This novel isn’t a science thriller, but I have a soft spot for stories set in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. And who isn’t fascinated by condors?
Below is a guest post by Darryl Nyznyk, author of The Condor Song, an indie environmental-legal thriller.
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Inspired by the Sierra Club 1960’s battle with the Walt Disney company over a proposed ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, former attorney and best selling author, Darryl Nyznyk, brings captivating realism to this riveting new thriller. Sean Donovan lost everything: his wife, kids, job, and license to practice law. Abandoned by his wife, betrayed by a friend, and fired by his firm, it has taken thirteen years for Sean to come back, now barely eking out a living on minor cases while his former firm thrives. When Buck Anderson, renowned environmentalist from Sean’s hometown is murdered, Sean reunites with Buck’s niece at the old man’s funeral. She begs Sean to join the Sierra Club’s case to stop a major ski development by a Disney-type company, the very case on which Buck was working when he was killed. Sean agrees, but learns too late that his former firm represents the opposition with motives more sinister than their client’s ski development. THE CONDOR SONG is an environmental legal thriller set against California’s rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains in which a man lost to the world he thought he knew tries to find redemption in the face of impossible odds.
Guest post Q&A by author Darryl Nyznyk
For those of us not familiar with the issue that inspired The Condor Song: A Novel of Suspense, can you give us a brief summary of the conflict?
For years Walt Disney had visions of developing a world-class ski resort in Southern California. The closest such ski resort to the denizens of Southern California was in Mammoth or Lake Tahoe (6 to 10 hour drives from Los Angeles). Disney and his family had heli-skied in the Mineral King Valley of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains a few times and Walt fell in love with the magnificent valley.
After World War II, the Sierra Club started looking at the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains for potential locations for alpine ski resorts at about the same time as the Forest Service became interested in having one developed. The Sierra Club identified the Mineral King Valley as the best area for such a resort and the Forest Service ran with it. In 1965, Disney was top bidder for the opportunity to build the resort. They started the process of planning and moving forward with the development. Unfortunately, once the Sierra Club took a closer look at the fragile nature of the valley’s environment, they realized they’d made a mistake and started a decade long battle to stop Disney’s development. Their position was that no matter how environmentally friendly Disney’s plan was, it could never mitigate all the potential environmental devastation that would occur from the thousands of ski tourists who would come into the valley every day. The Sierra Club won the day in 1977 and the Mineral King Valley was added to Sequoia National Park to be forever protected from development.
Why are the condors important?
The California Condor is a species truly threatened with extinction. While some might view it as an ugly creature looking much like the common buzzard with its bald head, scruffy feather ring around its neck, and hunched look on land, it is magnificent as it soars high in the air on wind currents caught in its enormous wingspan. The wingspans reach ten feet, although prehistoric versions of the bird got as wide as fourteen feet with bodies as big and heavy as a small child. I viewed the California Condor as the perfect animal because of its airborne beauty, the fact it is something tangible and meaningful to any observer, and because its vast range fit perfectly into the story I needed to tell. The final, most compelling element of the Condor’s existence is that almost all of the birds alive today were born in protective captivity and released into the wild in hopes that they will survive.
How did you approach taking an environmental issue and turning it into a legal thriller?
The truth is that they are a natural fit. On one side you typically have the “tree-hugger,” “no compromise” environmentalists, and on the other you have the “make money at any cost,” “no compromise” developers. When you throw in the elements of greed, hatred of each side for the other, and the reality that there oftentimes is no chance for compromise even if the parties were interested in one, you set the stage for murder. Any time opposing forces are so adamant about their positions that they will not even hear the other side, extreme reaction, physical altercation, and even murder are the result . . . even in real life. The danger inherent in a conflict involving more money than any person could ever imagine is apparent to most people. When you throw in lawyers (one of which I was and am) the stakes surge higher because people have such built-in feelings (good and bad, but mostly bad) about attorneys. The concept of THRILLER just oozed out of this confluence of these facts and characters.
About the Author:
Darryl Nyznyk lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife, Loretta. After practicing law for 20 years, Nyznyk became a full-time writer and teacher. He is also the author of the holiday novel, Mary’s Son: A Tale of Christmas.