Spirit Falls, is a coming-of-age novel set in the empty hardscrabble borderland between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. It is an affecting story of childhood friendship growing into profound love.
The gypsy-like refugee Marina Svetaeva unexpectedly joins Ricky Belisle and Marie Jeanne, “M.J.”, Charbonneau at curtain call on the night of their school’s Christmas program. Her arrival looses a cascade of events that ultimately finds Ricky carrying M.J. in his arms across the Great Bogus Swamp into the teeth of a 100-year Lake Superior storm. If she survives he vows an ultimate sacrifice.
Ricky Belisle is a boy born to first-generation immigrants. They bring with them the beliefs, manners and stories of the homeland and in so doing they create a disconnect in Ricky that forces him to begin the exploration that will eventually take him away from the land that has leached into his bones.
Robert Townsend, a retired Air Force officer, was born and raised on a farm in northern Wisconsin and writes of a life he has witnessed.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War protests, Townsend flew 175 combat missions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In early 1971, he transferred to Berlin, Germany as a signals intelligence officer, then to the National Security Agency before returning as a war planner at HQ USAFE, Ramstein. From 1982-1989 he was deputy chief, Air Force Intelligence Agency, counter-deception directorate (at CIA). He is among some of the few men in America familiar with the war of ruse and stratagem between the US and the USSR.
Spirit Falls is the prologue to a trilogy about deception and war and peace in a 20th century world of contrived and real moral ambiguities.