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November 2022

Return to Truckee


This Wednesday wandering is one that I’d planned to undertake and one that is quite unexpected.


My writing of SILVER DAGGER this past October necessitated that I, as novelist, return to the locale of my first novel, NORTHSTAR. The setting and time are 100 years earlier for this Western, but the ambiance is pretty much the same: crime’s afoot in the marginally civilized mountain town.


I’d not planned to write SILVER DAGGER this year, but, during the beginning of October, the composition of ten chapters was underway, and completed within the space of two weeks. It’s always a bit of a surprise to me, when I have to set aside other activities to write a novel. My reward for the completion of this Western, which took root in my psyche a little more than twenty years ago — is this trip to a mountain town that I first encountered upon moving West in 1979.

Many of the stores and shops, businesses and proprietors that I’d come to know, enjoy, and appreciate, from the 1980s through the early 2000s are no longer in Truckee. Audrey Dygert, longtime resident of Truckee and acclaimed watercolour artist, passed away in 2010. In 1994, I purchased a limited edition print of hers, my reward for having completed my first novel, NORTHSTAR.


Truckee was little Truckee when I frequented the town, initially by myself in the early 1980s; then on work assignments (field inspections) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-1980s. In the early 1990s, I traveled by myself to Truckee to compose portions of NORTHSTAR, but Dear Husband and I also introduced this downtown site to our two tykes. A winter drive “up to Truckee in the snow” became a family event for many years, until sometime during the early 2000s.


I then ceased journeying to Truckee, until January 2012, when I was emotionally preparing myself to edit the paper version of NORTHSTAR. I subsequently input the “newer” text (with slight modifications) into my computer. That version was e-published in September 2012.

By that time, little Truckee had undergone barbaric real estate changes (EXPANSION) due to subprime spending. An entire city-centre had been planned, smack dab in the middle of Commercial Row, by the railroad station, with a humongous hotel and visitor’s center!


Mercifully, that land development plan fell through.


I am not anti-development, or anti-renovation. I am fervently against plastering preposterous pieces of architecture where they definitely do not belong, all for the slimy purpose of enriching politicians on the city council, or county board of supervisors or State Board of Whatever. With all of the open space that’s still left in Truckee, there’s a chance the place might maintain its original character which was, and is, a bit seedy!


The Bay-Area Effect has taken hold in many tourist traps, towns, and landmarks along I-80 East. I try my best to accept this marketing strategy of pitching your wares to the fat-cat wallets of the Citadins, but I always find it distasteful. The locals of any town are irrelevant tokens in that ploy to sell to the Out-of-Towners, most of whom do not care for the ethos of the country folks from whom they buy. In fact, the city slickers mock the very existence of those horrible hicks.

There’s a term, to Weekend-ize a Town, that applies here, which is why I do not travel on the Weekend to any usually desirable open-air destination along California freeways and highways. Driving anywhere in California has become an expensive proposition, in the state that invented the Proposition as feel-good propaganda.


Each year, California, Inc. continues to lose more and more citizens, and businesses, and citizens, and corporations, and citizens, and real ballots and actual taxes. It is quite possible that my Truckee, the little Truckee of the 1980s, will, one day soon, look a whole lot more like the way station to which the Donner Party found its way in 1846. Not that I advocate any cannibalism among the trekkers in the Sierra Nevada. Those feeding frenzies are surely ongoing among the zealots and pigs in the political class in my country.

Little Truckee will always hold a very fond and very firm place in my heart. My introduction to California, a rough ride at best, began with road trips through the Sierra Nevada. To this day, I can still recall my sense of wide-eyed amazement at the grandeur and phenomenal beauty of the snowy Sierra Nevada, Donner Lake, Truckee, Lake Tahoe, the granite mountains that were blasted through to build that Interstate 80 through this portion of California.


Shops, restaurants, and eateries nowadays come and go along Commercial Row. One basic always remains: the glorious works of nature — the sublime art created by the Creator, that prime mover who truly can move mountains.


For me, the return to Truckee is always the return to my roots in the West. Not too many girls from New Jersey can claim such a spectacular granite bedrock for creativity.