I love the question, if you could, what decade would you travel back to and visit for one night. The 1970s is my top choice. Specifically, Aspen, Colorado in the ‘70s. I imagine rich celebrities cloaked in head-to-toe fur throwing back shots at the Hotel Jerome, skiing in just jeans in the spring, or spending way too much money on a cowboy hat with a plume of feathers tucked in the front.
So, it wasn’t surprising, “Against the Wind” by Kirk VanHee and Catherine Knepper was a five-star read for me. This book checks all the right boxes, including the time period. It is a true-life outdoor adventure and survival biography, which is my number one genre pick. And because it is written by a first-time, independent author, it’s the typical book Rivet services for proofreading and editing.
I bought this book from Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colorado while on vacation. I can’t say enough good things about the great book selection and layout of the store. Bonus points go to the staff for showing me the local author section, an informative billboard full of virtual book events, and an in-store coffee shop.
This book brings to life the tumultuous and thrilling life of Kirk VanHee. A rough childhood for VanHee turns into unfocused adolescence, which then lingers into adulthood. The story caps itself with a thrilling beginning and tear-jerking happy ending. VanHee is the good-souled and lost character who runs through and then overcomes life’s trials.
VanHee wanted to write a book that chronicled his life like a movie, which he certainly accomplished. The book keeps pace so well, you do want to put it down, only so your time with the book won’t end.
I especially enjoyed the honest perspective VanHee gives when he describes his experience and experiments with drugs. Drugs were part of the ‘70s culture in Aspen, so it was refreshing that he was able to describe drug use with an honest and time-sensitive perspective.
It’s hard not to buy the book after reading the first chapter. After an exciting beginning, the book keeps up a fast pace. VanHee introduces memorable characters, such as Toby, his trusted horse, and describes heartache stories of VanHee’s troubled childhood.
Don’t skip the afterword. Often overlooked or ignored by most readers, the afterword in this book gives an insightful look at why VanHee decided to write the book and credits to the co-writer, Catherine Knepper.
Chapters begin with song lyrics, setting the scene of the time period and what is going on in VanHee’s life at the time. Music is a hallmark of the hippie and mountain-ski culture, and these song lyrics carry the book’s themes throughout the read.
I traveled with my family every year, sometimes multiple times per year to Colorado for skiing. At the time, there was one tape deck in the car controlled by my parents. That tape deck played “The Big Chill” soundtrack, and “The Eagles Greatest Hits”. I listened to those albums so much, it’s like “Name That Tune” in two notes for me when each song starts to play.
If we were lucky to travel on New Year’s Eve night, we would listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown. I remember pulling into our home garage after a 13-hour drive back from Colorado, and not leaving the car because I wanted to hear Kasem unveil the number one hit of 1983. It was, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. To this day, I try to pass on these ‘70s and ‘80s hits to my daughter when we are driving west out of Denver towards the mountains.
In that spirit, here are the lyrics that symbolize what VanHee’s book means to me. I hope you get the opportunity to read and enjoy the book as much as I did.
“Out of Control” by the Eagles
Oh, my, don’t the sky look spacious
With the stars all shinin’ down
Well, I can hear the night wind howlin’
It’s a high and lonesome sound
And I ain’t had a woman in so long
I can’t feed my starvin’ soul
Come on, saddle up, boys, we’re gonna ride into town
We’re gonna’ get a little out of control