Bill Moore couldn’t read anymore.
The Nelson author had spent years working on Yellow Dog Coming, a gritty thriller he released in 2009, and during the writing process his vision had begun to deteriorate. Not long after it was published he went blind, suddenly making the text inaccessible.
But then he came up with a solution: an audiobook, recorded right here in the Kootenays, with a local performer to bring his elaborate cast of characters to life. After holding auditions in his living room, he agreed to embark on the project with Jeff Forst.
And he couldn’t be happier with the result.
“Jeff made the book alive. He had voices for all the characters that were real and convincing, and each had a psychic integrity. To watch that happen, to watch him make it real, was so moving,” Moore told the Star, after releasing the title online through Audible.
“I have no way to thank Jeff for doing what he did. It felt like he was incarnating the book, like the characters were speaking through him.”
The story follows a woman named Ann Pratt who is raising her only grandchild in a small logging town reminiscent of Kaslo called Lesker. It’s forest fire season as another boy, “burning like sulphuric acid through every life he touches,” comes to town. According to Moore, if it was a movie, it would get an R rating.
“I’ve written novels all my life, but I’ve never brought something to this sort of completion. There’s a lot of me in there. I’ve had, in my own life, some very difficult experiences and some of them are built into the book in some way,” he said.
“I’m not a violent person, but I’ve always been drawn to violence and I want to understand how it works.”
The narrative doesn’t shy away from the seedier side of life, and the characters go through disturbing and sexually explicit experiences. That appealed to Forst as he was preparing for the role, and as he delved into it one particular quote kept coming to mind, from Bruce Cockburn: “Gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”
“That captures Bill’s book, that phrase,” Forst said.
“Bill delves into a sort of universal psyche, there’s this idea of exploring darkness that you can tell he’s lived, and I’ve read so many books that will go there and leave you there. But with Bill’s book there’s a love and light woven into this extreme darkness, and that really appealed to me.”
It wasn’t easy to record, though. It took them months upon months, and at one point they had to take a break, but ultimately it clocked in at just under ten hours. When all was said and done, Forst had created dozens of characters.
“I was impressed with Bill’s resilience. We ended up actually building our own little recording studio out at Six Mile, and there was dogs out there and the lake in the background, so the book was really alive in that space. It was such an amazing process,” he said.
And now Moore’s excited to share it with the rest of the community.
“This book will take you through some difficult places but there’s a kind of victory at the end and you need to walk through the eye of the needle to get there.”