The River by Bill Stokes

StokesTheRiverNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 19 minutes

Author’s Page


This is a tale of young man’s first deer hunt. The author starts us off with a personal note of how deer hunting has been a part of his life even if he no longer directly participates.

Set in Wisconsin in 1947, a teen boy on the cusp of manhood is invited on his first deer hunt. On the first night of the hunt, there’s stories and manly cooking at the hunting cabin as Uncle Duffy and his friends deal out the cards. Our hero soaks it all up. He desperately wants to be considered one of them. He feels a driving need to prove himself on this week-long deer hunt and he fears he won’t measure up.

First, I was a bit surprised that he was allowed to wander the woods alone on his first hunt as we typically make sure to go by twos on any kind of hike that is over an hour long. It’s a little unclear if the area was well known to our young hunter or not. Anyway, he navigates his way back to the cabin day after day.

There’s a rising urgency as the hunt progresses. The men shares stories of hunts past. I liked how the story built up and up. I could really feel the young man’s need to prove himself worthy. When finally the moment comes, there’s a big snag in his triumph, followed by a triumph of another kind. I was surprised by how things ended but was also well satisfied with it. Years later when this kid is a seasoned hunter, he will look back on this incident with wry humor.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Johnny Mack continues to do justice to this author’s short stories. He does a good job of sounding like a young man and also of sounding like an older Uncle Duffy.

What I Liked: The snowy river setting; the excitement of deer hunting; youth wanting to prove itself worthy; how nature has a tendency to show us just how small we are.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a fun hunting story.

Drink, Drank, Drunk by Bill Stokes

StokesDrinkDrankDrunkNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 1 hour 19 minutes

Author’s Page

Originally written nearly 40 years ago, this journalistic report of Wisconsin drinking and alcoholism still is relevant today. Bill Stokes strikes a sound balance between harsh facts and humanizing a variety of alcoholics.

From teens to the working man to the house wife to the lonely pastor to the well-liked young man – anyone can go from light drinker to an alcoholic. Stokes includes more examples, but you get the picture with the few I’ve mentioned here. In a few sentences, he paints a vivid picture of each, making it easy to picture people I know in real life in the same position. I like that this work points out that many kids learn from their parents about using alcohol appropriately, or not.

This non-fiction essay includes a brief discussions of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and other ‘cures’. He brings up questions about the cycle of ‘curing alcoholics’ only to have them back in the system a few months or years later. The author is frank with the reader and includes his own experience with drinking heavily and how he has changed his life and why.

While there are plenty statistics, they are no longer accurate today. However, they are still starkly frightening. It does make me wonder what the current statistics are with the higher population. This work is definitely dated with references to women entering the work force and “that’s why they need to relax like the working men.” I don’t know how accurate that is but I would like to see something backing it up… or not.

Stokes does point at the alcohol industry and their lobbying of Wisconsin laws concerning who can drink, advertising, etc. quite often throughout the piece. Again, I would like to see how accurate that is for today’s alcohol lobbying and the industry.

I originally read this as an ebook which, unfortunately, had several typos. I believe these typos were introduced when the Word or PDF version was translated into the Kindle version. For example, several times an ‘I’ will be an exclamation mark or such. Anyway, I found the audiobook version much more enjoyable because I don’t get hung up on the typos.

Narration: Johnny Mack did a decent job on this one. Sometimes he has an odd pause and sometimes he doesn’t pause as we move from one section or chapter to another. Other than that, he gave a good performance. He never sounded bored with the subject matter.

What I Liked: Fun cover art; a serious subject; even tho it’s decades old, it’s still relevant today; author humanized the issue; audiobook is better than the ebook.

What I Disliked: References to women are sometimes dated; some odd pauses, or lack of them, in the narration.

If the Fish Is a Trout: A Love Story by Bill Stokes

StokesIfTheFishIsATroutNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 13 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a sweet reminiscence of a man falling in love with a trout taking place in the Wolf River in Wisconsin.

I have never been fishing but this short tale has piqued my interest. I now want to fall in love with a river and her fish and the sport of claiming a meal with patience and perseverance.

Bill Stokes eloquently talks of cool misty mornings as well as steamy afternoons along a river as fish hunters claim their spots and do their best to entice a large trout to sink their mouths on their carefully crafted (or bought) hook-in-disguise. While I have always had some respect for fly fishing, since it requires skill and patience, I now see some beauty in it as well.

As always with Stokes’s works, there’s some humor tucked in here and there. I especially enjoyed his references to love affairs with the fish, his wife’s reactions to his addiction, and the light jabs to those weekend fishermen who drive right up to a chosen spot in the river instead of hiking along the bank a quarter mile or so.

I’ve listened to a few tales by Stokes at this point and I believe this is his most eloquent work. Obviously, he has a love of not only the sport of fishing but also a love and respect for the trout as well.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Johnny Mack did well with this tale. He seemed to get caught up in the beauty of trout season and that came through in his narration.

What I Liked: Eloquent depiction of trout fishing; bits of humor here and there; respect for the fish; good narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – now I want to try fishing!

The Great Fox Hunt by Bill Stokes

StokesTheGreatFoxHuntNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 15 minutes

Author’s Page

This simple tale of a weekly winter fox hunt evokes nostalgia for a simpler time. The author starts with a short note of his own real encounters with foxes over the years. While he participated in fox hunts as a kid, they were never successful in outsmarting their quarry. It’s clear from the beginning that the author has a deep respect for wildlife and took joy in his non-destructive encounters with foxes, even if it was a mere glimpse.

The tale itself is about a group of teenage boys meeting every Saturday in the winter to hunt a wily fox. They meet up in a warm kitchen where someone’s older female relative takes pity on them, making sure they are full of good cooking before they rush off into the snow and ice. At first, I was concerned that I wouldn’t like this story much because I don’t particularly approve of fox hunting. However, this is not your traditional English fox hunt with horns and horses. And I will tell you upfront that the fox wins out the day.

OK, so the tale itself gave me some good chuckles. The main character telling the tale is honest in that they don’t often see the fox and that there are many times where the fox seems to be leading them on a merry chase, enjoying the game.

When one of the kids does finally see the fox, he’s in no position to shoot at it. Instead, he simply has to admire the wit and regalness of the fox as it lopes off. I also liked the reference to their regular farm chores and how tired they are.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Johnny Mack was a good pick for this short story. He has a fine voice for a tale about teenage boys. During the humorous parts, there’s just a hunt of laugh hiding in the narrator’s voice. 

What I Liked: Evokes nostalgia; the author’s opening note; the cover art; great narration; a fun tale of boys trying to be men; the wily fox.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a fun tale!