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Lately I've been on a Twin Peaks bender. I grabbed the pilot episode (from somewhere, maybe a friend, maybe I downloaded it, who knows, I'm pleading the Fifth). And you can see almost all the episodes on for free. Stephen King said the show scared him. It was shot in my "backyard" (Snoqualmie and North Bend) about twenty-five or thirty miles east of Seattle. The show was a flash in the pan here, but it's been an enduring hit in Japan for twenty years, and they come by planeloads to check out the filming locations.

But real life is scarier than television. Gary Ridgeway, aka the "Green River Killer", dispatched 48 girls that he admitted to, and he hinted that there may have been another fifty that we don't know about. He lived about two miles from here, but now he's in the can for life. He dropped some of the bodies of his victims in the Green River which meanders through the Kent Valley just down the hill (I live on the long ridge which separates the river from the sea until it reaches the industrial heart of Seattle, renamed the Duwamish River).

This valley is two miles wide, formed about ten thousand years ago from melt water from a giant glacier during the ice age. Here the Green River twists through a vast zone of cheap one or two story light-industrial buildings which were made by pouring concrete on the ground in molds and then tipping them up. Upriver a ways between Kent and Auburn the river winds through a belt containing the last handful of local farms. These disappear bit by bit every year, to be replaced by apartments and townhouses.

Then the river turns east and goes up a valley only a half-mile wide, which has nothing but quiet farms and the county has decreed that it shall always be this way. No urban creep shall be allowed to intrude here. At Flaming Geyser State Park you reach the Green River Gorge, a fourteen mile long canyon with Class III and IV whitewater between sheer sandstone cliffs three hundred feet high. And that's the damndest thing, because this canyon is right in the middle of the greater Seattle metro area, surrounded by suburbia. Yet there's no way to access any point within those 14 miles without scrambling down the sides, and hopefully not breaking your neck.

It's like Seattle's own "Bermuda Triangle". A dark forgotten corner of the county and the perfect setting for a mystery story. So I've drawn a map for a twin of the Green River Gorge. The names are changed to protect the innocent. Every house has a number which correllates to a character or family. And as I draw the relationship lines between the characters, and populate the store, the post office, the fire station, the resort, little stories start popping out of the woodwork. This is the birth of a novel.

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Strangers In Paradise