A preternaturally smart dog with different colored eyes gets separated from its master, encounters a Kokopelli—a kind of ancient mountain man—and rescues a chamber music ensemble from rushing rapids—flautist first—before having a fine reunion down river.
The prose is half Castaneda, half Cormac McCarthy, and enjoys the redemption of wry good humor. The book is short (25,000 words), accompanied by handsome illustrations, beautifully bound, and the work of a 73-year-old journalist who hasn't published fiction since Jerry Ford was president. "We like those quirky, somewhat out of the mainstream books," says David R. Godine about his decision to publish Brock Brower's Blue Dog, Green River, a novella blurbed by—why not?—Hugh Downs and Peter Benchley. In lyrical prose, the story recounts the parallel journeys of a raftsman and his blue- and brown-eyed dog after they become separated going down the Green River in Desolation Canyon. The book—and Brower's career—has taken as odd a journey as said dog.
Although Blue Dog, Green River's mixture of fiction and fantasy works as literature, Godine, who heads the Boston-based publishing company that bears his name, was not convinced of its financial viability, despite reassurances from Brower's agent, Rich Barber: "You can't lose: it's dogs and guys." The book's high production values, which enticed Brower to publish with Godine in the first place—the real cloth cover, headband and illustrations by artist Nancy Lawton, who has designed covers for several of Godine books and whose show at the prestigious Hirshl & Adler Galleries in New York City just closed—kept the price ($23.95) high for a 107-page book "David does the best books in the U.S.," says Brower, satisfied.
To get the word out on his book and try to move it into the modest pantheon of Godine bestsellers, which includes D.C. Beard's The American Boy's Handy Book and Peter Bowler's The Superior Person's Book of Words, Brower is currently making the bookstore circuit in his 1999 Jeep Cherokee. Using a contact list supplied by Godine, he set up his own stops at Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore, Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara and Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe. "David is small and I know you can't get the big buzz with a small publisher," says Brower.
As for the lengthy gap between Blue Dog, Green River and his previous fiction published by Atheneum—Debris (1967) and The Late Great Creature (1972), a National Book Award nominee—"I lost my courage," says Brower, who couldn't find a publisher for his third novel despite the critical success of The Late Great Creature. "I let it all go for about 30 years and that was a big mistake." Once he was ready to return to writing imaginative prose, it took him five years to get back to where he left off. That's not to say he wasn't busy during the intervening decades. Brower, whom Godine describes as "a man who has been around so many tracks at least once that he's a story in and of himself," helped his wife raise their five daughters and immersed himself in other kinds of writing. He wrote and produced the very first 20/20 ABC News programs and Children's Television Workshop's 3-2-1-Contact. He's also had a 40-year career as a journalist writing for magazines ranging from Esquire to Life. Currently, he teaches journalism at Dartmouth.
Brower is philosophical about the long hiatus in his fiction writing: "I couldn't have written this book as a younger man." Currently he's at work on a novel about the 1952 presidential nominating conventions, for Stevenson and Eisenhower. Brower was present at both, and a half century later, with the perspective of years, he hope to bring them to life.