Friday, March 1, 2019

"The Gardener of Eden"

David D. Downie has called Paris and the Marais home since 1986. He has written for over 50 publications worldwide including Bon Appétit, The Los Angeles Times, Town & Country Travel, The San Francisco Chronicle,, and He is the author of the critically acclaimed Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light, three Terroir guides, as well as several cookbooks and crime novels. He lives with his wife, Alison Harris, a photographer, and creates custom tours via his "Paris, Paris Tours" blog site.

Downie applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Gardener of Eden, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I suppose I might as well admit right here that my secret dream, my “dear diary” confession, is that I would love more than almost anything to revive that hatchery and fill the rivers and ocean with salmon again. Maybe I will. Maybe that’s why I came back, and I just don’t know it yet. Maybe it’s because I had no children and have militated since adolescence for birth control and family planning because there are too many of us, no matter how you spin it. Yes, I was brought up a Catholic, but my mother was a WASP and a religious skeptic, and she inculcated doubt and nature worship in me. Silent Spring was her Bible. Maybe the explanation is simpler. I’d just like to give back, not only to self-obsessed, anthropocentric humankind, but to the world, the Earth, in the larger sense.

I wonder how many trapped raccoons father shot for the good of the fish and the community, meaning the human consumers of the fish? The sight gave me nightmares. Shooting into a wire mesh cage at close range seemed especially cruel and made an ungodly mess his subordinates had to clean up. That did not help buoy his popularity, which was waterlogged from the day we arrived—we, the educated city folk with attitude.

His attitude extended to his family. More than once he forced me to stand there with him and take the raccoon or hog executions like a man. The war must have done that to him. Had he fired at close range on Germans and Japanese? I asked myself. In what ways had he been tortured when he was a POW? But that kind of information was verboten. He never talked about the war, and everything I learned about his experiences in Europe and Japan, and the torture that made him suffer for the rest of his life, came from my mother.

Mostly because of the massacring of raccoons and other wildlife, I took no pleasure in target practice and I refused whenever I could to go hunting with him, especially when it came time for the cull. The wild pigs were the hardest of all to trap and kill—they have human eyes and whimper and cry like children. But he was a stubborn cuss, to borrow from Beverley, and dragged me along too many times to count.

He did not appreciate rebelliousness in his son, saying I had better know how to handle myself and a firearm, because man was a violent species and sooner or later another war would break out, maybe this time on American soil. Giving me Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here when I was fifteen, he made me read and summarize it to him. There was no Wikipedia back then, and no edition of crib notes on that book. Sadly, not only could it happen here. It did happen here. Except for my time in ROTC, I have not picked up a firearm since leaving high school in Carverville.

I hope to the god I no longer believe in that I never pick one up again, and never have to meet another man who has been tortured.
A former judge driven from office by corrupt, reactionary politicians, James Paul Adams is the wistful, soulful, aging hero of The Gardener of Eden. Returning “home” to Carverville, the dying timber town in the Pacific Northwest where he attended high school about forty years earlier, he’s unsure what led him back, to swim like a salmon to its native stream. James’ father was a biologist at Wildlife & Fish. His job was to restore salmon habitat and manage the fish hatchery James wants to revive. But he knows there are other, less obvious forces at work in his quest—a sense of guilt and loss, a need to find closure, and, most importantly, to find the young woman he loved and who disappeared without a trace while he was away in college. The Gardener of Eden is a novel of suspense, not a thriller or crime novel. This first-person excerpt from James’s journal captures the mounting tension inside his head. It also hints at the brutal realities of the re-found Carverville: destroyed forests, a closed mill, beaches sullied by oil from offshore rigs, feral hogs run wild, and a violent, sadistic county sheriff who was James’s childhood rival and nemesis.
Visit David Downie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue