San Diego author T. Jefferson Parker is out with a new book: 'A Thousand Steps'
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Times may have been simpler in the past, but they could be just as bizarre, just as heartbreaking and just as dangerous as the present. That's the world we enter with author T Jefferson Parker in his new book, a thousand steps said in 1960s, Laguna beach, it's weaves a coming of age story with a deadly, my one surrounded by surf sand, hippies, rock and roll. And the backdrop of the Vietnam war in this standalone thriller Parker takes a break from his usual detective series said in Fallbrook to paint a picture of a time and place. Not that far away, just up the road in orange county. Joining me is the three time Edgar award winner and New York times bestselling author T Jefferson Parker and Jeff, welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: (00:48)
Thank you. It's nice to be here, Maureen,
Speaker 1: (00:50)
Why did you take a break from your detective Roland Ford series to go back in time to Laguna beach?
Speaker 2: (00:57)
You know, I felt compelled to when I started remembering some of the times that I spent there as a young boy, age 14, approximately, and, uh, you know, it was time for me to write another book. I just finished my fourth role and forward story. And, uh, the more I thought about 1968 and Laguna and the things that I saw there and heard about there and read about there, the more interested I became and, and a thousand steps kind of just presented itself as a, to me and compelled me to sit down and write it. So I put Roland decide and wrote this book in place of another role in Ford book. Now,
Speaker 1: (01:29)
16 year old, Matt Anthony is the main character in a thousand steps. What did you wanna tell the story through his eyes?
Speaker 2: (01:38)
I just thought it would be utterly fascinating and challenging and fun to write, uh, a coming of age story. He's 16, like you said, and he grows throughout the course of this book, physically and mentally and, and, uh, emotionally. And he begins this story as very much as kind of a passive bewildered earnest boy. And he ends this story well on his way to becoming a capable discerning man. And I'd never written that before, and I thought it would be a blast. And I, I gotta tell you, I had fun tracing Matt's growth, uh, physical and emotional throughout the course of the book. And I think that when the reader comes to the end of the book, she'll see, uh, uh, that, that Matt has changed and in a bunch of really interesting ways. And I think that's kind of what novels should do, show you characters in change.
Speaker 1: (02:23)
Can you share with us just a bit about the plot?
Speaker 2: (02:26)
Yeah, I will. I, I, I can give my sort of standard synopsis of the plot, um, without wrecking too much of it. I think a thousand steps is the story about a 16 year old boy who is searching for his older sister who has gone missing in the psychedelic underground of Laguna beach in 1968
Speaker 1: (02:44)
And trouble develops along the way. Now Matt spends a lot of his book literally on a search, but it seems like all the characters are searching for something. Would you agree?
Speaker 2: (02:56)
Yeah, I think they're all kind of unfinished. And I think that that was endemic in the, in the time, you know, 1968 was a, a tumultuous tumultuous year, culturally, politically in, in our country, especially in, in the world. And so I, I think it was a time of older powers and older belief systems sort of being forced aside and newer, younger points of view and, and methods coming into coming into play. And, and so it was a, it was a time of great change. And I think a lot of us went into 1968, you know, kinda one way and, and came out another. Now the name
Speaker 1: (03:27)
Of the book, a thousand steps, is that based on the beach?
Speaker 2: (03:31)
Yeah, kind of, you know, um, I love that beach. It's one of the first places I saw when I was a kid going to Laguna. I'll never, never forget that beach. It's hard to get to and it's gorgeous. And of course, the first time I went there, I don't know, I was probably 14. And I walked down the thousand steps to a thousand steps each and I had to count 'em, you know, as any kid would do. And, uh, there were 220 something I remember, and it was an awfully long way down. It was kind of dark down those steps. And when you came onto the beach, it was like walking onto a, a stage that was lit by his bright sun. And it was just, just gorgeous place. So yeah, I use the steps, you know, uh, for a title of a thousand steps, a couple of big scenes in the book take place there at the thousand steps beach. And, uh, there's a lot of stepping in this book. Matt literally walks Laguna many, many, many times over and looking for his sister, just going door to door, basically. So, so he takes a thousand steps. Every page of this book, practically. Now
Speaker 1: (04:20)
You are telling us this book is suffused with your memories of Laguna beach at that time, but the portrait you paint, doesn't totally read like a nostalgic look back. What was the atmosphere you were aiming for in this book?
Speaker 2: (04:34)
Yeah, not nostalgia, not that at all. Um, you know, this book is written through the eyes of, uh, in, in, in the tone of the, uh, observing, uh, Matt Anthony and what he sees and what I saw in Laguna beach when I first crashed into Laguna beach, uh, in 1968 was, was a, a, a beautiful city quaint village, a lot of really interesting, good artists and galleries, fantastic beaches, uh, very crowded full of Hipp, wild hair, wild, wild tie dye, you know, EV EV every hippie has to have at least one bag on him. I remember. And, um, uh, cops, uh, in hot pursuit, uh, drug deals going down before your very eyes, the entire city smelled like marijuana smoke. And, um, that's the Laguna that I entered as a 14 year old. And I was impressed. It was kind of like this, this co light ISIC, uh, scene of, of weirdness that I, as a, a 14 year old, you know, a suburban teenager, suburban dude had experience before.
Speaker 2: (05:30)
So to me, it was wild and it was kind of crazy. And it was also undercut Maureen, uh, by the daily visits from Vietnam, from the news, you know, the, the boys coming back in CINs and body bags and the body count, uh, you know, the terrible assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther king in the hostile polarization of 68, you know, male versus female and, and racial, and, uh, have, and have not, uh, just a underneath all the weirdness in the rock and roll music. And the, in, in the marijuana smoke, there was this, this kind of dark tumble in the country. And I, and I tried to capture that in some of the book
Speaker 1: (06:03)
Now, what's it been like developing plots and storylines during this bizarre time of pandemic and political upheaval?
Speaker 2: (06:11)
You know, how this book started was, uh, I needed to write another book. It was time. And, uh, I became, am interested in the thousand steps, this book through my memories and experiences in lag Goda. And I, I, I, I wrote a, I cobbled together a quick outline and sent it out to a publisher and they really liked it. And, uh, so I made a few more notes to myself and started writing it the very month, if not the very week that the, the first lockdowns hit United States, New York. And, uh, that would've been March of 2 20 20. And, and I, I started writing this book and, and, and I think largely because of the mounting dread of waking up every day and reading about the case increases and the, and the hospital overloads and the, you know, the the freezers and just, I mean, this grim stuff, uh, you know, I, as a, as a person, I think, and as a writer kind of descended into this all terrior world, you know, and Laguna beach of 68, you know, 52 years ago.
Speaker 2: (07:02)
And I inhabited that world. And, and, and I think COVID kind of kept me in it, you know, um, I, I never really thought that ESCAP fiction was any kind of a compliment, but you know, this, this is ESCAP fiction in the sense that I escaped, uh, from, from the, the dread of COVID back to a, a time that was not that, you know, um, COVID made me write this book in a way. And also, as you would imagine, you know, when you're locked down, you can't go anywhere and you can't do anything or make any plans. So I just, I did nothing, but right. And this book came out much faster and much longer than any novel I've ever written. And again, I think it's because I was, I was here in this, in this office, in under lock now doing the, the only thing that I really know how to do, which is right. I've been
Speaker 1: (07:43)
Speaking with three time Edgar award winner and New York times bestselling author T Jefferson Parker. His newest book is called a thousand steps. Jeff, thank you so much.
Speaker 2: (07:53)
Thank you, Maureen. Back at you.
Three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker has a new book out called, "A Thousand Steps." The new book is a stand-alone thriller, a departure from his detective series set in Fallbrook.
"A Thousand Steps" is set in Laguna Beach in the 1960s, and it forms a coming-of-age story with a deadly mystery, surrounded by surf, sand, hippies, rock and roll and in the backdrop of the Vietnam War.
Parker joined KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday to talk about his new novel.
"I felt compelled when I started remembering the times that I spent there as a young boy at the age of 14 approximately, and it was time for me to write another book," Parker said. "The more I thought about 1968 Laguna and the things that I saw there and heard about there and read about there, the more interested I became, and 'A Thousand Steps' kind of just presented itself as a story to me and compelled me to sit down and write it."
He said the title of the book comes from a childhood memory.
"I love that beach. It was one of the first places I saw when I was a kid going to Laguna. I'll never forget that beach," Parker said. "The first time I went there, I don't know I was probably 14, and I walked down the thousand steps to Thousand Steps Beach and I had to count them as any kid would do, and there were 220-something I remember."
Parker will be speaking and signing copies of his new book at his book launch event on Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook.