In a world filled with teenage vampires and modified comic book heroes Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, the debut novel from Mark Leiren-Young, a former newspaper reporter in the Cariboo, is a refreshing page-turner, and nearly impossible to stop thinking about even once put down.
It’s refreshing because it’s real, and I don’t just mean it was set in real life, it’s more than that. It’s real emotions; real consequences happen to real characters, who make real mistakes that can’t always be fixed by the end of the chapter with a heart-to-heart and a hug.
Most of all, it’s real hard to believe one man experienced all he did over the course of only a year. The tales Leiren-Young tells are riveting; it’s like a movie in your head.
The factual novel follows Leiren-Young during his one and only year reporting for the Williams Lake Tribune of Williams Lake, B.C.
Never Shoot a Stampede Queen was named after one of Leiren-Young’s reporting escapades for the Tribune. Although the book was published in 2008, it’s set in the 1980s.
Leiren-Young spent many years collecting his stories and after revising them many times finally published them, after a lot of prodding from friends.
Leiren-Young eventually moved back to the Cariboo with his wife.
His book opens in a courtroom, the judge is arguing with the defendant, who happens to have a bomb strapped to his chest. Right from page one the pace never slows down.
Unlike other factual books this one isn’t littered with dates or boring details. It just flows from one crazy, engulfing tale to the next.
Leiren-Young uses unabashed honesty, sometimes at his own expense; to paint the small town of Williams Lake exactly how small towns are; crazy like a big city but dangerously more intimate.
He takes you on a journey through the backwoods of British Columbia where the environmentalists really are mental, revenge includes a lead pipe or a gun, the dead of winter can actually kill, and everyone in the town accepts that’s just the way life is.
This book made me laugh. It made me happy, sad, angry, and wishful. And because of all that it made itself memorable.
Looking at the book, sitting there on my desk I want to pick it up and read it again, even though it was finished hardly an hour ago. I want to run around, sticking a copy in every mailbox. I want to drive down to Hollywood to have it made into a movie, just so I have another fix of it. But only after directors swear not to ruin it or change a thing on pain of death. And I want to have I love Never Shoot a Stampede Queen tattooed on my bicep because the book was just that good, plain and simple.
I could fill a newspaper on the psychology, ins and outs, pros and cons of this book but that would hardly scratch the surface of why it’s so great. It’s like ice cream on a hot day, satisfying and good, but no one can truly put their finger on why.