by Rolf Margenau
Wylie Cypher, suffering from a mid-life crisis, decides to challenge fading youth by taking a trekking vacation across the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains) of the High Andes in Peru with his daughter, Mercy, just graduated from college. It is 1981.
While working with legal clients in Lima, he inadvertently acquires documents that contain explosive and damning evidence about the Peruvian government’s extreme interrogation techniques. He learns that something is amiss when police detain and torture him. He loses his little toe. A series of misunderstandings precipitate a heart-pounding chase across the high mountains as two sets of villains – government thugs and members of the communist guerrilla Sendero Luminoso – seek out the Cypher group with murderous intent. Combat in the thin air of the mountains, deceptions of numerous sorts, hairbreadth escapes, torture, action in underground caves populated with mummies, and unexpected plot twists fill the pages of this book.
It is in the United States’ national interest to observe the growing communist threat in its hemisphere, so C.I.A. agents are involved. While Wylie and his cohorts are running for their lives, the author also reports on international smuggling of historical artifacts, the fate of a 600-year-old child mummy, and the ancient spirit of the mountains, Pachamama.
He descended through thick clouds. The moist air caused a strange singing in power lines stretching through the valley below, like a poorly tuned E string on a guitar. The singing continued as the cloud sank lower into the valley and sunlight penetrated the mists surrounding Gaspar.
His route took him along a trail on the ridge overlooking the Río Santa, and he looked down the steep sides of the mountain descending toward the river. The river itself was unseen beneath the low clouds, but he could hear the rushing waters along with the singing of the wires. He had experienced those sounds and sights before, and appreciated their mystery. It gave him an eerie feeling of isolation in a strange world where he was master of the mountains. He continued along the slick path, checking that his bundle was secure behind him.
The master of the mountains forgot about the recently uncovered patch of scree along his path and stepped onto it at the same pace he used on firm ground. He might as well have stepped onto a waterslide. The loose stones beneath his feet gave way and he scrambled upward, searching for better footing. There was none, and he lost his balance as he began a dangerous descent down the mountain. He sat down, lowering his center of gravity, and used his stick as either a rudder or an oar to guide and slow the rapid slide toward the river and the rocks below.
It was a long way, and he became the center of a little avalanche, with loose rocks, pebbles, and dirt surrounding him and hastening his swift descent. Yet he managed to keep from tumbling, and searched through the enveloping mist for a handhold or outcrop or anything to break his fall. He saw a large Puya raimondii shrub directly below, its six-foot-long leaves rushing toward him, its huge flower spike not yet in bloom. He slowed himself with the stick and grabbed at the leaves with his left hand. He stopped, and his body spun under the bush.
The sharp edges of the leaves sliced into his hand and quickly flowing blood made it too slippery to sustain his grip. He placed both hands on his stick and dug its end into the mucky soil, hoping to wedge himself to the side of the mountain. He sat, motionless, breathless, gauging the distance to the river below from the sound of rushing waters. It was far, still far.
The author of Public Information has had a varied career. He has been a scrub nurse in an operating room, a professional photographer, a soldier during the Korean War, a correspondent for the Pacific Stars and Stripes, an attorney specializing in international corporate law, a volunteer executive running a not-for-profit dedicated to housing the homeless, a manager of large and small businesses and, lately, an author and Master Gardener.
He first published short stories as an English Major from Yale. Finding the double-digit pay for that work insufficient to support a wife and one and a half children, he went to law school in hopes of finding better paying work. Fortunately, that proved to be the case.
When the author discovered that his wife kept all the 300 plus letters he wrote her from Korea, he decided to use that material as the basis for a novel about the Korean War. It was a story he had wanted to tell for many years.
Public Information is based on his experiences as NCO in charge of a combat Infantry Division Public Information (hence the title) Office in Korea. It tells the story of Wylie Cypher, a hapless young soldier who arrives in Korea in the midst of bloody combat. Wylie manages to survive his sixteen-month tour of duty as Margenau recounts in gory, ribald, poignant and accurate detail. His adventures are recounted in military jargon and his sometimes abrasive involvement with the “Army way” describes the good, bad and incredible of life in the military. Along the way, Wylie manages to find and lose love.
Other veterans have found the story authentic and highly illustrative of the background and details of the Korean War. Publisher’s Weekly commented on the author’s ability to create a sense of time and place. During the summer of 2012, Public Information became an Amazon.com Kindle best seller.
Pistils and Poetry is the author’s second book. It is a compilation of Margenau’s favorite Elizabethan poems (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, and numerous others) juxtaposed with the author’s photographs of flowers. It is a rich and engaging poetry book, enhanced and complimented by luscious photos of flowers. The book is considered as an elegant way to tease reluctant poetry readers into an appreciation of the beautiful sentiments and language of long ago masters of the English language.
Encouraged by the reception for his first novel, Margenau published Master Gardener, his second novel, in March 2013. It is a story that explores conflicts between the benefits of engineered crops and their potential for ecological disaster. Wylie Cypher, the hero of Public Information, is now seventy-five years old. He uses his life and legal experience to defend one of the women in his life, Anne Proctor, against the machinations of malevolent BIG AG. Senior citizens band together as eco-terrorists to save the monarch butterfly, and Dick Geier, the ruthless and profane CEO of BIG AG, engages in corporate shenanigans that reflect current headlines. The story is set in Middletown, New Anglia, not too far from Philadelphia, and episodes along the Amazon River in Peru bracketed by episodes along the Amazon River in Peru..
His third novel, published in August 2014, is High Andes. The central narrative follows Wylie Cypher, in his mid-forties and suffering from a serious mid-life crisis, and his daughter, Mercy, as they try to elude various villains chasing them across the White Mountains of Peru. The story deals with armed insurrection by Maoist guerillas, smuggling ancient artifacts, “disappearances” of troublemakers, a five hundred year old child mummy, and the CIA.
Rolf Margenau lives in rural New Jersey with his wife, three dogs, a 1932 Chrysler convertible, and a flower garden favored by monarch butterflies. He is now working on his fourth novel. Tentatively titled National Parks, the story recounts what happens, in the near future, when Congress decides to nationalize America’s National Parks.
Rolf will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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