Review Wild novel set in Dolores River Valley
Double Dare, a new book by Michael Madigan, is a fictional story that takes place at an adventure ranch along the Dolores River.
Blake Cutter created his Double Dare ranch for adrenaline junkies wanting to test their skills kayaking whitewater, rock climbing, and mountain biking tough trails.
"Test the best, teach the rest" is his motto.
A classic western tale emerges, complete with mistrusting locals in Dolores and Dove Creek, wildfires, water disputes, poaching, and wilderness issues, including wolf re-introduction.
An obviously skilled outdoorsman, Madigan, a Colorado local, treats his setting in the San Juan Mountains with respect, but he takes some creative license.
Snaggletooth Rapid is a 20-foot waterfall, cryptobiotic soil is a federally protected species, javelinas roam near Dove Creek, and McPhee dam has a Fall whitewater release, the latter which has actually happened twice.
The unique and engaging story focuses on a web of various relationships and the vengeful, one-eared enemy of Cutter named Radic Vuko, a monstrously violent Croatian war mercenary who is hell bent on taking over the ranch, but not for personal reasons the reader is led to believe.
The wanted warlord was trained in the Balkans by private American militias who "taught him their tactics, their language and, not the least of their weapons, a brutal disregard for human life." The "mystery general" living in a penthouse in Denver is sought for war crimes.
Vuko has employed the lovely Serena and Lexi to be his spies, and they both fall in love with the tough and amicable Cutter, who lost part of his leg after an ice-climbing accident in Alaska.
The story weaves into detailed accounts of various adventure challenges and outdoor games where Double Dare visitors compete against each other for prizes and bragging rights.
One involves kayaking the Dolores River and collecting caribiners strung up on the route. Another involves geo-caching, a GPS orienteering sport that leads competitors up on mountain ridges, rocking climbing and rappelling to find cache.
Madigan's outdoor ethos is familiar and comes through his character Cutter who deftly negotiates with ornery locals through honesty, hard work, and respect for the land and people.
Characters in Dolores seem familiar, and some exist. Cutter's favorite watering hole is the Dolores River Brewery, and he mentions owner Mark Younquist's craft beers as the best around.
Madigan manages to impart deadly sabotage and stealth war maneuvers by protagonists into the mountaineering world.
A wild battle ensues for the ranch, pitting the good-hearted Cutter and his love of wilderness competition against delusional military dreams of a wanted war criminal. Reference to an emotionally sparked Colorado disaster rings a bell for locals.
Madigan does a good job combining fictional settings with depictions of local areas and geography, including Disappointment Valley, Lone Cone, the Dolores River, Castle Valley, Moab, Sleeping Ute Mountain, Dove Creek and Cahone, to name a few.
Locals will appreciate his quirky collection of characters ranging from tough old cowgirls, to irritable and territorial ranch owners, to rock climbing and river rat misfits.
Madigan gets readers further involved by offering a real geocache challenge. GPS coordinates are given to for prizes hidden on BLM land near Lower Dolores River.
"It's our hope that these geocaches will introduce you to the Dolores River Valley, the inspiration of this book, and also get you interested in geocaching, a great outdoor activity," he writes.
Madigan has written two non-fiction books, and Double Dare, published by Adventure Publications, Inc. is his first novel.