The Deadly River effectively combines a classic adventure story with both heartfelt emotion and a theme that will leave one thinking long after the book is read. It’s a great read that combines the pathos of a young orphan’s plight with the exhilaration and adventures that come with gun battles and fist fights in the Montana mountains.
But, far more importantly, this book provides a unique perspective that should cause people on both sides of wilderness environmental issues to seriously consider the effect of ongoing policies and actions.
It’s the spring of 1959 and a recently orphaned boy, Lee Raines, is hiking into the Montana mountains, attempting to re-connect in a small way with his dead parents. While on this mission, he finds himself stranded in a small logging town which is fast becoming ground zero in national environmental conflicts. Battle lines are being drawn and, when the inevitable war explodes, Lee is in the middle of it. He is forced to grow and mature as he fights for survival. His life is changed forever.
Eventually, Lee comes to grips with the loss of his parents. However, as he wanders the mountains, he accidentally witnesses serious crimes; crimes committed by an unscrupulous profiteer hiding behind the confusion of local environmental efforts. Before he can leave town, Lee finds himself in a shooting war, forced to defend himself against powerful, brutal, enemies. Finally the shooting stops, the sheriff makes arrests, and the criminals are convicted. Only then does Lee realize that the problems were more complex than anyone had realized.
Nothing was yet settled. It takes a final gun battle, a battle that results in an actual case of Rocky Mountain Justice, to end the war.