GLADSTONE - It might not be ghouls and ghosts that set your hair on edge this Halloween. It might be a local author's new novel with a paranormal theme.
While the protagonist in Nancy Keeton's newest novel might not rise out of a graveyard or haunt the gnarly forest, it just might leave you looking under your bed or over your shoulder by the time you turn the last page. It will almost certainly have you thinking twice before entering an unfamiliar cave.
A long-time resident of Cornell and most-recently Gladstone, Keeton is the wife of former City Manager Howard Keeton. In her third book, written under the pseudonym Bryan T. Keeton (Bryant is her maiden name), Keeton describes the reaction of Bevin Anderson, the heroine of "Summer of the Dragon" as "like living in the middle of a Stephen King novel."
Nancy Keeton holds her novel “Summer of the Dragon.” (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
The string of disasters that occur in the story - a mass shooting, a plane crash, and a host of "mysterious" deaths - set the stage for the entrance of an entity that is at the root of all the tumult taking place in the small community of North Point in 1988.
Keeton said she grabbed her storyline right out of the local headlines of 1988.
"Actually, I remember 1988 was a horrible year," she said. "There were shootings in the area, a plane went down in the U.P. and Loonsfoot (a fugitive murderer) was on the loose. I took all those disasters and put them into one community in the book."
As if all the tragedies weren't enough, Keeton said 1988 was also the year her father died, adding to the drama.
It was while the authorities in North Point were on a manhunt for the individual who carried out the mass shooting that they found some strange footprints they determined could not have been human.
But if it wasn't a human that left those footprints, what was it? And how would they deal with it when they found out? The descriptions of the bodies of those who had died mysteriously were just as mysterious. A report of a young man who came upon the entity were just as troubling. The young man had to be delusional. Or was he?
Enter Bevin - a young woman who had an interest in the paranormal and minored in psychology while in college. The news reports and listening to her friends and neighbors talk about the strange happenings were intriguing to her. The desire to do her own investigating was overwhelming.
"Actually, Bevin was the only one who could find out what was happening," Keeton said. "You could say she was 'chosen' to combat this force." (Keeton merely smiled when asked about who or what had chosen her.)
In describing all the outdoor scenes, Keeton said she attempted to use many of the scenes in the local area and throughout the Upper Peninsula. "I tried to get the general atmosphere of the U.P., like the hunting and the fishing, using three- and four-wheelers in the woods," she said. "They could easily have taken place in Stonington."
In preparation for her venture, Bevin wonders how to deal with the entity when she found it and and how to ultimately capture it and decides to use vision quest to help her find the answers she is seeking. When describing what Bevin imagines she is looking for, Keeton described an old Indian legend of a "Windigo" - a creature without a heart and "somewhat of a cannibal."
"Actually it's more of a cold force," she said.
What follows Bevin into the forest is a bizarre adventure and a face-to-face confrontation with the entity - "Dracona" - that left her stunned and scarred for life. Was it an actual occurrence or a fantastic dream?