Lee Rose can tell a story. Known throughout the Creston Valley for his poetry readings, the retired high school teacher has published his second novel, Uncommon Gold.
In Uncommon Gold, Rose (he writes as Richard L. Rose), 81, relates a tale of a high school drama student who suffers an identity crisis after performing Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart at a provincial competition. Afterward, he sets out on a camping trip to Grim Creek Canyon, where he discovers gold and a ghost. As the story unfolds, Martin Schaffer learns much about himself and finds a girlfriend, too.
“When I was teaching in Houston (B.C.) there was a top-notch drama student who came back from a drama competition in Vancouver — just like in the book,” Rose said on Monday. “He said to me, ‘Mr. Rose, I’m scared that I might not be who I thought was.’
“I gave him some reassurance.”
The young man grew into a well-adjusted adult.
“He turned out OK,” Rose said.
But the story left an impression. Before he retired from teaching he started writing a novel based on the story, but eventually set it aside. When he and his wife retired to Yahk, Rose became immersed in community activities and writing poetry. After publishing his first novel, Flame and Feather, in 2010, which sold well locally, he returned to his earlier effort, which became Uncommon Gold.
“I have a friend Tucson, Ariz., who is a successful novelist and he helped me shape the book,” he said. “And it was edited by a retired editor who worked at a law firm. She has a very sharp eye.”
That editor, he said, questioned Rose on the use of lengthy quotes from The Tell-Tale Heart, but research revealed the work is now in public domain, so legal issues aren’t a concern.
Born in Missouri, Rose studied English at the University of South Carolina before doing a stint in the U.S. army. He then returned to his post-secondary studies, earning a degree in science and education. He became a high school teacher and spent years teaching in the Seattle area. Later, he emigrated to Canada and spent eight years teaching in the central-north area of B.C.
In his fiction, he draws from personal experiences and familiar geography, inventing as he goes along.
“Believability. That was my biggest burden in writing both books,” he laughed. “For example, I have never seen a ghost, which kind of inhibited me.”
But he knows people who claim to have seen ghosts, and drew from their experiences.
Similarly, Rose has panned for gold, just has his protagonist in Uncommon Gold does.
“But I never found a motherlode, though!”
In Uncommon Gold, Rose has produced an entertaining and literate tale that will appeal to teens and adults. Much like Flame and Feather, which is still available at Black Bear Books, he moves between reality and fantasy with ease, drawing readers into the tales and making it easy for them to suspend their own beliefs, if only for a short time.