Looking for Bigfoot
by Mike Palecek
Published by Howling Dog Press
272 pages, 2005
Reviewed by Chuck Gregory
Mike Palecek has written before about small-town Iowa, about the people of America, about truth, corruption and lies. He has written about brave individuals who are driven to make a difference. He has created characters who work within a system they hate, who later step outside that system and find doors everywhere are slammed in their faces.
The Last Liberal Outlaw featured newspaper editor Tom Blue, who fought to halt the construction of a prison in his rural home town of Liberal, Iowa. Joe Coffee's Revolution had Joe speaking out against prisons and the military. Twins portrayed a revolutionary priest pitted in lifelong conflict against his brother, a prison warden. In The Truth postman Pete Penny delivers the mail and observes life, all the while trying to figure out who is really responsible for his son's death in Iraq. Each character is unique, yet each has many common characteristics just as each of Palecek's books share both theme and style.
Palecek ties everything together in his latest novel, Looking for Bigfoot, the book I consider to be his best thus far.
Jack Robert King lives in the Dyersville, Iowa home that was used for the movie Field of Dreams. He's a stay-at-home dad whose wife is the principal of the local school. Jack has written for and edited newspapers, but he tired of the censorship. He's worked at the county home but there he tired of the hypocrisy; why argue whether someone who can no longer tell the difference should get wheat or rye bread, while thousands of miles away Americans are killing innocent people who live in Iraq?
Jack is a writer, although he hasn't exactly decided on the topic for the great novel he's been writing for several years. Jack is fighting for America, and he is fighting America. Jack is searching for the truth; he shares what he sees and what he feels with those who read or listen to him. He is "Looking for Bigfoot" and he wants us to look with him by way of his Internet radio show. It's an LFZ (lie free zone) where cover-ups are not allowed.
Years ago, Jack was a pretty good high school ballplayer -- his team lost in the semi's at state -- but his coach left and he never played again. He still remembers that coach, Larry Moore, who was more like a father to him than his biological dad. It's startling when Jack finds a copy of Oregon Magazine in his mailbox, with Larry Moore bigger than life right on the cover. The incident triggers Jack's search for the coach. Looking for Bigfoot, looking for truth, looking for coach -- the searches are simultaneous, and the boundaries are blurred.
Blended in with all that longing is a healthy -- or unhealthy -- dose of paranoia: They don't want the truth to come out, They don't want us to think, and They only want us to follow Their lead. If They will kill presidents and other leaders, if They will even attack Their Own Country to manipulate the people -- surely They won't even blink if They have to kill off a few dissidents who speak out against Them. Paranoid thinking it surely is, but we've all heard the saying: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't someone out to get you.
Looking for Bigfoot is about fighting back, it's about making choices. How can we make a difference in the face of incredible corrupt power? Do we use violence or do we avoid violence? Who shall we adopt as hero or role model: John Brown or Mahatma Gandhi? How far are we willing to go in our fight and how far is the other side willing to go? Who will win? Who will survive?
Friends of mine -- good friends, extremely intelligent friends -- have asked me why I read fiction rather than non. "You only have a certain amount of time to read -- why waste it on something other than facts? Why not read truth instead of stories?" I've felt they are missing the point, but I've had trouble responding to these questions. Mike Palecek has provided an answer in the following conversation, excerpted from the book:
"It's fiction, but it ain't .... Fiction isn't a lie"
If it sounds as though Looking for Bigfoot is yet another Democrat-inspired rant against Republicans, it's not. Both major American political parties are skewered fairly equally here. Americans are the criminals, Palecek seems to be saying, all of us. Yet Americans, all Americans, are the victims, at the same time.
Jack Robert King is trying to stand up and fight back. His family is afraid and angry. The demons from his past often rear their ugly heads, Jack may question his own sanity. Others certainly do, with or without malicious intent. Even the reader may question Jack's sanity at times.
Will Jack Robert King stand up to the pressure? Will he find Bigfoot -- or is the looking more important than the finding? Will Jack survive the search? Will his family survive? Will the USA survive? Will we, the readers, survive this book?
Mike Palecek poses powerful questions. He has constructed a masterpiece in this novel. It deserves to be read. It's exhilarating and terrifying. It's realer than real. | November 2005
Chuck Gregory calls himself a Renaissance Man because he has such a variety of skills and interests. He does computer consulting, sells books online, interviews prospective students for Wesleyan University, and writes opinion pieces and book reviews. Still, he manages to read at least three books a week. He and with his wife have been married over 20 years. They love animals and currently live with their rabbit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a couple of miles from his mother who, at 90 years of age, still lives by herself in her own house.