Local author Gary Allen Duke recently published his short novel, Bobo County through Author House. In just over 100 pages, Duke relates the tale of Bobby, a young boy growing up in Bobo County, New Mexico. As the dust cover notes, “Even though the book is short… the story will captivate you you and invite you to go to Bobo County in your mind.”
Duke reveals himself as a storyteller. His tone, from Bobo‘s opening chapter, is casual and conversational. In ambling prose he introduces the reader to Bobby Allen, a recent West Virginia transplant, who—even faced with the wide open spaces of the Southwest and all the baseball games he could shake a bat at—really just wants a dog.
There’s a sweetness to this story that surely could have come from years of bedtime stories—Duke is a father of two now-grown children. Of Bobby, the author writes, “He stayed there, standing over his new dog for awhile, ever so proud and grateful. He then thanked God for all that had happened that day, turned down the lights and went to bed.”
Bobo is the tale of a boy and his dog, but it’s also an account of growing up in the wild countryside. Bobby, Bullet the dog, and Bobby’s pal Joag—a member of the Pueblo tribe—adventure together in a landscape dotted with cowboys, gold-seekers and animal predators.
“When they peeked around a bush, they saw that little dog with its hair standing on end, yipping at a bear that was backing up,” Duke writes of one encounter. “That bear was afraid of the little pup. All of a sudden the boys got brave as they waved their arms and hollered out at the bear.”
But for all the innocence at the outset of Bobo, the book harbors dark secrets. A crooked sherif and a long-standing vendetta between the Native Americans and the white residents puts Bobby and Joag in danger when they unwittingly wander into the middle of a plot to hide a murder and take gold from reservation land.
Duke takes his time with his tale, slowly building to a climax of intrigue and excitement. But the conclusion of Bobo is not the book’s greatest surprise. The true challenge in this novel is not actually about Bobby and Joag overcoming the odds, but about the author rising up against adversity. Duke suffers from a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease which threatens to leave him wheelchair-bound and unable to communicate through speech or writing. In an effort to prevent the illness from robbing him of his dream to see his story in print, Duke took it upon himself to complete and self-publish Bobo while he was still able to do so. The end result is nothing less than a triumph.
Gary Alan Duke signs copies of his book at Bruce’s Fabulous Foods (63 S. Main St., Marion, 659-8023) on Monday, June 15.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter