Small town America can be considered a bit of a myth in today’s technology age. The speed of information, ability to purchase items from far away, and talk to someone in another country almost makes it unnecessary to talk to a neighbor. A great way to get an idea is ask yourself how well you know your neighbors. If you like most of us you have little interaction with them as no need when all available at your fingertips.
Author Philip Seal will give the reader a great glimpse into that missing small town America in his book Hilger. A book that will take the reader into the far corners of the small town which has one bar, a gas station and an eclectic group of people who call the town home. However, they will find out that something has come to their town in the late 1970’s that will rock this town to its core. The book brought to readers through Black Rose Writing.
Hilger opens with a man telling of a visit to a bar where he is given a fortune reading by a woman claiming to be a witch. The witch will tell him, through tarot cards that his days of wondering will come to an end in a small town. This man is left wondering what the woman meant by her last statement, “You will hunt. But do not ever feel sorry for it, for that will be your undoing.” In a way this could be foreshadowing what to come in the book which in itself has a mystery to be unraveled as well as the cryptic message.
The reader is introduced to Daryl, whose father had killed himself at the age of thirty nine and it was many years later this poor young man lost his mother to an auto accident. Thus this young man did the only thing he could think of and joined the military and was one of the thousands of young men to fight in Vietnam. His return home was filled with the question of what to do and this path of finding work would eventually lead him to Judith County and the town of Hilger.
Hilger, a small town which has the local bar as its main place or entertainment and owned by Bob and his cheating wife Sally. A gas station that is run by John Liberty and then lastly there was the grain elevator that had at its busiest time three employees, the owner, Russ and Sandy. In like all small towns there was a woman who loved to gossip. The town had its eclectic mix of people from a woman who sat on her porch with a shotgun, an old man who horded his money, and a few cattle ranchers. It was a small town with a small population where everyone new something about the neighbor. At least that’s what it seems from the outside.
It is only when a stranger comes into town, one Peter Olin, that things begin to change for the small town and the county. This mysterious man had driven from the west coast to arrive in this small Montana town. He was searching for something but would not really interact much with the locals and eventually his car is found on the side of the road. Peter had gone for a walk into a field only to disappear and not be seen by anyone other than a few locals.
The second disappearance, a man nicknamed Eds, will leave the bar in the hopes of a late night hookup with a cute young woman and never make that rendezvous. Thus he becomes the second person to disappear in this small town. The interesting thing with Eds’ tale is that things had been conspiring that evening that the man would disappear anyhow. The fact is that how he disappears is much worse than the fate that was being planned for him. The big problem that is plaguing this small town is that those hunting in the mountains nearby are not the only ones hunting.
Hilger is a book set back in the late 1970’s and what makes it a great read is the character development. You begin to understand the motivations of the people of the town and their lives. There are characters you can sympathize with and others you may find yourself hoping will be next to “disappear.” The addition of a running thread of mystery helps give the book just enough of an element of suspense it keeps you turning the pages. There is even some brief mention of General Patton in the book when we are introduced to Daryl as a child. This history buff loved the reference to the man. Along with this reference there are points in the book where we learn of how a grandparent can be just as influential on a child as his own parents. The reader discovers this as we read about a young man in school and the impact of his grandfather.
Author Philip Seal creates not just a great small town but the characters that live within this town. The fact that a mysterious event draws additional concerns for this small community makes many of their problems seem small. However, when you live in a small town no problem is ever small. This is a great read one that fans of sci-fi, mystery, suspense and even light horror will enjoy.