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Talking Location With … author Jeffery Viles: The Pacific Northwest

14th February 2018

#TalkingLocationWith… author Jeffery Viles about The American Pacific Northwest, the extraordinary setting in his novel “The Sasquatch Murder (a love story)

Jeffery Viles

A Sasquatch. Photo via: cryptidz.wikia.com/

Location. Location. Location. That’s the well-known mantra of real estate agents, but it’s also a major consideration for the author of any book that takes place in interesting surroundings. In my new novel, “The Sasquatch Murder (a love story)”, the American Pacific Northwest plays such an important role in telling the story that it’s not a stretch to say the location is a character in and of itself. In doing general research for this book and starting to write, it quickly became apparent that I needed to make a special trip to that wild and oversized upper left quadrant of America. I’d been to the cities nearby, Portland, Olympia, Seattle, Vancouver, but wanted to be able to describe the great woods and Cascade Mountains where so many sasquatch/bigfoot sightings and other credible evidence turns up. The only way was to experience it in person. Allow me to tell you about that trip and relate it directly to the novel. Where you see something in quotation marks inside parentheses, I’ve taken it word for word from the book. It’s there for one reason only — because I took a trip.

Cascade Mountain. Photo Encyclopedia Britannica

A flight from St. Louis to Portland in August was uneventful and the rental of a Prius seemed about right for politically left-leaning Oregon. Traveling alone, I decamped in posh comfort at the historic Heathman Hotel downtown Portland and enjoyed a hearty Peruvian meal at the wonderful Andina restaurant nearby. I studied maps of the area to plan a visit to the northwest wilds the next day.

The Prius and I got along well as we paced with traffic on Interstate 5, leaving Portland and crossing the mighty Columbia River into the state of Washington. The Pacific Northwest was first mapped and explored in the 1880s by westerners led by Captain George Vancouver, who became famous as an English seaman for his efforts. He gave the volcanic Mt. St. Helens its English name after his friend, the Baron St. Helens. The many native tribes in the area had several names for the volcano including Loowit (spirit mountain) and Louwala-Clough (fire mountain). The American explorers Lewis and Clark, sent to the west by President Thomas Jefferson after his purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, had a look around the Pacific Northwest toward the end of their travels and were amazed at what they saw.

Jeffery Viles

Gifford Pinchot National Forest Photo: Natbg.com

A quick stop at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest headquarters and suggestions from the rangers about how to get into the wildest areas were helpful. I was soon off the interstate and onto the blue highways, then the thin black line backroads, then the dotted line gravel roads and switchbacks inside the national forest. I passed through or near Battle Ground, Amboy, Yacolt and Moulton Falls Park heading into the wilderness. The overcast day, not unusual for the area, got darker as the breathtaking trees got taller, some of them close to 30 stories tall (“the landscape of enormous trees – firs, hemlocks, Sitka spruce, Pacific Yews, and Western red cedars”). I noticed a huge tree with a hollow-looking trunk not far off the gravel road the Prius carried me on (“Jake Holly and his horse had hurried to the carveout of a two-hundred-fifty-foot Douglas Fir tree when the downpour began”). I knew I was south of Mt. St. Helen’s with her “Ape” and “Lava” Canyons, however she was impossible to see through the ever-murkier sky and tall timber (“Jake looked out from his woody cave toward Mt. St. Helen’s…He saw nothing.”)

The temperature was warm and soon enough the dark sky produced a soft sprinkle that seemed to barely reach the ground. My novel features a heavier rain (“Some of the giants survived in old-growth forests and soared hundreds of feet into the air, resigned to their destinies and locked in their assigned positions since well before Balboa came snooping. They broke the falling water with their wide arms and siphoned it through the canopy to the layers below. Sluices of gurgling water knifed through leafy gutters and created waterfalls to the ground”). I had not seen another car on the gravel roads for two hours and no other human being since a morning stop beside the beautiful and clear trout stream near Moulton Falls. I decided it was time for a walk. I pulled the Prius off the gravel and parked on what looked like an old logging trail. I walked deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Had there not been the tiny trail I followed, walking would not have been possible, since the forest floor was covered with a pile-up of massive logs and heavy brush, ancestors of the current forest (“The huge, mossy, pungent logs are strewn through the forest as if the Gods were playing pickup sticks”).

I stopped, looked and listened. Eerily quiet. The sprinkle abated. Only the faint sigh of a breeze. My heart began to race. If sasquatch exists, it must live in these surroundings, I thought. There could be one 20 yards away and I wouldn’t know. Time to go. I jogged back to the Prius, barely feeling my feet. The large glass of wine back at the Heathman could not have tasted better.

Thank you so much to Jeffery for sharing such wonderful insight into the setting of his novel, “The Sasquatch Murder (a love story)”. He is not currently on Social Media, but you can connect with him via his website.  You can also buy his book through the TripFiction database

Foreword/Clarion reviews: “The Sasquatch Murder is an accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable tale, the kind of book one is sorry to finish because it’s such good company.”

Kirkus reviews: “Viles writes in a crisp, balanced prose that’s laden with wonderful details.”

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  1. User: andrewmorris51

    Posted on: 14/02/2018 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks, Jeffery. Great post. I was walking in that fir-shaded forest with you.

    Nice insight into how your research on location in the Pacific Northwest fed directly into some of the narrative of ‘The Sasquatch Murder’ too.

    And tell me more about Andina restaurant. Is it the same place that had the book in the recent Stanford Travel Writing Awards shortlist for ‘Travel Cookery Book of the Year’? https://www.edwardstanfordawards.com/copy-of-stanford-dolman-travel-book-3


  2. User: Judith Works

    Posted on: 14/02/2018 at 4:39 pm

    Ha ha – my husband worked in this area for years and knew some locals who ran around planting fake footsteps of Bigfoot. He’s a real legend around here so should be a good read.


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