Shane Durgee’s first book is a work of fiction called North American Primates — a fantastical, frenetic fantasy about Clay Sturgeon, a man whose tent was attacked by a Bigfoot while he was hiking with a friend. Clay becomes obsessed and must return to the site of his encounter in New York’s Adirondack Mountains many times in his search for communion with “The Man.”
Obsession seems like a reasonable trait for this particular character who is a pathetic loner whose friends are teenagers, who has never had a reasonable romance. The character is what I might call a degenerate. Not high minded, not ethical or respectable… yet for reasons only a Bigfoot could know, he’s chosen to reveal some Sasquatchy truths to Clay, who keeps showing up in the woods as if asking for lessons.
Clay Sturgeon goes through many changes during the course of this 211-page novel. The first-person narrative is highly entertaining though a bit crude, in some passages. That in itself should tell you a bit about who Clay is and why he needs change in his life.
Clay Sturgeon started the novel as a good for nothing, do almost nothing, near waste of human life.. but found himself through squatching. In the end he’s a somebody… thanks to “The Man.” Clay has enough redeeming traits to make the reader care about his squatching adventures. He takes form, morphing from a ball of human ooze into a person of stature because of his contacts with a couple fairly decent Sasquatches. Other characters in the book as are similarly well drawn. The author created a cast of realistic characters whose faults are substantial and must be believed. I’d have to say that the most likable of the bunch is Pickerel, the cat, though in a strange twist of fate he too is greatly changed before the novel’s final pages.
The weak point of the book is, in my opinion, description. This is also a weak spot in my fiction writing so I’m not saying I’m a description expert. Descriptions are there, but they are sketchy. Some would consider this a good thing. This book is action oriented, a psychological thriller of sorts. You get to hear what Clay does and thinks. Apparently Clay wasn’t big into nature study and appreciation, other than for his desire to see and interact with “The Man.”
There are some utterly weird and unexpected plot twists. I thought at first I was holding a fairly predictable novel, ie: “Man meets Sasquatch, gets into squatching, and has another sighting.” Though that would thrill most Bigfoot researchers, that’s not the plot of this novel. It gets fairly strange in places. You would be surprised. I certainly was!
The perceived theme of the book may vary depending on personal perspective. To me, it was that a young man discovered his self worth by pursuing an issue most people would avoid. Through his unique persistence, he discovered that he too could be more than a worthless degenerate. You see what squatching can do for people? If this novel makes it to movie status they’ll need a few good fur costumes and someone who looks like a total socially incompetent nerd to play the lead character. Add a few wooden ducks, and there you’d have Clay Sturgeon!
I’m a novelist too, so naturally I think Bigfoot fiction is awesome, even if it isn’t written the way I’d have done it. I’m into writing mostly for children and teens, whereas Durgee’s novel is definitely for adults and not for kids. I applaud Shane Durgee on the development, plot, and especially the fine characterization work in his first novel, and for getting it edited and into print. Well done!