling one another with tales of your youth and foolishness. But at times, particularly early on, there were bits of strange descriptive text:
When we pulled up to the ferry dock, I saw the regal lady's snout was opened wide, lifted up like she was going through some kind of extreme dental procedure. A stream of cars, trucks and foot-passengers gorged themselves into her unnatural and gaping maw. (page 13)
The story follows the author to a "dry" logging camp (meaning it doesn't permit alcohol) during a record-setting rainstorm that goes on for days. The author and a fellow logger decide to sneak off and return later when the logging resumes. So over half of the story follows the author's travel to the camp and his short time at the camp, and the rest is the adventure of driving down off the mountain and returning to civilization in the downpour.

It was apparent that the author was Canadian, and at times I felt a little like an "outsider". Things like the use of the term "crow-hopped" in reference to how the car drove, which is a term with which I am totally unfamiliar. Since it was a clutch, I have to think maybe he's referring to the herky-jerky way a manual transmission car can drive when the clutch is let out too fast? Just one of those things you sometimes encounter with geographically-oriented stories that use regional terms and vocabulary.

My final word: This was a quick story that wound up being different than what I had expected. I thought it would be about a couple of guys surviving harrowing flooding conditions for days in the wilds, rather than a few hours in a car (even if there were a couple of harrowing moments in the car). So again I come back to my analogy of sitting around the burn barrel on a cold night. This is a good story to entertain family and friends, but it's a little light to fulfill the demands of a full-fledged book. Perhaps it would make one of those good little brief books you buy at the local tourist center in the area?

Buy Now:


My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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