Sunday, April 16, 2006

A gonzo A.T. memoir


McKinney, Rick. "Dead Men Hike No Trails." Bangor, Maine: Booklocker.com, 2005.

Someone I know asked about this book. I told them I’d put some information in my blog. So I'm doing just that. Here’s what’s on the back cover of the book:

Dead Men delivers an endorphin charged blow to a Prozac dependent world.”

“’Following a friend’s suicide in 2003, I faced my own suicidal depression and a choice. Dwell in grief or run gonzo crazy and free in the opposite direction, blazing bright and deep in the jungles of America, hiking and writing until my feet and fingers bled with a pure honest screeching love for life.’”

“McKinney escaped to the Appalachian Mountains and launched a 2000 mile odyssey on foot. Writing on route, he paints a heart-wrenching portrait of physically painful days, moonshine evenings and surprise erotic encounters. It is a tale of wilderness survival, new friends, laughter and love on the trek from Georgia to Maine.

McKinney is Sylvia Plath in remission, his writing candid, sexy, and by turns poetic, journalistic, dead serious and witty. No one has ever scoured the dark skull of suicidal depression with such empathy and open-hearted enthusiasm for life, while climbing over 500 mountains in six months.”

Rick suffers from chronic depression. He writes, “one in four Americans suffer from some form of mental illness” and, “In the United States a person somebody loved dies by their own hand every 17 minutes.” He was a professional writer until suicidal depression cost him his career, house, and fiancee. To him, the Appalachian Trail seemed like a glimmer of hope in a dark world.

On the publisher’s website we read, “Dead Men is about long distance hiking. It is about the camaraderie of dozens of fellow hikers encountered en route. It is about following a goal to completion. It is about living in the moment. But most of all, it is ever and always about love. It is about the author’s love of life, of family and friends living and dead, of women, of nature, of the power of imagination, of the human animal, of the concept of Heaven, of God, and of the author’s love of beer. Depression is a sub-plot. At first all-consuming, it is soon an afterthought, a shadow which the author stomps his feet bloody and his ankles black and blue to outpace. But walking off a genetic inheritance of chemical imbalances proves daunting if not impossible for McKinney. The trail...is...the place of infinite possibility, the place where the author invents his own salvation one day--nay one step at a time for an inconceivable five million paces to Maine.”

This book is unique among A.T. memoirs. Truly amazing and difficult to put down once begun. Rick has a journal at trailjournals.com under his trailname of Jester Jigglebox (which went through a lot of changes and ended up, in full, as His Madness Lord Duke Jester Jigglebox Gadget Malcovich, Esq.) and also has a website of his own. On either of these sites you can get an idea of his writing style. But the book contains much more than what you'll find on either site. Buy or interlibrary loan this book and enjoy!

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