I always wanted to meet a guy like Leo Swenson, but I missed the boat by about half a generation.
Leo is the protagonist in Ignacio author Tom Givons Seadock, the opening novel of his Boz Trilogy. The book is set in the closing years of the 1960s and is an amusing and entertaining look at life among the hippies and the crew-cut crowd alike of that formative era.
As one born in the 60s but raised in the 70s, by the time I was old enough to understand who those radicals were and what they stood for, most were well on their way to becoming Yuppies. But Givon was there, and he already was north of 30 years old when it happened, so he probably remembers things better than most.
In a strict sense, theres nothing autobiographical, but theres a lot cannibalized from the people I knew then, Givon said of his creation of Leo and the cast of Seadock.
Thats too bad because Leo has quite an adventure. The story begins in 1968 as he and a young woman are caught in flagrante delicto on a lawn on the Berkeley campus his seventh college attempt and takes him on a coast-to-coast odyssey that makes Homers version look like a childrens story. Theres a Southern California drug bust, a violent layover in Aspen and a few lost months mainlining heroin in New York City before Leo joins the U.S. Army in a fog. From there, things really get interesting.
This is not the time to explain what Seadock is; it was surprising enough to find that it really existed in the late 60s (Givon knows a man with firsthand knowledge of the secret Army project) and his ability to gradually reveal it to both Leo and the reader is one of the most fun reasons for reading the book. And dont Google it, either, because thatll spoil it, too.
Casting a shadow over the story is the mysterious Boz, a California drug lord and Vietnam vet with remarkable pull in the Army and the underworld. His presence is sure to be felt in the ensuing installments in the trilogy, as well. Givon has completed the trilogy he began writing in the 70s; hell release Sasquatch and Blood within the next year.
Givon will make two appearances next week in Durango and Ignacio, and its worth the trip to meet the man. Hes fascinating. Now in his 70s, Givon was born in Spain in the 1930s, served in the Israeli army in the 1950s, received a doctorate at UCLA in the 60s and taught at the University of Oregon before finally settling on his ranch near Ignacio. (He lived near Pagosa Springs and worked for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe before his tenure at Oregon, and thats where he found an affinity for Southwest Colorado.) He holds degrees in agriculture, biochemistry, English and linguistics and has traveled and lived on every continent except Antarctica. And hes the fiddler in the Cat Creek Band, which will play at his event at the Dancing Spirit Co-op Gallery on April 29.
Seadock and the remainder of the Boz Trilogy are self-published by Givons White Cloud Publishing of Durango. His 1997 novel Running Through the Tall Grass was published by Harper Collins, but Givon since has opted to go solo. There are a few sacrifices made when foregoing the resources of a major house Seadock contains more than a few typos but it doesnt detract from what is a well-told story by a man with an eye for a good story.
I start from life, not literature, he said. Life is fictionalized to begin with, so its fair game, and I think as fiction writers we have license to blend it, but I also dont want people to think if they talk to me theyll end up in a book.