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  A visit into the distant past to discover oneself

Title: Bearkiller

Author: D.J. Stephens

Publisher: Publish America; (January 2004)

Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 1413703380

Paperback: 232 pages

Price: $19.95


Rating: Highly Recommended!


July 7, 2004


Jeff Barkil has always been a loner.  He seems to achieve more on his own than in the company of others.  He doesn’t want his mistakes or miscalculations to affect others.  He has the heart of a warrior, which is proven while he is engaged in battle during the Vietnam War.  During this war he survives several injuries and several months as a P.O.W.  In the words of the author, D.J. Stephens, “He was a survivor and stayed alive for over forty-five years by counting on himself and his instincts.”


Jeff felt as if he was truly alive in the outdoors and this feeling helped him escape from the fast pace of his life in Chicago.  For this reason he went elk hunting in Montana and he finally caught a glimpse of what makes him the man that he is today.  The surroundings are familiar and he knows far more about this territory than he can give himself credit for.  The great elk, the subject of his hunt, stands nearby. 


After a successful hunt, a powerful grizzly attacks Jeff Barkil.  Jeff miraculously triumphs over the grizzly bear but he is seriously injured.  He loses consciousness and awakens in a tent in Blackfoot Indian Territory, in the 1780’s where he has been nursed back to health.  He is given the name Bearkiller in acknowledgement of his victory over the creature that will soon become a part of his being.


The Blackfoot Indians take in this warrior with blond hair and blue eyes and soon they disregard his differences and allow him to join the tribe.  The bear becomes his spiritual guide and tells him the credo that Jeff Barkil lived by.  Bearkiller is to fight his wars alone, as when he faced the bear – this belief lasts for over two hundred years and has become a part of the warrior reincarnated as Jeff Barkil.


This book is splendidly written!  I do not know much about Native American rituals, beliefs or customs, but I feel that they are actively portrayed by D.J. Stephens – as if he’s lived those experiences for himself.  There is never a dull moment and you are privy to the thoughts and emotions of a mighty warrior with many coups (victories) as he provides for the family that has adopted him as their son.


Turn off the television and read this book.  The images will play out before you and offer great insight into the points that comprise the human psyche.  As Jeff Barkil is rescued after his ordeal with the bear, you will love “the end…or is it just the beginning?”



  Reviewed by Tyrone Banks



An Interview with D.J. (Don) Stephens




Betsie: To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about?


Don:  BEARKILLER is a fast paced adventure novel that takes a man from the present to over two hundred years in the past, to possibly a past life! 

 Do you believe in reincarnation?


Jeff Barkil has a passion for hunting.  It seems to have been an integral part of his being since he was a boy.  But he has never known why he is so drawn to it.

Maybe after this he will.

On a solo elk hunt in the Rocky Mountains, Jeff discovers something very peculiar.  Although he's never even seen this place before, he seems to know all the landmarks.  Somehow he's able to guess exactly what is in the next valley or over the next hill.  Dismissing these amazing perceptions as a fluke, he carries on with his hunt-until he is attacked by a vicious grizzly.

Using a great deal of natural skill and determination, Barkil manages to kill the bear and survive.  But he is badly injured; he feels close to death.  With no one to help him, he struggles to get himself out of the mountains.  On the second morning of his ordeal, he awakens with his mind in a blur.  All he knows for sure is that he is young…in his late teens…and that he has just killed an attacking grizzly.   

While he is trying to clear his head, he discovers that he has traveled two hundred years back in time and a hunting party of Blackfoot Indians has taken him to their village to honor him for his bravery.

Soon he is regarded as a splendid warrior and is given the name "Bearkiller."  In the boy's subsequent adventures stealing horses and waging war against the Shoshone and the Sioux; he encounters and learns the landmarks he will recognize over two hundred years later as Jeff Barkil.        

In due course, Bearkiller rescues the beautiful daughter of a chief, falls in love with her, and takes her as his bride.  But the life of an Indian in the 1780's was often brief.  One day in a fierce battle, the old grizzly wounds are reopened and he is defeated.  With blood pouring out of his body, Bearkiller lies down to die…and wakes up in a Forest Service rescue helicopter, as Jeff Barkil.

The woman attending him, a doctor from the Blackfoot reservation, is fascinated that he has come out of unconsciousness speaking fluent Blackfoot.  He's even calling her by her Blackfoot name.

   It's also the name of Bearkiller's wife.




Betsie: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


Don: I was born in Omaha, NE, my family moved to Illinois so I could go to Shiner’s Crippled Children’s Hospital and have club feet corrected.  I’ve always been a big reader, but didn’t begin writing until I wrote BEARKILLER.


Betsie: Who were your earliest influences and why?

Don: My Dad, he always worked hard to provide for our family.  He gave up his family farm to move so he could be near while for the five years I was at Shiner’s.  He was a wonderful storyteller; I like to think I inherited that from him.


Betsie: What would a typical day be like for a writer?


Don: Since I only write part time, my typical day is spent doing my regular job in computer sales, then I try and write at least two hours every evening.



Betsie: How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


Don: On and off for twenty years, mostly working on BEARKILLER the original writing and the rewrites.  I promised myself I wouldn’t write another until I got it published.  It was published the first of the year.  I’m three quarters through with my second adventure novel.  I have outlines for two more.  I’ve tried my hand at some poetry.



Betsie: Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


Don: The only non-fiction I’ve written would have been Tech-manuals.  For me writing fiction is easier.  I just tell a story.



Betsie: Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


Don: I did give up, after nearly a hundred rejections, I threw my manuscript in a drawer and told myself I must not be good enough.  It laid there for nearly ten years before I pulled it out, re-read it, told myself it was good and tried again.  Now that I’ve been published, I won’t quit until they close the lid.



Betsie: What is the hardest part about being a writer?


Don: For me, it’s the marketing.  The writing is the easy part.



Betsie: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


Don: I love hunting, being out in the wild, that’s where I got the idea for BEARKILLER.  I have also been participating in precision long range shooting since I was in the Army nearly forty years ago.  I’m using that knowledge in my second novel.




Betsie: Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


Don: Not sure if it’s a sacrifice or just extra work, but spending most of my free time going from book store to book store marketing my book.



Betsie: What question do you get asked more than any other?


Don: What made me decide to write a book?  I tell them it was an accident.  I had the idea for the story and took it to a friend of mine who had two published novels.  He said, “Write it yourself, everyone has at least one good book in them.”  So I did and discovered I loved it.



Betsie: What’s the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


Don: I sent some copies of my novel to the troops in Iraq.  I received a letter for a Sgt. Who said, “I’m not much of a reader but I almost skipped work to finish BEARKILLER.  I can’t wait for your next book.”  I cried, it made it all worthwhile.



Betsie: What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


Don: So far so good.  It’s been very positive.  I’ve gotten some very nice reviews.  They like the action and compliment the research on the Indian lore incorporated into the story.



Betsie: Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


Don: I’ve always been a people watcher.  I never related it to the writing, but it probably fits.  I’m always looking for my next idea.



Betsie: Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


Don: I have read everything by Jack Higgins and Louis L’ Amour.



Betsie: If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


Don: Read everything you can get your hands on and write the way you like to read.



Betsie: What kind of movies do you enjoy?


Don:  Just about anything.  Favorite…In Harms Way




Betsie: What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldn’t want to live in?


Don: New Orleans.



Betsie: What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?


Don: The one above.



Betsie: What’s the best part of being a writer?


Don: I can get completely lost in my own story and forget the world.



Betsie: What's next?


Don:  HALO, an action/adventure novel about covert actions in Vietnam between the time the French were thrown out and the US officially went in.




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