Kar Wei Cheng
“Write what you know,” said lawyer and author Rick Pendergast before he began reading from his book Friday night In The Volume One Gallery. Pendergast read aloud a few chapters of his newly published book “Stoney Lonesome Road.”
In a room packed with people of all ages, Pendergast stood at the front of the room behind a podium, under a spotlight with a blue hue. The small space ran out of seating quickly, making listeners resort to sitting on the old wooden floors like children at storytime.
Pendergast began the reading by explaining the beginning of the book, which is a poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” This poem leads directly into the eerie story of a police officer, Jack Delaney, who saved the life of a petty criminal and comes to regret it. Being set in Western Wisconsin on a road that truly exists, this book hits close to home.
Starting his first novel at age 18, Pendergast is no stranger to writing, although this is his first published book. The ideas for “Stoney Lonesome Road” came from his life experiences. Pendergast has lived an eventful life, from being in the Air Force, to then being a police officer for seven years in Eau Claire and now being a lawyer.
When talking about his past occupations, Pendergast said “being a police officer was a great honor and a major influence in (his) writing.”
The “driving force” for this book was where Pendergast grew up, just outside of town. He still lives on the farm he grew up on, in a house he built for his parents. His daughter and her family live in his childhood home, connected to his house by a path.
Pendergast draws from “everything. Experience, people in life, stuff (he) reads” for inspiration. This gives the book a sense of reality. From the woman in the bar to Jack Delaney and his dog, the characters and the settings resemble the picturesque, small Midwestern town. He gives the type of description that allows readers’ minds to get lost in the setting and fall in love with the characters. The love Pendergast has for writing clearly shines through his words.
“I love to write. When I write, it’s not difficult,” Pendergast said. “It really is a labor of love, and when I write I am gone. It takes me away, and I am right in the story.”
Besides his authentic writing, Pendergast had an incredible capability to capture the audience’s attention. Everyone was enthralled when he was reading the various chapters that gave insight to the book.
Laura Rykal, Pendergast’s hairstylist, attended the reading with her son.
“His storytelling skills are impeccable,” Rykal said. “His presence in front of people is astounding; his personality really comes across in how genuine he is.”
Pendergast read the first few chapters to give an overview of the book and a insight into the main characters. Then he read later chapters that introduced a love interest for the main character, Jack Delaney. The book covers a variety of genres: mystery, thriller and romance, which creates a large audience base for Pendergast.
“His whole life came out in that book,” Kathy Thomas, Pendergast’s good friend, said. “The whole thing is a collage of him.”
Thomas and Rykal unanimously agreed that the book is an embodiment of Pendergast and everything he has seen and what he loves, including Abraham Lincoln and Robert Frost.
“Rick is such a gentle, kind man,” Rykal said. “He is such a character and a great storyteller.”
Commenting on the finished product of “Stoney Lonesome Road,” Pendergast said, “It’s a profound feeling to have (the book) done. I’ve been working on this thing for a long time. It is actually, truly the most satisfying thing I have ever done in my life.”
Pendergast is in the process of writing “another cop book, that is not related, set in the same area, but in 1968, which is a very tumultuous year.”
“Stoney Lonesome Road” is for sale at Volume One Magazine & The Local Store and online.