Shawn Purcell always knew he wanted to write a novel.
Although he had several non-fiction works nearly finished, somewhere in the back of his head was an idea about a group of people trying to survive a worldly event in the rural regions of Schohaire County. The problem was he never had the time, until an accident meant he had to stay off his feet for several weeks.
“I was trying to keep the flood waters from entering my garage all morning during Tropical Storm Irene,” said the Delmar resident. “My wife and I took a walk around the neighborhood when the rains subsided. There’s a small creek by my home, and I slipped by the creek … I heard my ankle snap before I even went down.”
Purcell said as he waited for his wife to get the car to take him to the hospital, he thought of what good can come out of his accident. His main thought was, maybe now he could work on his fiction book.
He wrote the book over 10 weeks, and then did two years worth of edits and revisions. The result was “West Kill Creek.”
In the book, a virus has rapidly reduced the population worldwide, and the main way to survive is strictly through isolation. According to Purcell, the premise might seem familiar, but this isn’t “The Walking Dead.” There are no re-animated bodies, and he stuck closely to issues and themes that would take place in the real world.
“The winter is cold, and food is scarce,” Purcell said. “The population has drastically thinned, but they find each other and decide to stay hidden in the woods to survive.”
The main character is Dar, a man in his late 20s who was already living a little off the grid when the event took place.
“He makes the decision to live out the first winter in a dirt floor cellar in a cabin in Columbia County,” explains Purcell. “The cabin’s on a dirt road in a place he’s renting. Coincidentally, he just settled his parents’ estate, which was a bitter affair, but he ended up with all their canned goods and his father’s rifles. So, he took them all with him.”
Dar tries to stay topside for a while, but bands of marauders start showing up, said Purcell. He emerges from the cabin when the snow clears and decides to make a break for it.
“As soon as he does, bad things start to happen,” said Purcell.
Dar had wanted to go to the Adirondacks, but ends up going west instead. He soon finds himself with a small group of survivors living in the woods of Schohaire County. The group only invites Dar in because he owns weapons and knows how to shoot.
“The expectation is there that he’ll help provide food,” said Purcell. “There’s only a few of them that know how to hunt or fish.”
Throughout the novel, the survivors come up against a hostile group who look to steal their resources. The book is all set during Irene, and discusses how they deal with another natural disaster along with living without modern conveniences.
“It explores how a small groups of people might start over again … Once you take care of getting warm and getting food, there are other problems to deal with, such as dissension in the group,” said Purcell.
Because of the setting, Purcell includes snippets of local history throughout the story. There are also explanations of the area’s natural history, and at the end of each chapter is a historical quote that’s in reference to Schoharie County.
“I think it grounds the book, since it’s not something I made up, but something that was said or written of the area,” said Purcell.
“West Kill Creek” is available now at I Love Books in Delmar and The Book House in Albany’s Stuyvesant Plaza. It’s also available on Amazon.