Spy Rock Memories: The Book

So I guess it’s now official: the book I’ve been working on for more years than I care to remember will finally be coming out this June on Don Giovanni, and if you thought Don Giovanni was a record label, well, yeah, they are, and a very good one, but they’re now branching out into publishing.  So hopefully you’ll buy my book, or else they might start thinking that publishing books wasn’t such a good idea after all, and in these days, we don’t need people thinking things like that.

spyrockcover2reworkSome of you have been reading a preliminary version of Spy Rock Memories here on the website as it was being written.  Out of consideration for my publishers, I’ve now taken all but the first chapter down, since I want to give them at least a fighting chance of being able to sell copies of the book.  Also, although the basic format and story line remains the same, every chapter has been substantially, and in some cases completely rewritten since it first appeared here.  Chapter 1, which you can still read here on the website, is the original, not the rewritten version.

I’m especially excited about the cover art, which was done by my niece, the wonderful, amazing, luminously talented Gabrielle Bell, who, though she was born in London, grew up on Spy Rock.  The house portrayed on the cover is where I lived, and where Gabrielle often visited as a child.  As crazy, maddening and bizarre as Spy Rock life could be, there must have been something in that mountain air or water (or maybe it was just the vibes, man), because out of that remote canyon, home to only an intrepid handful of back-to-the-landers, ranchers, outcasts and misfits, came at least two certified geniuses, Gabrielle being one and Grammy-winning drummer Tre Cool being another.

There were others, too, certifiable if not certified, and as those of you who’ve read some of the previews or have had the privilege to spend time on Spy Rock yourself will know, it’s an amazing and unique place, in some of the best and worst possible ways.  Living there was easily the most formative experience of my life, and I can say without hesitation that everything I’ve done since my arrival on Spy Rock at the beginning of the 1980s has been colored, shaped, and, really, made possible by what went on in those mountains up on the back of beyond.

As I’ve heard many writers say, there comes a point with any piece of work where you just want it to be done and out before the public so you can move on to the next project, but at the same time, there’s a tendency to cling to it, to rewrite and re-think every aspect of it.  And even once it is done and on its way to the printer, it’s possible – even probable – that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Oh no, I totally forgot to write about ____”  Believe me, I’ve had more than a few of those moments.

I also had to give careful consideration to how much or how little information to reveal about people who were part of my story, whether as friends, neighbors, or family members, and who may not be as thrilled to be in a book as I was to write about them.  In the end, if I erred, it was on the side of caution.  So I did have to leave out some stories that would have certainly helped sell books and entertain the masses, but maybe don’t need to be in print for anyone and everyone to see.  In many cases, I don’t even give people’s names at all, which, if you’re familiar with Spy Rock culture (or the tale of the posse of pot growers who showed up on my driveway threatening to burn down my house if I kept writing about the area in my magazine), you’ll know is probably exactly how they’d like it.

Cover artist Gabrielle Bell and her brother Jethro on Spy Rock in the 1980s.
Cover artist Gabrielle Bell and her brother Jethro on Spy Rock in the 1980s.

Taking all that into account, though, I still think it’s a pretty good read.  Rolling Stone and other music-oriented media are naturally focusing on the Lookout Records and Green Day connection (it was, contrary to the Rolling Stone story, in the remote mountains of Mendocino County, not at Gilman Street, where I first met and saw Green Day), but although both those things play a significant part in the story, it’s not a music book per se.  In fact, the bulk of it focuses more on a hapless city slicker (that would be me) who bumbles his way into the wilderness without the faintest clue of how to survive there, and has to learn for the first time in his life to take care of and be responsible for himself.

I went to the mountains, as I note in the book, in search of something “real.”  There was plenty of that, to be sure, but I found a hefty dose of wildly improbable unreality as well, some of which I’m still trying to digest all these years and miles down the road.  It’s a sunny late-winter morning here in Brooklyn, somebody outside is pointlessly revving up his engine and the overly loud hum of the refrigerator and the various clicks and beeps and flashing lights of 21st century technology remind me just how far I’ve wandered from those solar-powered days where the loudest sounds on most mornings came from buzzing insects and the occasional pine cone dropping onto the roof.

Being wrapped up in writing about Spy Rock these past couple years has been like a form of time travel, enabling me to experience that life again, minus the life or sanity-threatening consequences that sometimes came with it.  It’s come in a way to haunt me, to make me desperately nostalgic for a time and a place that I can’t and probably wouldn’t want to go back to.  It’s been quite a journey, but I’m glad the time has come to move on.  I do hope you’ll read my book, because I’ve already started writing another one, and you wouldn’t want my publishers to be disappointed in me, would you?

24 thoughts on “Spy Rock Memories: The Book

  • March 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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    Aw, Larry, you’ve always been a writer and a raconteur, and a good one at that! I can’t wait to own this book. I’m proud to have crossed paths with you when.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2013 at 3:40 pm
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    Hi Larry will it be available in the UK ?

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    • March 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm
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      I sure hope so!

      Reply
  • March 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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    Great news! I ripped through the online chapters in a single (long) sitting and have really been looking forward to the book.

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  • March 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm
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    i want nothing but this book for my birthday!! i’ll die when i fianlly have it in my hands

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  • March 21, 2013 at 1:39 pm
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    Read it, loved it- thank you for this literary treasure.

    Reply
  • April 11, 2013 at 6:22 am
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    is it going to be available in México?

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    • April 17, 2013 at 3:33 am
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      I hope so!

      Reply
  • May 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm
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    Hi Larry, I was born and raised in Willits California and my brothers and I used to go quail hunting up in Covelo, Laytonville and all around. When I moved to Livermore over 40 years ago I met a real nice lady who went to our church. Her name is Madelyn Johns. I think she told me that her husband Ercil Johns lived in Spy Rock. Did you ever hear of him? how do I buy your book?

    Reply
    • May 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm
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      Hi Dick,
      No, I did not know Ercil Johns, but then Spy Rock covered a lot of territory. Spy Rock Road itself is about 14 miles long, and peters out before reaching the Eel River quite a way north of Iron Peak, which is where I lived. Spy Rock (often written as Spyrock) was also once a small town (or maybe it would be more appropriate to call it a village) which is now all but abandoned as far as I know, because it’s not easily accessible by road, and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which used to bring people in and out, stopped running quite a few years ago. But when you said Ercil lived “in Spy Rock,” it occurred to me that perhaps it was referring to the town rather than the area.

      Once the book is out (still a couple weeks yet), it will be available on Amazon and direct from the publisher, and hopefully in stores on the North Coast of California. I’ll post more info as soon as the actual publication date arrives.

      Reply
  • May 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm
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    Thanks Larry, let me know when it comes out… would like to buy a copy. A friend of mine in Willits just published a book in Willits about the old runway on mendocino street way back when…was fun to read. If they do not block this send me info at rjaerial@comcast.net

    Reply
  • May 31, 2013 at 7:55 am
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    Hey, I’ve seen it on amazon, this is a kindle only release ? I will read it soon this seems great !

    Reply
  • June 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm
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    Looking forward to getting a copy (wondering if it might have been my dad in cowboy regalia buying bullets when you hit town)…

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    • June 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm
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      And only a couple of years later it could have been me (minus the cowboy hat) standing in line to buy ammo at Geiger’s! Spy Rock and Laytonville had a way of changing a guy in ways that he might never have dreamed of before arriving there.

      Reply
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  • July 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm
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    King Range Books in Garberville, Ca. How can I get Copies for my shop here is Garberville?

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  • October 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm
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    Great Book! Great Read. Spy Rock sounds beautiful, Peaceful & idyllic, way beyond what i can only imagine of it being,

    Reply
  • December 26, 2013 at 8:48 am
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    hello mr larry livermore,i would like to know when your book will be available in france???because it’s looking like one of the most amazing book ever,but for the moment it’s just impossible to find it in france!!!

    Reply
  • January 8, 2014 at 11:12 am
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    I started reading Spy Rock Memories last night. To be honest, I got it because of Green Day, but when I first looked at the cover it reminded me of a house I stayed in during a student exchange in Oklahoma. I grew up in a city, and everything you said about going to the country reminded me of that time in the smallest town I’ve ever seen, the endless dirt roads and nothing but forest around the house. At first I hated not being able to walk or take public transport to go to the store or bars or anywhere really, but I learned to love the country and I really miss it now. Just wanted to let you know your book already touched me after the first few pages. So excited to continue!

    Reply
  • February 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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    Today, Spyrock is also a land of murder, rape, paranoia, and multi-agency military attack squads. A thousand Honda generators are running at any given time, every day and night of every year. The roads are a racetrack for hard-drug-n-alcohol-fueled suicidal locals. The Hill folks been raided by all-black unmarked Apache copters, and are now blanketed by Drones. Most of the land is covered with slowly decaying PVC plastic leftover from the decades of growers who have left pots, water storage tanks, fossil fuels, and mountains of other crap behind when they have finally had their fill of raping the Peak, cashed out, went to prison, or died. The place is actually pretty punk rock. It’s like the Tenderloin National Park. Long live the Eel. Black Day.

    Reply
  • March 10, 2014 at 10:28 pm
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    Hi Larry, your book is still not available in Mexico and I just wanted you to know that I’ve been crying for it. I’d rather having this shit than going to Disney. Oh my god Larry, I’m going to kill you. 🙁
    Ps. Do something<3.

    Reply
  • June 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm
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    Larry, thanks for this jewel of a book, you did good! I was late to the game, just came across this amazing book on Amazon and just finished reading it. This is a modern day classic, I think better than Thoreau’s Walden! Trying to figure out where your house was, I wonder if you sold your place to guy named Kevin? I’m sorry to hear about the Tee-Pee guy, I met him in the 70’s when I was a kid and was fascinated that he lived in a Tee-Pee. Your description of Kira and her funeral was very touching. I have daughters myself and Udo’s reaction really hit home. Have no doubt, Spy Rock is still special. People–the good and bad ones, come and go, but the mountain stays the same, it’s still a magical respite from modern life and troubles. My dad bought his 23 acre parcel on Iron Creek road just on the south-eastern side of the Iron Peak lookout tower in 1974 from Blue Rock Ranches/Harwood Lumber. As a kid, this was our magical camping getaway, my dad just referred to it as “the mountains.” We got up there a few times a month, some years more, some less. In retirement, my dad fulfilled his dream (albeit in a 5th wheel trailer and not a cabin as he had hoped) and moved to the property and lived for 10 years starting in 2001 and your experience was very familiar! He didn’t grow or use pot himself, didn’t care if others did, but that often put him outside of the Spy Rock community to some extent; Those were the happiest years of his life, loved it up there and was always cutting short vacations to get back home and feed “his” cats…I get it now after reading your book! My dad passed away, but our family still spends time at the property every month and it’s still a special place. The sunrises with the clouds hanging in the valley are pure magic. Your book was fascinating and insightful on many levels–the drive to “get away from it all” Your creative drive and strong views that wouldn’t let you stay away from it all, and the insight on the local culture…it’s all fascinating and important. Important history and important experience and insight that I’m happy you shared with the world! I’m ordering more copies and sharing with friends and family. Thanks!

    Reply
  • June 21, 2015 at 9:25 am
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    Larry,
    I just ordered this book for my son.(and me) He lives on my brother’s property off of Registered Guest Road right by George Washington Rock. My brother was Steve Kelly. Steve lived in a house off of Domestic Pig road. Did you know him? He died of AIDS in 1987. We sold the house but kept some land. It’s still beautiful out there. I visited my son last summer. I am searching for some hard copies of your magazine on EBAY. Laurel Kelly

    Reply

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