With the constant fear of nuclear war, an exploding Middle East, and memories of World War II still fresh with flowers on soldier’s graves; a young man realizes that he is growing up. In Howie Smith’s world of primal forests, orderly orchards, and Lake Michigan; he learns about life and begins to understand death. A crazy aunt, a dying uncle, and the unyielding pressure to bring in the demanding crop of cherries, forces Howie to realize there is more to life than baseball.

Randall unveils, during this brief summer, a family’s fears and triumphs. He explores a region of America left apart from the chaos of the world. It is a place of unwanted migrant pickers, backwoods people who must live off the land, and the grand lake that encloses them all. But Howie discovers it is also a realm of miracles.

Monday, April 20, 2015

New Cover - New Attitude

It was finally time to upgrade the cover to Elk River - kind of edgy don't you think? The ravens play an important part of the story and if you've ever worked in farming and especially orchard work you know what I mean. Thieving bastards they can be.

This work has been receiving excellent reviews and some interest has been shown in the world of screenplays, but I will not get my hopes up too high.

Some exciting news, this book is now part of the Amazon KDP system and it is available to borrow under their program. If you borrow through Amazon Prime you know what I mean. So you might check this out. Also be prepared for some free days coming up during the next three months. They will be found on Freebooksy, Pixel of Ink, The Books Machine and others. And don't forget to post that review. Every little bit helps.

This story is a must read for your teenage son and daughter. Serious issues are discussed and presented. How would you react if you found out your uncle, your mentor and the one man you have always looked up to was homosexual? That he was also dying and that you might never be able to ask for his help understanding all that is happening in the world of a fourteen year old boy coming of age. And it is 1956 where such sensitive issues are never discussed.

All the best . . . . .

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chapter One - Michigan 1956

Chapter One
“You look at me one more time, you bastard, and I’ll grab you by that deformed arm of yours and throw you across the grass!” Eve Titus screamed. “I don’t want to see your face, or even think that you’re anywhere near me, you cripple.” She threw her highball glass, half full of bourbon, at the boy.
            He ducked; it was easy to duck her throw. It hit the base of the tree. Howie knew this was coming, it had happened before, and it would happen again.
            “Howie, what’s going on?”
            “Nothing Grams, Aunt Eve and I were just having a conversation,” Howie Smith said, as he turned toward the screen door where his grandmother stood. “Aunt Eve seems to have spilled her drink again.”
            “You little son-of-a-bitch,” was all Howie heard over his shoulder.
            “Eve, you quiet down now. Howie, pick up that glass, someone might step on it, and your mother needs your help unpacking. She’s upstairs.”
            “You leave that glass right there, boy.”
            Howie glared at his aunt and turned toward the screen door.
            “Yes Ma’am,” Howie squeezed past his grandmother and disappeared into the kitchen.
            “My Lord, Eve, why do-ya’ do that?”
            “Do what?”
            “Go after that boy, don’t you think he has enough to deal with without your badgering?”
            “He’s a bastard and he’s disrespectful. No one tells me when I’ve had enough to drink. I know my limits and I’m not even half way there yet. But I know when I’m not welcome no more. I’ll leave, but you’ll just have to wait ‘till the old man comes back. I’m here and this is where I’ll drink.” Eve picked up the glass, tipped it to the sky and caught the last drops on her tongue. She took the flask out from her black patent leather purse and poured another two fingers of bourbon. She looked to the screen door, lifted the glass, smiled and emptied it in one gulp.
            “That boy’s a son-of-a-bitch and so’s his sneaky little brother, they’re both bastards.” Eve poured the last of the bourbon into her glass, slumped back on the slider and, within a minute, was passed out.
            For the next hour, the family acted as though Eve Titus was not even there, and for all intent, she wasn’t. A slight, but nasty bit of drool coursed from the corners of her well decorated lips to her less than well powdered chin. When she was finally taken home, the young boy with the withered arm could breathe freely again.

            Howie Smith squatted on the edge of the creek, his toes hidden in the warm sandy mud; the hot Michigan sun baked his back and darkened his already deep brown hide. He paid no mind to the wet sticky air and sat, quiet and still, watching the red tannin tinged creek drain from the larch forest deep within the swamp; his eyes, wide, watched the miracle continue.
            Twice the muskrat swam up the creek and twice the muskrat floated upside down, paws to the sky, rubbing its belly, rubbing its face, and once, Howie was real sure, its crotch. If the muskrat had thoughts about him, Howie didn’t care; it was a miracle, just a Goddamn fucking great miracle, that he was damn sure of. Again the muskrat swam up the creek and, for a moment just before flipping over, looked straight into the right eye of the boy, and seemed to wink. Of course muskrats don’t wink, but sure as Howie sat there he was sure it winked. Both were caught in the same closed world: the boy felt the water flowing over his muskrat fur, his heart swelling with joy, and the warmth of the sun on his upturned belly.
            He left the farmhouse early that morning, just after a breakfast of toasted homemade bread, peanut butter and apple butter. He loved the farm and its foreignness. The rest of the year his world was: trains, Catholic school, his sometime friends, his family, nuclear war and hiding under desks, his room; the busy-busy, the crazy-crazy. The woods, beaches and orchards were his world even if for only two months every hot and sticky summer, and far from one target, Chicago. The family came during the hardness of winter, but it was the rounder, edgeless summer that shaped the boy.
            He pushed his way through the low branches of the sour cherries heavy with green fruit and morning dew; in no particular direction, just through, then down below. The orderly rows surrounded him, throwing out a deep green tunnel ahead and behind. The morning sun flashed through them and pushed the humidity up as it pulled the dew from the trees. The branches hung just low enough to allow the hard clusters of fruit to be touched. The green marbles sparkled like emeralds against the dark saw-toothed leaves and peeling red and black bark. They dreamed of becoming rubies.
            The edge of the orchard, where the last row of trees stood on the old lake bluff, delimited the edge of the real world. The orchard’s orderly world clashed and stood in mortal conflict with the Michigan woods spread below. One would win in the end. The boy understood the battle: the orchard is man’s world; the forest is owned by no one, a wilderness.
            He called it “below the hill,” below civilization, below the safe, the known, the comfortable. The path from the crest of the bluff to the woods below carved a hallway from one life to another, from one place that held his family to another that held him. It was a place to learn, to poke and prod, to watch and wonder, and, to watch miracles.
            The creek flowed from high in the hills above the farms and orchards, down an old valley cut by glacial run-off, through the dense larch and tamarack swamp to emerge and carve its way across the beach into Lake Michigan. The boy counted three hundred and twenty two paces, out loud, from the point where the dark water of the creek washed into the lake. Between the lake and the swamp stood a sand dune covered in scrub pine and juniper. In the spring, the creek would cut a sharp V shaped notch through the dune and force itself to the lake with a reddish riffle not more than a foot deep. Here the sand fines washed into the lake leaving a gravelly bottom armored with flat hard gray stones excellent for skipping.
            Every few winters the creek changed, wandered, left home to find a new address somewhere up or down the beach. Last year it was up a hundred yards or so, the old abandoned channel could barely be seen. Howie knew that the great plates of thick ice, pushed up on the beach by the winter winds, had cut this new channel and plowed away last year’s. Every year things were different, changed, but he really only remembered the last three years. That summer, three years back, the beach was twice as wide as it is now. A dry winter lowered the lake, the bottom was exposed. He could easily climb the newly emerged logs and boards still stuck in the sand from the lumber days. Small pools between the snags held clams, minnows and finger long muskies. But now those worlds were covered by fifteen feet of water; it looked normal, the way God wanted it; Gramps said it’s the way it is supposed to be. Howie liked it more when the water was low.
            He watched the muskrat flip over one more time and then he backed up the bank slowly into the shade of an over-reaching white pine and pulled out the packet of Pall Malls (liberated from the carton in the kitchen); his second fag of the morning. He smelled the earthiness of the short unfiltered cigarette and how it was full of the aromas of the damp litter of the woods. The farm and the forest were different worlds grinding into and abusing each other; for the moment the farm seemed to be winning. He held the matches in his right hand’s twisted fingers, struck the match across the box, and, as he took his first drag, imagined he was in a kingdom where he could make his own rules. Change washed over him; his crotch now growing hairy; his face seemed rougher, the longer down, scratchy. His own internal worlds grated; some days he was happy, and others, his family really pissed him off. But he welcomed the physical turmoil and mixed-up emotions. His left arm felt stronger, a tight bicep showed; his right was only a minor annoyance, something that made him unique, in school he had developed an act that used it as a prop to the delight of his friends and the shock of his too sensible teachers. No one pitied him.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Formed from small corals and animals a half billion years ago; compressed and metamorphosed to inflexible stone; its patterns of life held in eternal suspension; crushed by roiling seas and countless glaciers; foundered in the sand on a sallow beach; to be rescued by an old woman, given to a fledgling at the start of a fleeting summer when green cherries turned red, boys became men, lost souls died, and for a very, very brief second of the primordial stone’s life, the leaden, time encapsulating Petoskey stone conned its holder into believing it held miracles in its hard heart.

Boys to men, stones to gravel, life to death, it was the time when waves of change pushed a simple family forward, to hold each one for a moment, then release them to the next swell. What to hold on to, what raft, what drifting piece of debris keeps them afloat? They flounder, but never climb on each other’s shoulders to gasp, one last time. They release themselves to time and the seasons. These govern all: time holds the parts of their lives together; the seasons are the whip-masters of their art. 

A boy, a summer, lives gained and lost. All governed by tart red rubies and uncontrollable electric storms. The struggle between the real and the loved is contested; change, as all changes are, is fought, there is no winner. Yet again, time drags them to its bosom, and they’re left to breathe heavily of its promise. There is a difference between the civil and the wild; one tries to own time. The other – with arms thrown high – gives of itself lovingly.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families, may this be the best holiday season ever.

The Smith family from Michigan also wants to thank you for sharing their summer of 1956 and all their trials and successes, their story ten years later is in development and hopefully will be out in 2015.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

BAIPA: Best Young Adult Fiction

Award Winner

Two of the best words in the English language for a writer. I was just told that Elk River won the 2013 award for Best Young Adult Fiction from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), I am thrilled.

This is the second award for Elk River in the past year. It was selected as a finalist for the very prestigious Benjamin Franklin award from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) last fal for LGBT, and it was the only novel in the category.

This edgy story would be great for that fourteen year old who wonders what the world was like fifty years ago when the greatest adventure wasn't the latest phone but what wonders were to be discovered in the dark forest, "Below the hill."

or paste

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Reviews

Book Reviews are what authors live off of, we can never get enough. Below are two recent reviews for Elk River.

Midwest Book Review
Growing up seems to happen much too suddenly. "Elk River" is the debut novel from Gregory Randall, as he writes of a young man facing reality in northern Michigan in 1956. Seeing the world for what it is, he learns the world isn't perfect and he learns much to find the truth that lies behind it all and how best to understand it. Poignant, "Elk River" is a fine coming of age novel, not to be overlooked.
Midwest Book Review

Readers Favorite:
Living in Chicago fourteen year old Howie Smith always looks forward to the time that he and his family head to his grandparents farm for the summer. While Howie and his brother Bill who is nine and his mother Anne spend the summer at the farm his father Doug can only come up on the weekends because of his job with the Chicago Tribune. A story set during a time when things seemed much simpler, but were still complex that allows us a glimpse of family and friendships, living and dying and a look at the way things were in 1956.
The author weaves a story that easily transported me back in time.The writing really pulled me in with descriptions and imagery that made me feel like I was right alongside the characters. I could just imagine Howie and his family anxious for to leave the city each summer and head back to the farm. It was always exciting and there was always something to do. The only thing that Howie and Bill didn't look forward to was spending any time with their alcoholic aunt who was often belligerent. There were plenty of interesting characters that kept the plot moving along with this one. I thought Uncle Frank, while a bit eccentric taught Howie a few life lessons.As the author provides the back stories of the characters we learn of the loss that goes along with living. The different characters added layers to the story that made the story come to life. I found it quite interesting to read about the migrant workers and how they lived and traveled from farm to farm. Overall I loved the time period and setting of this story, but strong characters and a plot that allowed me to feel as if I was a part of Howie's family really kept me reading! 
Reviewed by Brenda C. for Readers' Favorite

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Buy It Today

It is a  great story for the young man or woman in your family who is facing all the challenges that a teenager faces - even though this story takes place in 1956. It is available through both Amazon and Smashwords. 

It has received wonderful reviews and praise for its handling of difficult issues that we all face as we grow up: death, love, family, misunderstanding, and discovering homosexuality. This is not a story of a gay teen - it is the story of a boy who is confronted by his great love for his uncle and finally understanding what it takes to be a man.