This is not a book review per se. It is more a story of a novel and its relationship with .
The title of the novel is Cliff Falls. The author is C.B. Shiepe of San Marino. The book is self-published.
I first met C.B. during the Arcadia community parade and street fair that took place on First Avenue this past July 4th weekend. He was in the Arcadia’s Best Foundation booth signing books.
I was introduced to C.B. by my friend founder of both the foundation and Arcadiasbest.com who is also the executive director of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce and a regular blogger for Arcadia Patch.
I was taken in by C.B.’s infectious smile. Also, he told me his sister, Bayne Meza, was a kindergarten teacher at , where my wife taught for seven years before moving on to .
I’m generally not much of a book reader, unless I’m on a plane or on vacation. As a journalist, most of my reading involves research. But something told me to give this 246-page paperback book a chance.
I know this is a cliché, but literally, I couldn’t put it down. I am a slow reader, but I zipped through this book. The story focuses on a character named Clay Grant, who is an exploited child star of a hit 1980s sitcom, Little Guy Mike.
In the book’s first chapter, Grant, unhappy with his life, starts a small fire at a Hollywood studio in order to burn a pile of Little Guy Mike memorabilia. The fire gets out of control, and 23 structures in the studio’s back lot are burned down.
Grant runs away and goes into hiding for 15 years before being discovered by the book’s villain, a photographer, in Massachusetts. An altercation ensues, and Grant ends up in jail. Coming to his aide is a minister from a church in fictional Cliff Falls, a small community located 3,000 miles away in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, 15 minutes from the beach.
The novel is somewhat of a mystery as readers are left to wonder what the minister has in mind and what will become of Grant. Will he finally be able to shake the demons from his past?
I caught up with C.B. the other day in the Jordan Hall at the in Arcadia. He was there for a event put on by Hettrick and his Arcadia’s Best Foundation.
The event drew more a crowd of more than 100 and featured a panel discussion, as well as students from drama teacher Steven Volpe's class, who performed scenes from the book.
Before the event started, I got a chance to talk to C.B. backstage. He is a 42-year-old graduate of USC. He used to work with child stars at Disney and his faith has always been important to him. He combines those two aspects of his life in the book. The "C" in C.B. stands for Cliff, but in this setting he prefers C.B.
"Cliff Falls by Cliff Shiepe–that’s too many Cliffs,” he explained.
C.B.’s real-life journey in getting the book written is about as difficult as Clay Grant’s fictional journey. From start to finish over a 10-year period, it was first going to be a TV pilot, then a film, and eventually became a book that was published this past June.
C.B. told me he became seriously ill and bed-ridden in 1996. “I saw 70 doctors in seven years until finally a doctor at Cedar-Sinai figured out what was wrong,” he said.
An unusual strain of bacteria had invaded his body. It took a 10-day fast to get him on a road to recovery, which took another seven years.
It was during his recovery that he wrote the book. Since this was his first book, self-publishing proved the best way to go, even though that isn't easy. But selling the book was initially even tougher. Finally a book buyer at Vroman’s in Pasadena took interest.
Now the book has got fire and promoting it has become C.B.’s full-time job. And if judging by the reaction at the Arcadia’s Best Foundation book club event, he is succeeding.
This was the second event of its kind. The first featured Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“This time we have the author here,” Hettrick told what appeared to be a most appreciative audience.