Leila has ferreted out another gem of a piece with wonderful atmosphere and this is what she said:
Although even more time has flowed past since I wrote this, Mr. Kim is a relative newcomer to the LS site, and his presence is deeply appreciated. His stories are most humane and he often tells the tale of persons whose lives go on just below common perception; persons who must fend for themselves in all matters, even in those of law and government.
Mental illness, addiction, abuse by power and people not giving a damn in general populate these kinds of stories. They are hard and honest. The Hills of Okanagan harkens back to the characters of Steinbeck and society’s steadfast denial that such people still exist. Kim proves that they do and will continue to do so as long as the driving conditions listed at the opening of this paragraph remain untended.
Q: In the matter of style, I found the use of “You then…” exceptionally well done. It gave the piece a sense of urgency which contrasted with the quiet of the night and the sleeping vineyard. Was this a conscious choice or did it rise organically?
Q: Revenge is usually about the journey and the execution of such is often an empty act. Yet the MC’s motivation seems to be driven by a personal code. I get the idea that not to do what he did would have been, well, “unethical.” What are your thoughts on that?
Question 1: The second person seemed the best way to get right into the protagonist’s experience. I wanted to write about him as if I were inside his mind. I worked in agricultural labour years ago, so know the experience well. I have friends and acquaintances who still make a living this way, like the protagonist, in their middle and later years. When you’re older, working at low wage physical labour jobs has whole different feel. It’s your lifestyle until the end.
Fast modern changes have altered Canada’s Okanagan Valley from a fruit farming area to a real estate speculator’s paradise. Rich retirees come from around the world to buy land there, and farmers can sell out and make millions as developers turn their fields to hobby farms or subdivisions. Itinerant labourers like the protagonist try to survive in the disappearing agricultural industry, wandering from job to job in their rusty vans and old trucks. They’re independent, they do things their own way, and they know their time is drawing to a close. I wanted to capture how that feels.
Question 2: When making decisions, people like the protagonist harken back to vestiges of a frontier time. In those days oral contracts were the norm, and were honored. The ripped-off vineyard worker could have gone to the labour board, but he’s a simple person, he doesn’t like authority, he’s not comfortable with bureaucracy. He works his vengeance out on his own, at a very exact level. He tries to be fair, he doesn’t destroy more worth than what he’s owed. He’s overcome alcohol addiction and is coping with a new, more complicated world. Before sobriety, he could just drink and sink into the alcohol escape and rage about the unfairness until the emotions burned themselves out. In the story, he drives away from the farm, but comes back full circle, obsessed with getting even. I think he did the right thing, for him, but there are more sophisticated, modern ways to handle conflict. He’s not a man of modern times, though, he’s a man of the frontier. His justice is frontier justice.