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Sample Chapter

Check out what readers are saying about "Dead Men Hike No Trails":

  1. "Many begin the AT journey, but few finish, including best-selling author Bill Bryson, who wrote another book on the Appalachian Trail, 'A Walk in the Woods.' I like McKinney's book better. In fact, I like it a whole lot. McKinney's voice carries his tale with searing honesty, unabashed narcissism, equally unabashed self-doubt and a joie de vivre that, it seems to me, shines especially bright for those of us who live in the grim land of chronic depression." - The Concord Monitor

  2. "Equal to the achievement of the AT conquered and the rants written is the editing and self publishing of the work into book form. Good job! You are now assigned the task of going on adventures and writing novels about them for the rest of a long life, ending it early would deny us the books that you have yet to write. Good work. I hope the concept of life being a journey instead of a destination has increased in relevance. I loved the way you combined thoughts on our contemporary situation with the great Henry Miller quote and juxtaposed that with the snake eating the salamander right in front of your face. Some of the most notable thoughts that you shared in the book for me came in the 9 pages from page 208 to 216. The high cost of the "don't talk to strangers" meme is one of my personal themes. I also agree that the "exclusivity clause" (211-213) of Christianity cancels out the whole thing for me. And your dad (p.216) asking you what it was in the real world that made you anxious, and you replied "Advertisements-to know that I live in a world of lies." That really hit truth for me, with my marketing degree and all." - Tom Kennedy

  3. "I read the last six posts of your AT hike and I thought it was some of your best writing that I've ever read. I was so moved by it and by you that I wanted to say hi and keep writing and that I don't know much about god but supposing there's a heaven, a long way in the future, I'll meet you there." - Bronwyn Lea

  4. "Terrific, vulnerable, bawdy, optimistic, insightful and downright funny at times. So glad you wrote it and I got it. Kudos. I like to think I do food the way you do words. Yum." - Carolyn Stapleton

  5. I've been enjoying Dead Men Hike No Trails, reading in fits and spurts, hiding the book from my bosses who don't know I'm heading to Georgia in March. (I haven't finished your book. But I'm about half a bottle of wine in and feeling a little spooked...) Your tale is intimate, and thankfully so, because who better to tell about how much I've savored this read, than the author? And how often does the reader, especially an anxious one like myself, find it necessary (let alone possible or comfortable) to write the author? As your words walk through my home state of Massachusetts and my obnoxious roommate yells around the kitchen, I have my haven of the book and my music. When you wrote "transfixed by Radiohead's Pyramid Song" I gasped and physically threw the book to my feet. That was the song playing on my ipod. So in whatever event coincidence is, whatever forces bring music and reading and dreams together, I appreciate this otherwise superficial connection with you. Thanks for making that possible. - Sara Haxby (9/08)

    (March, 09) Springer Mountain and I will meet formally on March 25th, early morning. I can only hope that Katahdin and I will be familiar by October. Thanks for all your words and sentiments from the book and correspondence, Rick. I cry whenever I talk about your summit, it's an inspiration in itself. - Sara

  6. Got your book, have only just started to read and you've already moved me. I too have suffered for years with depression and have felt many times the way you describe: wanting to get away from it all, feelings of no self-worth and that deep dark hole that wants to suck me back in. I so admire your strength to pull it all together and make it happened and what a challenge you have put before yourself I can't wait to get home and read more, really enjoying your adventure. - Deanna Smith

  7. "OUTSTANDING. The writing is good, the editing is good, the purpose is so real - and you convey it admirably. You're able to blend emotion with detached informative description seemlessly. I was initially kind of afraid to read it, afraid that I might not like it, but shazaam! Beautifully balanced in all regards (the hard-work-editing really shows). Having had many friends over the years who have either committed suicide or contemplated it - I wish that I had had this book to hand them. Your discussion of the subject and your honest feelings (and indeed at this point in your life, your wisdom) is tactfully interwoven into this wonderful hiking story. There's no preaching, yet the sermon is heard. Dude, if you keep what you publish at this level, you'll gain the recognition you desire. Its a fine blend of storytelling and journalism. Thanks so much." - Doc Atomic

  8. "Your writing continues to captivate me, to touch the free spirit chained inside me. I thank you for keeping the words coming. They fill black and white lives with dazzling color." - Michael Strickland

  9. "God damn Rick, you did it and how! It is of huge irony that one who suffers so is such a light, such a kick to be around. As a fellow dancer on the edge of the abyss I know your pain as a distant howl but your writing does not make me want to walk over and inspect what is making that plaintive wail so know that you did a good thing." - Max Haynes

  10. "In his new book, Dead Men Hike No Trails, artist Rick McKinney tells the story of how he traveled over 2,000 miles on foot, without any car, let alone his beloved art car, to re-discover himself without all the stuff, to sort through it all and remember his own story, to cast away that which is no longer needed and create himself anew, to write a whole new story.. Ironically, in so doing, McKinney ends up telling one of the oldest stories known to man, The Hero's Journey. From the moment you open the book, you know this hero is on a journey of mammoth proportions, a test of body, mind and spirit that can break even the strongest of men. You are invited to join this journey as the hero opens his head and pours the words onto the page with an artful flair for detail. Whether it's the first night out in a huge rainstorm or the numbing off-trail experience at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, you are right there with him sharing the beauty of nature and the pain of existential angst. Like all classics Hero's Journey myths, Dead Men Hike No Trails comes complete with ghosts, faeries, gods, and goddesses as well as the mystery and magic of life along the Applachian Trail. So, get out your hiking boots and hit the trail.. you are in for an unforgettable journey!" - Penny Smith

  11. "Hi, my name's Tristian. I served you beer when you came through the GC (Grand Canyon) and hiked it. I also bought one of your books about hiking the AT. I just wanted to say thanks. After reading it I was inspired to do it too. I set out in March of next year. The real thanks is for helping me find something I really wanted to do. I really enjoyed your writing. I feel like I'm there with you when I'm in that book." - Tristian Relihan

  12. "Great book! I read it in one week, couldn't put it down. It's the BEST A.T. account of trail life I have ever read! Kudos to you. You really touched chords in me - I found I cried along with you at certain points; found I agreed with you with a RIGHT ON! at other points; and really dug the SURVIVE theme. Happy trails! -Robert 'Red Wolf' Croyle

  13. "I now read your book by opening anywhere and just reading...also reading out loud, as-in books on tape...usually in a Garrison Keillor-Andy Rooney-Thoreau/Whitman voice...(Yes, I do know what Thoreau/Whitman would sound like.) I never do You!...where's the art in that? You are a genius....your writing sings the universal angst. Some writers dig into their brains...others reach into their hearts...but McKinney dives into his soul...swim into the darkest corner...reaches into the darkest muck...swim to the surface so fast he gets the bendz...survives the bubbling torment...and opens his hand to reveal the rainbow pearl that is his writing." - Scott Roberts

  14. "Dead Men may be a hard book to categorize but its not hard to like. In fact McKinney's honest prose will involve you right from the start, almost as if you are sitting next to him in an AT Shelter, tying up your boot laces with him. This isn't a hiker manual or a self help book. Its more of a therapeutic offering from McKinney, one in which he struggles to find himself among nature and through the wilderness of America. Written with the same honest and open style as his weblog on Jigglebox.com he tells you like it is, from his point of view and from his take on life. Fighting off Depression and the sorrow of a lost friend he pushes no agenda and leaves it up to us the readers to decide how we cope with loss. This is Rick's way, and it worked wonders for him. If you don't have the instant urge to Hike the AT after reading this work I applaud you for being so secure and content but some of us just have to fly. And fly he does. The friends, lovers and characters he meets along the way are so colorful one wonders what classic Twain or Dickens book they escaped from. Yet here they are, full of life and most of all real. Dead Men wasn't a perfect journey, and McKinney doesn't try to be a role model for those battling with their own inner demons. Yet he does what so few writers do. He serves up everything, the good the bad and the ugly and doesn't cheat the reader or preach to them. This was his search for his American Dream and he found it atop the highest peak in Maine."
    - Justin Alessandro

  15. "I am finally writing a review for a book that I've read at least 3 times since I've gotten it this past winter. I love books, I love literature, I love prose that makes your stomach ache and your throat close. This book is a fantastically written piece of literature. McKinney is both a wonderful writer and traveler. This book works on a few levels--as a long, rambling poem, as a travel book, as a biography...this book means so many things to me I could probably go on and on. This book is deliberately written in a first-person, present, you-are-with-the-author-right-there-in-his head type of way. I think that's why this work is so affecting. From the sad start of the book when he chooses to leave for the AT, being alienated from society and full of greif, surviving a green-sky lightening storm, to following the wrong woman just because he is COMPELLED, getting lost in the White Mountains in the middle of the night, climbing into the clouds and out the darkness, you are with the author so completely that you forget where YOU are. McKinney writes with an intensity that makes you feel every change of mood, every turn in the forest, everything. Some books you read, you can almost feel the author struggling to pull the words out of his head, when they are then analyzed, rewritten, anguished over, etc. This words in this book simply flow on and on, as if this story (rocky as it is) came tumbling out of the writer. This is a book that, I think, most people will identify with. Who isn't at times, both happy & wistful & elated & proud & frustrated & alienated & sweet & upset & powerful all at the same time? Or over time? Luckily McKinney has an articulate, plaintive voice that takes the reader up and through all of these. Get this book." - Wendi Sitara (from Amazon review page)

  16. BETTER THAN BRYSON: "While Bryson's book on AT is funny, McKinney's book is more honest, gives one a much better sense of the experience, and has a way-better ending. Having distance hiked a lot--including stretches of the AT--and read a lot about the subject, no book I've found better shares the experience, what it is like, day in and day out, to take on such a journey. One gets a wonderful view into the community that forms along such a hike, as well as both the stunning beauty and incredible monotony that pervades such a trip. As a bonus, along the way, McKinney also shares with the readers the trials of struggling with depression--his motivator for getting on the trail. It's worth the noting, the book stems from a blog he kept while on the trail and, like a lot of blogs, can be a bit "self-involved." Mr. McKinney is no doubt a smart, funny, complex person in real life--and, like people like that in real life, his writing might take a few pages to warm up too. Stick with the book, as he'll take you on an armchair journey of the AT like no other author has that I know of." - Peter Bergh

  17. "A mesmerizing tale of a man simultaneously running from, while facing, the things that torment him most. McKinney shares his deepest, most intimate thoughts and feelings in a way that all too many of us can relate to. His walk on the Appalachian Trail sets a fine parallel to our own lives. Bravo Rick! Walk on my brother." - Uncle Bob

  18. "I thought your book was really good right to the end. Just to say the obvious thing (first, and least), it was a relief that a book by someone I know was not some kind of charity read requiring diplomatic skills for follow-up conversation! :^) I was genuinely impressed and moved by it. I was pleased it was so well done, both in writing and in editing/presentation. I think I found it easier to read than your raw blogging entries, both because it is a little cleaner editorially, and because it has the structure of the full 2000+ miles built into it. I never knew what was going to happen next, but the "story arc" context was always clear -- you were going to be back on the trail moving ever northward -- until, well, you got there. There's so much I liked about the book -- your humor and cleverness, your verve and spirit, the variety of all the things you wrote about, your honesty and lack of posing/cliches/platitudes, the social commentary on the AT world, etc. I would like to buy a few more copies to share with others." - Ken Duffy, Writer

  19. "I have been keeping up with your progress ever since you hiked (for a bit) with two of my friends from Hoosier-Corn-Land. As soon as I saw a quote from Charles Bukowski, I was hooked. I think that you are a fantastic writer. I've read a lot of books, and I think that your prose is a lot better than the disjointed, disconnected crap that gets published today. Sometimes I did feel like I was reading a book...the last passage that I read today made me feel so sad and out of sorts...that's what good writing is." - Tilly

  20. "I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about what it is like to hike the Appalachian trail and to battle depression. It made me very appreciative that I have never needed to do either of those things. I believe I have a better understanding of the intensity of life for those who suffer from mental illness. I've made it sound like this is a very serious and intense book, but it is written with such wit and style that I found it very entertaining and even very funny in places, all while dealing with a serious subject. I highly recommend it." - Tammy Pluym

  21. "Your writing, I just feel compelled to read it. You don't have the simple, straight up style of Vonnegut or Bukowski...neither do you have the involved, poetic style of James Baldwin (although sometimes you do.) And you don't really have the precise, academic (for lack of a better word) of Joyce Carol Oates (my personal favorite ever.) Your writing is articulate, thoughtful, involved...it's just wonderful, really. I think that when your words pull the reader in and force them to continue reading, you are really a talented writer. When I said that the particular passage made me feel "out of sorts" in a way, I guess I was paying you the highest compliment. When a book (or movie or song, for that matter) pulls you away, you forget you're you, you forget where you are. When you're done reading, you are overwrought with emotion, and you look around, and you're in your room, where you always are, and you're disappointed. It's like a low level alcohol buzz. A little adrenaline, a little mental overload...because for a few minutes you were gone, away where the writer took you, and you're sad that you're back. It's a great feeling." - T.N.

  22. "I like reading your writing but I miss hearing you read it. Since I've been driving all over NH/VT lately I've been taking out books on tape from the library. I just listened to some Kurt Vonnegut book, Time Quake I think, and it reminded me of you. It was nice. Lots of stories and tangents. It sounded like you sometimes. Anyway, I was so happy to get your last email, I don't mind the name change, I'm grateful to you for skipping ahead to hike with me, for your patience, and for writing about me. I like it. I like your honesty and your style, I want you to keep writing whatever the hell you want. That's important." - Susan Irving

  23. "I have taken a quick shuffti (meaning "look" in Cockney) at yer book. Caught a vision of the two headed calf seeing twice the stars and I'm hooked. Will be taking the book to bed. Many unread things lie there waiting, but this new gift takes precedence. Proud that it is published in Bisbee. --- (later) It's 11 or something and I'm still reading your ravings. --- (still later) Still reading.. sorry Johnny D turned out to be such a wanker. Must crash but you are much appreciated. --- (later in a phone message) "I started reading your book.. I studied you til about midnight and I was totally amazed, and amused, and enthralled, and astonished, so there!" - Kate-Drew Wilkinson

  24. "Just wanted to wish you well and let you know I've been following and enjoying your writings speechlessly." - Rooney Tunes

  25. "I'm devouring the AT journal hungrily. I think I'm on installment 9 or so. It's some of your most accessible writing ever. You are amazing!! Congratulations on finishing the hike."
    - Tanya Kitterman

  26. "This is not one of the way-too-many "how I hiked the AT and found the meaning of life while on a journey of self-discovery" diatribes that collect so much dust on the shelves of the ATC bookstore. No. For even though DEAD MEN might easily be filed within that genre, unlike those other books - this one is worth the read! It is a sweet, melodious, painfully naked autobiography of a man haunted by demons; demons which may, or may not, be products of his own decisions in life. In this too fast, skillfully written, nonlinear narrative, the reader is taken on a ride in which we occasionally glimpse into the true complexities, joys, and doubts of the author's own chaotic perception of himself. Unfortunately, however, our view is mostly hidden by a thin angst-filled veil of the simple, repeated themes of a man unsure of himself, his love for others, and the love engendered by others for him. Not that the author is dishonest with the reader in adapting these simplistic themes. No .. not at all! For if anything, McKinney is brutal in his honesty ... and it is that honesty, enhanced by his wry often subtle sense of humor, that propels the reader from one page to the next. Still, like most autobiography's this book is ego-centric, and the reader is left rooting for the author to learn, and accept, that there so much more of himself - and so much more outside of himself - if he is to banish his demons permanently. DEAD MEN is not a story in the traditional sense for even though the author claims salvation of a sort at the end of his journey, the book still lacks an ending. Hopefully this is the first of several books in which McKinney's "journey of self-discovery" evades tragedy and plays out to a happier conclusion. McKinney's fight for a satisfactory self-image of life is not unique, and so I would recommend this book to others who may be wrestling with the same demons of self-doubt that plaque McKinney. Surely they will find inspiration in his words!" - Frank Grandau

  27. "I picked up your book in the fly fisherman/coffee shop in Damascus VA this spring with my youngest during his college spring break (yes, there are still kids who hang with their dads during college breaks). My eldest thru hiked in 2006, which gave me the bug, and I have read a lot of AT books since that time. Yours is the best (and most expensive at $25) I have read so far. Thanks for the effort, and good luck with other endeavors." - Steve Jennette

  28. "Have never read such egocentric drivel in my life but am sure to be drawn weekly if not daily to your rantings with, as Marlon Brando may have said in Apocolypse Now the horror of it all."
    - Hardtack Hank - hwittel2@juno.com

  29. McKinney has taken life, thoughts of death, love, and compassion to brand new heights. Were we all so brave to be able to see and feel and still remain fixed to this earth, as Rick did throughout his solo tramp over the Appalachian Trail, we would have the memories to carry as well. I fell in love and followed the walk with a mixture of trepidation and triumph, what a way to travel! I recommend this book to anyone who has ever doubted himself, or this world, or has ever wondered when it was all going to get better, or if there would ever be a connectivity between themselves, and another. I highly encourage all to read this author's work, for those who want to see and smell and feel a reality that has taken over 3 decades to form, and has yet to come to fulfillment. I say this to McKinney, " suicide is painless" but only to the dead one. If love were the perfect prose, and I were the orator, I would say: "go ahead, my favorite nephew, you and I are pieces of each other, and I know, what you know, too!" Bravo!!" - Mary Civiello

  30. "I thoroughly enjoy reading your web pages; a visit to your website is, for me, a gratifying indulgence. Through your writing, I experience a taste of your passions, travels, highs & lows, principles & vices. I admire you immensely for your single-minded determination to do whatever it takes to keep living your dream. Your writing is sheer beauty in craft and in force. So please, stick around and keep at it."
    - Fondly, Tanya J. Folger

  31. "I read your words and they envelope me, I can't breathe." - J.P.